We are now just a few days away from the MLB Draft. On Tuesday in San Antonio, I had the chance to speak with a product of Padres general manager AJ Preller’s first draft, San Antonio Missions starting pitcher Brett Kennedy. Kennedy was drafted in the 11th round in 2015, and has progressed nicely, if not a bit quietly, through the system. Of the 29 players drafted in his class by the Padres, only El Paso Chihuahuas closer Phil Maton (20th round) is ahead of him. He is also teammates with Jerry Keel (9th round), Trey Wingenter (17th round), and Ty France (30th round)
This year in Double-A, he has a solid 3.67 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. However, since the beginning of May, he has sported a 2.04 ERA, while opposing batters are hitting .214/.250/.366 against him.
Well, Brett, the MLB Draft is coming up. What memories do you have of the draft, coming out of Fordham?
It was probably the best experience of my life, and one of the most stressful experiences.
How was it stressful?
I mean, you know that everything you’ve worked for, like 18 years at that point, is coming down to three days, and you’re hoping that something happens, and, I mean it’s just waiting. For me, it was me and my family, waiting around, and on Day 3, I got a call in the beginning of the day from the Padres, and it was amazing. It’s definitely a very cool experience hearing your name.
I saw on social media that you went and graduated from Fordham in the offseason. What was the impetus for that, and what did you study?
I went back my first offseason and this offseason. I studied business administration with a concentration in management. For me, I like school, I like learning, and I thought if I did three years of college and I invested myself and I did well, I might as well go back and get my degree. My parents pushed education my whole life, and I thought it was something I needed to get done. I didn’t want to go back when I was 30 or something. I still had friends at school and I knew people, so it was an easy transition going back. It’s somewhere to work out too. In the offseason, being in New York, it’s pretty cold, so I had indoor facilities, and it all worked out perfectly. It was very cool being able to graduate.
That’s awesome, congratulations. You had an off day yesterday, coming back from Springfield. What did you do?
Got some sleep, got back about 9:30. Me and our strength coach went out and golfed a little bit – then it started raining. Just hung out, you know. It’s one of those things, you want to get the most out of your off day, but you’re so tired a lot of the time…
Yeah, I can imagine that. You’ve been allowing fewer walks than you have in the past (3.3 BB/9 in 2015, 3.2 BB/9 in 2016, and 2.5 BB/9 this year), and you’ve continued striking out hitters at about the same rate (9.3 K/9 in 2016, 9.2 K/9 this year), including striking out eight batters in your last start (six innings). What’s been the key to your success this year?
I’m still learning a lot. Working with J.J. (San Antonio Missions pitching coach and former Major League pitcher Jimmy Jones) is awesome. I feel like every time you get up a level, you try to do a little bit more. I was nibbling, then I was getting behind, and things were getting away from me a little bit, but then I worked with (Padres pitching coordinator Mark) Prior and J.J. and worked on getting ahead and pounding the strike zone. My slider has gotten better from the start of the year until now, and it’s been easier to put guys away when you don’t have to rely on your fastball to get swings and misses. Just having a mentality of attacking hitters is the biggest part of not walking guys. It keeps you in the game longer. We have a great defense, so put it around the plate and let them hit it, and a lot of the time, that weak contact will get outs.
How often do you get to work with Mark Prior?
In Spring Training we work with him a lot. He was down here – it was good timing – right when I was struggling. He came down and I worked with him and J.J. Not really changing anything, but zooming in on what needs to be better. It helped a lot, and from there I’ve put together some good starts and gotten more confidence in my stuff.
Any other things that you’re working on or goals that you have this season?
The biggest thing I try to do is get a quality start. If you worry on a macro level on making pitches and getting deep into games, the other stuff comes – the strikeouts, the stats. When you worry about not giving up one run, not giving up two runs, that’s when stuff kind of gets away from you. Just trying to work deep into games this year and throw a lot of innings and help our team win games is basically my goal. With all that, the individual stats will happen.