Friday, September 29, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP prospect Jake Kelzer

Jake Kelzer, image- Jay Floyd
Righty hurler Jake Kelzer closed out a solid campaign this month, proving to be a key contributor out of the Class A Lakewood bullpen down the stretch.

The 24-year-old, who stands six-feet-eight and is listed at 230 pounds, pitched in four game with the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters before he was promoted to the Sally League the week of Independence Day.

In 14 outings for the BlueClaws, Kelzer posted a 1-1 record with a 3.74 ERA, a .235 batting average against and a 7.9 K/9 mark. 

Prior to the end of the minor league regular season, I chatted with Jake, the Phillies' 18th round draft pick in 2016, about his season, his coaches, his pitch repertoire and more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-You seem to be closing out the season with a some good outings.  Has your 2017 been as successful as you would have liked it to be?

I mean I think every athlete is going to say that they can do better.  This year's really been a year of fine tuning things and working really hard, you know, with being in extended (spring training) at the beginning of the year and just grinding every day and then coming here and getting together with (pitching coach Brian) Sweeney and stuff.  It's been great and I feel like I'm finishing on a high note.

-You mentioned starting out the season by not making a full season roster.  That's something like that could possibly help a guy by putting a chip on his shoulder and giving him something to prove.  Do you feel that was the case for you?

Yeah, anyone that's in a professional sport should have a chip on their shoulder.  They need something to go out there and prove every single day, so yeah, I totally agree.

-Overall, this year, what did you take from the season.  You talked about working with Sweeney...what were some of the biggest things you learned or was there anything you changed?

Definitely being able  to consistently pound the zone and master that third pitch, get a third pitch in my repertoire and really fine tune those pitches and be able to go more than one inning.  Be able to come out of the 'pen and be able to go two, three innings and be able to contribute to the team and hopefully a victory. 

-What's the whole menu?  What are the three offerings you've got working for you?

I got a fastball that moves a little bit, a change up and a spike curve ball.

-The spike curve ball...describe the difference there.  How is that different than an everyday curve that we would always hear about?

Spike curve ball is not your typical curve ball.  It's not typical in the fact that it's not the slow loopy type.  It doesn't really break the knees.  It's more of a faster, less of a dive, a more sharper dive.

-What's the variance with how the spike curve is thrown versus the traditional curve?

I'd say with the regular curve ball you kind of loop it in there, where I'm just reaching back and chucking it.

-The work with Sweeney I know has helped you.  Is there anyone in the Phils' system that's helped you a considerable amount along the way thus far?

I'd say the whole Phillies staff with Hector (Berrios) and (Rafael Chaves) and Sweeney.  Those three guys are the main guys I've been with since I've been with the Phillies and they've really kind of broken me down and kind of rebuilt me into something that I think can work.

-Your manager Marty Malloy during the final series of the season was planning to meet with the team and confessed that he might get emotional because he views a lot of you guys like his sons.  Does it mean a lot to you to have a coach that cares so much?

Oh, definitely!  This is a wonderful staff that they come in every day and they work harder than us.  They're here earlier than us.  They're with us whenever we need them.  And it's an amazing feeling to, you know, be able to look into the dugout and know that everyone in there, they're your brothers.  They've been here since day one and this coaching staff really set a great example.  

Hibbs and Kelzer, image- Jay Floyd
-It's easy to spot you and your teammate Will Hibbs out in the bullpen, as it's noticeable that you guys are much taller than a lot of the other players.  Do you guys bond more because of this height you have in common?

Oh, we definitely have.  People come up to us and we have the little kids that say, "Wow, you're really tall," and stuff like that.  But, it's really fun to have someone like Hibbs, who absolutely murdered it this year and killed it, just the feedback we have with pitching, because we've got the longer limbs, it's difficult to coordinate everything.  And we bond on that level and he's just a great guy and we just have a lot of fun.

-You were selected in last year's draft, mid-rounds, or so.  How was that experience for you?  Any fun tales to go along with the whole thing?

That was actually the third time I was drafted.  Being drafted by the Yankees and the Cubs, a couple of world-class organizations, and then the Phillies are right up there with them.  It's just wonderful every time being able to get drafted, especially to this organization with such a rich history and such a culture of winning.  And I was actually on the couch watching Game of Thrones with my friends, kind of taking it easy, trying to not hype myself up or worry too much.  And when I got the call I was ecstatic.  I ran around the house a little bit, so it was fun!

As a little kid you always dream about being drafted and as you get older, it kind of dwindles because it's reality and being able to have the opportunity with such great coaching staffs throughout the years, I've just been blessed.  It's been an amazing ride.

-You talked about meeting young fans.  If you had the opportunity to give a young player, who is hoping to reach you level, advice, what would you say?

I'd say don't give up.  I was that little guy too.  I was that guy looking up to the older players, just wanting to be them.  And you've just got to realize that it takes times, takes a lot of effort, takes a lot of work.  You've got to care about yourself a lot.  I'd just say- keep working, keep trying.  Something Marty says, "Prove the doubters wrong!" 
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