Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Before They Were Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel

[The first in a series by WTHB Contributor Jeremy Schmidt ( @Jeremy_IP_TTM )]

Dallas Keuchel is an All-Star for the first time; it would not be a surprise if he started the game. This would have been a statement that would get weird looks sent in the direction of anyone who said it a mere 15 months ago. Coming into the 2014 season Dallas Keuchel won the 5th spot in the starting rotation after a rather pedestrian 2013 season spent as starter and reliever. He established himself as a very good major league starter during a three game stretch in May of 2014 when he pitched 26.2 innings against AL West opponents where he allowed only two earned runs while striking out 21.

Before the Beard - March 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The momentum built during that stretch was sustained by Keuchel en route to a 200-inning season, Houston’s first since Brett Myers in 2011. Keuchel entered 2015 as the Astros’ clear number one starter. He, thus far, has lived up to and exceeded all expectations coming into the season. The Astros’ 7th round pick in 2009 has succeeded without the hype and overpowering stuff of guys like Matt Harvey or Jose Hernandez, but by overcoming failure in what has become a trend for Keuchel.

As you would imagine future major league players usually dominate in high school; Dallas Keuchel was no exception. Keuchel as a sophomore pitched a two-hit shutout to win the class 5A championship in 2004. The following season he again pitched in the championship game. This time his Bishop Kelley Comets fell 0-1 on a final inning run. In his senior season Keuchel led his team back to the Oklahoma state championship game for the 3rd straight season, this time going the distance and striking out eight in a 3-1 victory. Also his school’s starting quarterback, Keuchel was not drafted out of high school.

Keuchel, after his stellar high school career, matriculated at the University of Arkansas where he pitched on scholarship. According to www.hognation.net Keuchel featured a mid 80’s fastball, curveball, and a screwball. As a freshman Keuchel pitched in 24 games, starting 9. He struggled for most of the season as Arkansas could not find a compliment to pair with staff ace Nick Schmidt. Most notably Keuchel took the loss, giving up 4 runs in a 1-inning start against Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship game. The Razorback season ended in disappointing fashion as they failed to make it out of the regionals.

In 2008 Dallas Keuchel entered his sophomore season at Arkansas following a good previous summer in the Cape Cod League. Keuchel struggled early in the season until April 11th when manager Dave Van Horn, in an attempt to shake up a struggling team, inserted Dallas as the Friday night starter. Keuchel pitched the Razorbacks to a 2-1 victory over the Top 25 Florida Gators, and continued to pitch well as the Friday night starter the remainder of the season. Although Keuchel pitched well down the stretch, the Razorbacks season ended in disappointment again as Keuchel took the loss to Stanford in the regionals to end the season.

Keuchel entered his junior season at Arkansas poised for a big year. After his sophomore year Keuchel returned to the wood bat Cape Cod League and pitched to an improved 2.63 ERA. Keuchel opened the season as the Friday night starter and pitched to a 9-3 record with a (pre BBCOR bat) 3.92 ERA. He teamed with Drew Smyly to lead the Razorbacks to the final 8 of the College World Series; Keuchel was the winning pitcher of both games won by Arkansas in the World Series. Following an exit to the hands of the eventual champion LSU Tigers, Keuchel went on to begin his professional career after being drafted 221st overall by Houston.

Keuchel began his professional career with the Tri-City Valley Cats of the New York-Penn League. He pitched very well and earned himself a promotion to the Lancaster Jethawks to begin the next season. Keuchel again pitched well earning a midseason promotion this time to AA Corpus Christi where he struggled to finish the season, his first full season in pro ball. Keuchel returned to Corpus Christi to begin the 2011 season. He went 9-7 with a 3.17 ERA over 20 starts earning an All-Star selection to the Texas League South team. Once again Keuchel earned a midseason promotion. In AAA Keuchel struggled to finish the season as he did at the end of the 2010 season. He ended 2011 with a 7.50 ERA at Oklahoma City.

After starting the 2012 season at AAA Oklahoma City, Dallas Keuchel made his Major League debut on June 17, 2012. He would continue to have ups and downs as he did on his journey to the Majors. Keuchel spent time on the shuttle between AAA and majors until May of 2013 when he became a full time Major Leaguer. The legend of Kid Kuechy will continue next week in Cincinnati.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, without that disgusting beard he's actually very handsome.

    ReplyDelete