Brad Keller was informed ahead of time that his selection in the 2013 MLB Draft was drawing near.
But even after a few teams reached out to him Friday night to tell him to be ready as early as the sixth round, he still couldn’t find the words to describe the feeling of becoming a professional baseball draft pick when his name was finally called.
While standing by on Lake Lanier with his family and Flowery Branch assistant coach Nathan O’Hanlon, the Falcons pitcher was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 240th overall pick in the eighth round of the draft.
“I was getting a little nervous, just seeing when my name would come up,” Keller said. “Then the eighth round came around, and my name showed up.”
“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s indescribable. I was speechless at the time. It was really exciting.”
Keller’s selection comes after spending a fair amount of time with the Diamondbacks organization prior to the draft, including a visit to his home and an individual workout.
He had also been in extensive talks with the Kansas City Royals, and even visited them Saturday. Its scouts had spent time in Flowery Branch evaluating him during his senior season.
In the end, the robust right-hander received a ticket to the desert.
“I was a little surprised because I felt like the Royals were a lot more on to me,” Keller said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity and I think the Diamondbacks are a great fit for me.”
Keller recently graduated from Flowery Branch High after enjoying a solid senior season as one of the Falcons’ primary aces. He went 6-4 with a 2.16 ERA, tallying 87 strikeouts and 21 walks in 60 1/3 innings of work.
Keller is officially signed with Presbyterian College and has to make a decision on his immediate plans for the future. He’ll weigh his options once Arizona has offered a contract.
“We’ll just have to see what happens with the contract,” Keller said. “(I’m looking for) just a good opportunity. The right fit and the right spot.”
Flowery Branch head coach Scott Myers was surprised at how quickly Keller’s draft stock climbed during his senior season. He entered his sophomore campaign throwing 84-85 miles per hour, but was shut down for most of the year after breaking his hand while working out.
He returned with impressive numbers in 2012, and began to push his velocity back up into the upper 80s. He topped out at 94 and occasionally 95 miles per hour this past season, when he took on an even more important role in the rotation after 2012 team MVP Chase Hulsey was sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury.
“We hadn’t really talked about him until about a month into the season — we hadn’t talked to any scouts and nobody had been on him,” Myers said. “All of a sudden, Kansas City calls and we sent out some video. The guy called back and asked to come look at him, and sure enough he did.
“He had a good summer and he a good spring last year, but I didn’t see his velocity coming up to what it was.”
Myers attributes Keller’s large frame to his draft appeal. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Myers called it a “major league body.”
“Everybody saw the size,” Myers said. “His lower body, his legs, his backside. As far as his size, that’s something you can’t coach.”
Keller continues to fine-tune his approach on the mound as he prepares to make the tough decision of choosing college or professional baseball this summer.
He says increasing his velocity and commanding the count are on the top of his list of skills to improve.
“(I want) better command of my pitches and being able to throw more of my pitches for strikes, not just like a couple and then have a couple of dirt pitches,” Keller said. “Being able to command strike zone a little bit better.”