Dissecting Pete Kelich's stat line at the end of his first season of professional ball, one finds one outstanding number after another, all of which are believable and have precedence.
Then one stop on that stat line causes the reader to pause and say, "Nah. Can't be."
Kelich, a 2009 Jackson High School graduate who went on to post four outstanding years on the mound for Bryant College in Rhode Island, has elevated his stock immeasurably with the kind of pinpoint control and dominance that makes scouts drool.
The right-hander was 7-1 with a 1.40 ERA for the San Diego Padres affiliate in the rookie level Arizona League this past summer. Sure those numbers grab one's attention, but check out the rest of Kelich's line. He struck out 69 batters and walked one in 58 innings-pitched. Go back and look at that number again. Kelich walked one - a single batter - in 58 innings-pitched.
"Pete is an awesome kid," said Frank Malta, Kelich's high school coach at Jackson. "He's such a competitor. He's tough. Nothing fazes him and he's a hard worker."
Kelich made 13 appearances in the Arizona Rookie League, 10 of them starts. He pitched a complete game and, in those 58 innings, permitted just 43 hits, 14 runs, nine of which were earned, and posted a 0.759 WHIP (walks and hits-per-innings-pitched). He averaged 10.7 strikeouts and 0.2 walks per-nine innings.
"I'll be honest, I just really went with the mindset I was going to challenge every batter," said Kelich. "If I got in 2-0 or 3-0 counts, I threw a BP fastball. Having played shortstop in high school and knowing pitching from a hitter's perspective, I know pitching is hard to hit. Hitting a baseball is the hardest things to do in sports. Throwing a quality pitch, not necessarily a perfect pitch, is often good enough to get an out."
Kelich was drafted by the Padres in the 38th round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Players Draft on June 8 after a senior season at Bryant in which he went 7-4 with a 2.49 ERA . He struck out 89 batters and walked just 19 in 97.2 innings. That capped a college career during which Kelich went 30-11, setting a school record for victories. He also set the Bryant school record with 273 strikeouts. His 335.2 career innings is second all-time at Bryant.
While Kelich's college career showed consistent improvement in his first two years and dominance in his final two years, he says a turning point occurred during his junior campaign, thanks to the development of a new pitch.
"I developed a cutter, which some people call a hard slider," Kelich said "I throw it at about 84-87 and can use it with different speeds. It's become my out pitch."
Kelich's fastball sits at 88-91 miles per-hour but he has hit 93 on the gun. He also throws a slower slider, at 78-80, that he calls, "my get-me-over pitch" and has made great leaps with his change-up. That change-up has given lefty batters a lot more to think about when facing Kelich.
He credits former major league pitcher Nelson Cruz, one of his coaches in rookie ball, for helping him develop the change-up. "He and Pedro Martinez had the best change-ups in baseball at one time," Kelich said. There was also a subtle change in Kelich's transition to pro ball that helped inject life into his change-up.
"The seams on the baseball in pro ball are smaller than the seams on the ball we used in college," Kelich said. "The ball we use in the pros actually feels smaller in my hand because of the seams. I have complete confidence in my change-up now and it has better sinking action."
Kelich was an all-around standout in high school for Jackson, a Group 4 power since the arrival of coach Malta. Kelich played shortstop and pitched Jackson to the championship of the highly competitive Shore Conference Tournament. Kelich was selected to play in the N.J. Coach's Senior All-Star Game and was named to both the All-Shore Conference and the All-Group 4 teams in 2009.
He is no worse for the wear after a college season and professional summer in which he pitched a combined 175 innings.
"My body felt good at the end of the season," said the 6-2, 185-pound Kelich. "I credit our strength and conditioning coach for that. But I'd like to put on five to 10 pounds this off-season."
Kelich expects to move up to the Padres full-season Class-A level in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the start of next season.
"My pitching coach felt I could go as high as High-A ball in Lake Eisinore, California."
Kelich, who has moved to Massachusetts in the off-season, is bound to continue to turn heads with his aggressive approach with hitters and his pinpoint control.
"I told myself when I got to pro ball I wasn't going to be scared," Kelich said. "I was going to pitch like I did in college."