St. Louis Cardinals: The next left-handed specialist
3. Dean Kiekhefer
Dean Kiekhefer (26) was drafted in the 37th round of the 2007 draft by the Indians, and has spent time in Memphis the past couple of seasons. He has posted sub-3.00 ERA’s in both 2014 and 2015 over a combined 116 1/3 innings pitched with the Redbirds.
Kiekhefer is said to have a knockout slider that he works off of his two-seam fastball that runs to the left side of the plate. He does not over power guys, and his lack of an established changeup makes him a pure LOOGY guy at the big league level.
Kiekhefer struck out just 37 batters in 59 2/3 innings last season, but the fact that he only walked seven — good for a 5.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio — over his 50 appearances makes him intriguing as a LOOGY prospect.
“I’m tremendously impressed with Kiekhefer so far. I don’t think he’s walked a hitter and has lots of swing and miss in his pitches. He’s another fine pitching prospect.”-Bernie Pleskoff, MLB.com
As mentioned in our breakdown of Kiekhefer’s profile as a left-handed prospect, praise for his stuff and the prospects of him having an impact at the Major League level are coming from all directions.
When asked about Kiekhefer on scout.com, Bernie Pleskoff of mlb.com said “I’m tremendously impressed with Kiekhefer so far. I don’t think he’s walked a hitter and has lots of swing and miss in his pitches. He’s another fine pitching prospect.”
Kiekhefer’s .267/.290/.311 opposing slash line against lefties in 2015 doesn’t scream dominance, but it does illustrate two points. Kiekhefer might give up a hit to a lefty, but he most certainly isn’t going to give in and walk him. When he does give up a hit, it isn’t going to be for extra bases. Walks and extra base hits are devastating to LOOGY pitchers, and Kiekhefer doesn’t give up any of either.
Should Kiekhefer have success this spring in a LOOGY role, he will undoubtedly be the candidate most fit for the specialist position. He has the most experience in that type of role, and his pitching repertoire and makeup seem best fit for first shot at the job.
Next: Carlos Martinez key cog in Cardinals rotation
The bottom line is that baseball is a results driven business, though. Should Kiekhefer struggle in the role, look for St. Louis to consider one of it’s other young left-handers to lock down the LOOGY job in the Cardinal bullpen.