MWAH 2014 Angels Prospects Countdown #21: Keynan Middleton

After years of drafting safe, low-ceiling arms, the Angels have themselves a real, raw project in Keynan Middleton. Will he be worth the wait?

Keynan Middleton
Position: RHP    Highest Level: Orem
Bats: R    Throws: R    Height: 6'2"    Weight: 200
Age: 20    Born: 9/12/1993
2013 Rank: Unranked

2013 Season Stats
AZL: 5.2 IP, 0-0, 6.35 ERA, 3 H, 3 BB, 0 HR, 5 SO, 3.02 FIP, .188 BABIP, 56.3 GB%
Orem: 23.1 IP, 1-3, 8.10 ERA, 29 H, 15 BB, 4 HR, 15 SO, 6.33 FIP, .343 BABIP, 46.8 GB%


= B-
Keynan Middleton’s fastball sits comfortably in the low 90’s with good late movement.  It isn’t an overpowering fastball, but his arm shows easy whipping action that suggests with more time, he could sit in the mid-90’s eventually.

Offspeed Pitches = C+
Middleton was drafted with the specific ability to snap off a sharp, hard slider and a change up with good movement.  The problem is, Middleon’s breaking pitches are raw.  He’s thrown a curveball a few times but without any real success.  He couldn’t keep his slider in the strike zone and the change up really wasn’t an option.  The reason Middleton wasn’t drafted earlier was specifically because he is raw, so he’ll need quite a bit of development.

Control = D
Again, Middleton is raw and this is why he’s such a project.  Expecting him to come in day one and throw strikes is unreasonable.  But I’m confident that with further refinement, in a year or two Middleton can become a pitcher who pounds the zone with authority.

Command = F
If Middleton has issues keeping the ball in the strike zone, it’s obviously a lot to ask that he spot the ball wherever he wants within the strike zone.  Yet another area he’ll be working on.

Mechanics = C
Middleton shows excellent balance and a moderate amount of effort in his delivery.  So far he looks like he can go any direction, reliever or starter.  He has an inconsistent landing point which can force him to throw across his body.  His arm angle also changes between breaking pitches and fastball.  Once the Angels iron some of these flaws out he should grade out as a solid B in this department.

= C
In his first taste of pro ball, Middleton wasn’t quite where he needed to be.  He was missing his spots and eventually was teed off on when he could get the ball over the plate.  With more consistent mechanics should come more control, then he’ll be able to take advantage of his full arsenal.  He wasn’t a completely sunk cost though.  He’s decided to focus solely on baseball now after being a two-sport athlete in college.  Getting drafted, signed and facing truly difficult competition for the first time all made this a big year for Middleton.

Projection = B
This is why Middleton ranks as high as he does.  With a low 90’s fastball, excellent athletic ability, sharp breaking ball and fixable mechanics, Middleton could eventually develop into a mid-rotation starter much like Ervin Santana.  Middleton could easily add 2-3 mph on his fastball with time and once if he ever learns to master the change up he could be deadly.  But it’s important not to view Middleton as a college prospect the way you would other players.  It’s his first time focusing solely on baseball.  Essentially he’s like an advanced, but raw high school pitcher.

Grade as a Prospect = C
Middleton has the chance at someday being a solid B prospect.  But there are quite a few things that have to happen first.  And until he can make those adjustments his grade should remain in the middle of the road.

Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2019
Six years is a long time but as I said, view him more like a high school prospect.   Another year in Rookie Ball next season followed by a year at each level should pit him in Anaheim by his mid-20’s, which is enough time to see him reach his full potential. 

2013 in Review*
The Angels' third round pick in the 2013 draft, Middleton had a pretty rough year statistically. You know what? Who cares. Middleton basically pitched about as well as you would expect for someone who has no idea what the heck they are doing. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Middleton gets a lot of attention for being such a great athlete. That athleticism has actually held him back from a development perspective as he had been playing basketball as well as baseball in college. It wasn't until 2013 that he actually logged his first full season of pitching. What that means is that this kid has all kinds of talent but has never really had an opportunity to truly develop them.

As such, it should be no surprise that Middleton had a bumpy start to his professional career. But looking deeper into the stats, you can already see the progress. Middleton struggled a lot with his control early on, but over his last few appearances, which were shorter outings, he did a fine job of limiting walks and contact.

Looking Ahead*
Knowing how very raw he is, just imagine what he could do now that the Angels can coach him up. That strong finish to the season is just a taste of what they can do to improve his game. Don't expect it to be a rapid development though. It is one thing to work with Middleton to figure out his mechanics. Even that will take a fair amount of time despite how athletic he is. It is quite another to actually teach him the finer elements of pitching. He is so new to the game that grasping the strategic elements is goal in the distant future. With a reputation for being a passionate competitior and dedicated worker, he should achieve it. It is just going to take a few years.

If everything breaks right, Middleton has the kind of potential in his fastball and offspeed stuff to be an impact starter. Pair him with Hunter Green and the 2019 Angel rotation has some real promise.

*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.

Scott Allen

About Scott Allen

Scott is a writer for The Outside Corner and writer/prospect expert at Monkey With A Halo can be followed on Twitter @ScottyA_MWAH