In his first full season with the Eugene Emeralds he struck out 58 batters in 43 innings pitched against only 17 walks and 35 hits. A shoulder injury in late August shut him down a little early but Sampson showed noticeable improvement with his fastball command and a developing changeup.
However this season in Fort Wayne was the performance that caught everyone's attention as Sampson went 12-3 with a 2.90 ERA striking out a team high 143 batters against 49 walks in 118 innings pitched as he took the mound for twenty-four starts.
Since the draft Sampson has put on a good thirty plus pounds of muscle and is now 6'1" 214 lbs. with a fastball that comfortably sits in the low 90s.
We caught up with him at Fort Wayne's final regular season home series.
What has been the biggest reason for your success this year?
Keyvius Sampson: I think a few things. One is a better tempo when I'm pitching, better command of my fastball and being able to throw my change-up whenever I want.
Also the defense has really helped me out this year by making some great plays.
Coming into the organization you were known as having a really good fastball but your problem was you weren't able to command it as well as you would have liked.
When I spoke with you last year in Eugene you talked about your improvement of going from being able to throw five or six really good fastballs out of ten to eight or nine. Is that the case with you this year too?
Keyvius Sampson: A big part of it. Being able to repeat my mechanics and delivery has made a big difference especially as I advance. Hitters now start to pick up if you do something different, so I try to keep everything the same.
Are you throwing both the four-seam and two-seam fastballs?
Keyvius Sampson: I don't throw a two-seamer that much. I threw one last night and the guy hit it pretty far. [laughs] Which why I don't throw it that much. I mainly rely on throwing the four-seamer up and down and in and out.
You said your curve ball has picked up too?
Keyvius Sampson: It has but I still need to work on it more. As I said earlier the big reason for my success this year has been my change-up. Being able to throw it in any count is huge because most hitters don't think I will throw it for strikes at that time in the count.
You didn't throw many change-up in high school?
Keyvius Sampson: No not really. My dad always told me to work on it and I did but when I turned pro is when I really started to throw it more.
If you are throwing it any count you must have come pretty far with that pitch. What made it improve so much? Was it your grip or pressure points?
Keyvius Sampson: Mainly just practice. Throwing it long toss and different pressure points helps. I've gotten to the point where I can throw it in and away to righties.
Its mainly about the grip correct?
Keyvius Sampson: Yes because I throw the circle change-up. So for me its about putting more pressure with certain fingers as opposed to others.
Have you worked with Trevor Hoffman yet?
Keyvius Sampson: No, not yet. He talked to all the pitchers in spring training but hopefully sometime in the future I will get a chance to talk to him one-on-one so he can help me improve.
A full-season league where you are pitching from April until early September is tough. What did you do in the off-season to pitch more than you ever have before?
Keyvius Sampson: I came in knowing that I had to prove that I could stay healthy. I worked really hard this off-season. Everyone around me pushed me and encouraged me. With weights the big focus was to make sure that my arm and shoulder muscles were strong.
You picked up some core strength.
Keyvius Sampson: Yes, sir. When I was drafted I was around 180 lbs. and now I just weighed in at 214 lbs. so that has helped me out some.
What do you want to end up at?
Keyvius Sampson: I want to get to a solid 220 lbs.. I need to get in the gym a little more and eat better in the off-season to get there.
What has been the one aspect of this season you have been the most proud off?
Keyvius Sampson: Just being healthy. Picking up the ball every fifth day and for the most part giving my team a chance to win is what I want to do.
Everyone behind me is confident when I'm on the mound so that has really meant a lot to me.