The Rays once drafted a pitcher who they knew could fit in perfectly at the back of the pen and provide them with a credible option as a potential closer. He’s not huge, and he hasn’t been healthy of late, but what he does have is arguably the filthiest slider in the system.
No.43, RP Brandon Koch, 23 yrs old
Born: December 25th, 1993 in Royal Oak, MI
Height/Weight: 6’1” 205 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: by the Rays after taken in 4th rd of 2015 draft for $437,500
Twitter handle: @brandon_koch1
Baseball America Rankings
- Ranked 94th among the BA Top 500 pre-draft
- Ranked New York-Penn League #14 prospect in 2015
- Rays #19 prospect after the 2015 season
- Hasn’t been ranked in Top 30 since due to injury
DRB Writers ranking
- High: 37
- Low: Unranked
Brandon Koch: Abilities
- Mid-90s fastball, reached 98 MPH
- Slider in upper 80s which some call “un-hittable”
- Closer’s mentality and stuff
- Fangraphs have his FB and Slider rated at 60/60
- Abilities notes: Koch knows his role and relishes every moment of it. He wants the ball in the biggest moments and he wants to shut down other teams’ best hitters in the highest pressured situations. If he can get himself healthy again for 2018, his abilities which match his mindset could see him skyrocket back to the top of the system and rankings.
Joined the Rays by way of....
- The draft in the 4th round of the 2015 draft, 13 spots before the Cardinals selected Paul De Jong, and 14 spots before the Dodgers selected Willie Calhoun.
Latest Transaction: activated from the 7-day disabled list September 4, 2017.
Note - Signed with the Rays very soon after the draft, and was quoted as stating the following about joining the Rays organization,
"I just started getting calls and they rang in and we agreed, and it was just a really cool feeling getting taken, having my name called by the Rays, especially by such a class-act organization like them," said Koch. "I'm really excited about it and really excited to get going."
Facts, Honors, and Awards
- Earned an invitation to pitch for the Team USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
- Held a 1.97 ERA in 100.1 College IP with 54 BB, 163 Ks, 2 HR, and .188 average against.
- Was previously drafted by the Orioles, in the 33rd rd of the 2014 draft.
- Dallas Baptist University also developed ex-Rays INF Ben Zobrist.
- My favourite quote of Brandon’s so far is this one, which provides a glimpse into his mindset while he’s on the mound,
- Has apparently built up a banter-like friendship with fellow oft-injured prospect, Chris Betts,
I bet @ChrisBetts26 was the kid seeking out high fives from the other team when he would round the bases after a home run in little league— Brandon Koch (@brandon_koch1) August 8, 2017
Stats Notes: Over what he was able to show us in 2015 over 32 innings of work, Koch managed an extremely impressive 32.6% K-BB% and just over 13 K/9.
Interesting Comparison: Ken Giles
- Giles and Koch are both of similar size (only an inch separates the two) and both are almost completely reliant on their sliders. Both have similar velocity on their FB, and both get into trouble when they leave pitches up in the zone.
- It’s true that Giles has run a bit out of favour of late in Houston, but he has still managed a low of 11.19 K/9 over the last 4 seasons and managed to remain among the leaders in saves last year with 34.
Notes for 2018 and beyond
In truth, Koch represents a major reclamation project for the Rays and this ranking can be somewhat viewed as a Hail Mary that he’ll return and have a healthy season.
We certainly don’t have access to medical reports and staff, and are therefore at the mercy of what’s out there for us to read. Therefore, until we’re told different by the Rays organization, we’ll continue to cross our collective fingers in hopes he makes it through this tough time period and comes out on top.
If he does make it through and proves healthy, what the Rays will get as a reward is a bulldog mentality pitcher who will attack hitters relentlessly. Getting ahead in the count won’t be much of an option for hitters as they’d be facing a guy that loves to throw strikes.
Of course, all of that depends on his being able to throw his dominant slider again, which is no guarantee. There’s also a chance that if he does return, Koch will need to revamp his arsenal and use the slider more sparingly. Such a change brings unpredictability with it and an uncertainty as to how he’d be used. The change in arsenal would also slow his timeline considerably and would likely have him begin work lower in the minors.
We’re hoping he’ll be able to return to his former self and regain his dominance on the mound. If he does, he’ll be one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2018 season for a system already loaded with quality relief options.
Enjoy the few - and old - videos we have of Koch and join us in wishing him all the best as he faces significant challenges this year and beyond.