Keone Kela Scouting Report: Keone Kela ranked #13 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32 list, and who didn't get traded. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2014. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Keona Kela...
Keone Kela is a 6'1", 225 lb. righthanded pitcher who the Rangers selected in the 12th round of the 2012 MLB draft out of Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. Kela, who will turn 22 in April, was ranked #469 on the Baseball America list of the top 500 draft-eligible players heading into the 2012 draft, and received a $100,000 signing bonus. BA's write-up on Kela pre-draft had him at 91-93, touching 95, on his fastball out of the bullpen, and projected him as a potential future middle reliever. Kela pitched 11.1 IP in 9 games in 2012 in the Arizona Rookie League, striking out 15 and walking 4.
The 2013 season saw Kela pitch once for Hickory in early April, allowing 2 runs in 1.2 IP, then not pitch again until May 19, due to tightness in his arm, which landed him on the d.l. When he resumed throwing for Hickory, he had a dominant 11 game stretch that saw him fan 19 batters in 17 innings while walking just 4 and allowing 4 runs. Kela then missed two more weeks with what I'm guessing was another d.l. stint before pitching three times in the AZL, and then heading out to Spokane for the rest of the season. Kela put up a 3.78 ERA in 16.2 IP for the Indians, strikiing out 26 and walking 6 -- that's a 14.0 K rate, for those keeping track at home.
Kela then went to the Arizona Fall League, despite being much younger and having less experience than most of those on the AFL rosters, and threw 8.2 scoreless innings in 7 games, allowing just a single unearned run while striking out 10 and walking 5. Kela then headed out to winter ball in the Venezuelan Winter League, but he came home early due to elbow inflammation.
Overall, Kela's performance in 2013 was impressive enough to land him at #16 in last season's offseason community prospect rankings.
Kela built on his solid 2013 season with a terrific year last year. Starting the year at high-A Myrtle Beach, he put up a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 IP, striking out 13 and walking 4, before being promoted to AA Frisco at the end of April. For Frisco, he continued to be difficult to hit, allowing just 22 hits in 38.2 IP while striking out 55 batters, albeit while walking 27, and registering a 1.86 ERA.
Kela was ranked #14 in Jamey Newberg's top 72 list this offseason, and #18 in the Baseball America rankings.
For a detailed report on Kela, his background, and what he throws, Tepid's write-up on him from last week is a must-read. Short version is that he has a fastball in the upper-90s as well as a hard curve, with a closer's mentality that has him viewed as a potential late-inning reliever.
Kela has been identified by Jon Daniels as someone he is looking forward to seeing this spring. The Rangers have a lot of options for their major league bullpen this year, and my guess is that Kela is going to start the year in AAA Round Rock unless he just overwhelms folks this spring. That being said, I think he is someone we should expect to see in the majors at some point in 2015, and he could end up inheriting Neftali Feliz's closer role if and when Feliz departs the organization.