Rays Reclamation Projects: Brooks Kieschnick
This is a bizarre story.
Brooks Kieschnick was the 10th overall pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1993 MLB Draft as an outfielder out of the University of Texas. Kieschnick was a 6’4″, 225 power hitting outfielder. After posting a .789 OPS in his 34-game pro debut in ’93 primarily at Double-A, Kieschnick posted a .282/.332/.438 line in his first full season at Double-A with 23 doubles, 14 homers, and 55 RBI. That was relatively disappointing, but Kieschnick managed a .295/.370/.495 line at Triple-A in 1995 with 3o doubles, 23 homers, and 73 RBI. He slipped to a .259/.315/.431 line back at Triple-A in 1996, but he made his big league debut late that season, posting a .345/.406/.517 line with 1 homer and 6 RBI in 32 plate appearances for the Cubs. After a .258/.323/.492 line with 21 homers in 1997 at Triple-A, Kieschnick saw action in 39 games for the Cubs but posted just a .200/.294/.356 line with 4 homers and 12 RBI in 106 plate appearances. The Cubs drew disillusioned with Kieschnick and decided to expose him to the 1997 expansion draft, where the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks were selecting players to begin play in 1998. Kieschnick was the 68th overall pick in the expansion draft.
Kieschnick spent 1998, his age 28 season, between three minor league levels with the Devil Rays, but he was bogged down by injuries and his line wasn’t so impressive, coming in at .250/.325/.479. In 1999, Kieschnick lasted just 28 games in the Rays organization before getting released. The Rays contribution to Kieschnick was very subtle. The Durham Bulls ran out of pitchers and they had Kieschnick pitch the final two innings of the game. He managed to allow just on hit and an unearned run, striking out 1 while walking 1.
Kieschnick played the next few seasons in various organizations playing primarily the outfield and first base. He went 0 for 12 with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 and then he posted a .238/.289/.548 line with 3 homers in 35 games for the Rockies in 2001. But then his career shifted. In 2002 in the White Sox organization, Kieschnick became a 2-way player, both pitching and playing the outfield, and it went quite well. In 25 relief appearances spanning 31.1 IP, he posted a 2.59 ERA, an 8.6 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9. At the plate he posted a .275/.320/.540 line with 13 homers and 40 RBI in 206 plate appearances. He was so impressive that he did the same thing in 2003 in the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers. He appeared in 42 games as a reliever, 3 as a left fielder, and 4 as designated hitter! He appeared in 40 games at pitcher and multiple times at DH in the same season! Unbelievable. Players used to do that all the time… in the 1880’s- but oh wait, there wasn’t a DH. Has anyone else ever done that? Well, Micah Owings is the first name that comes to mind, and he didn’t DH a single time. Kieschnick wasn’t particularly impressive as a relief pitcher in 2003, going 1-1 with a 5.26 ERA, a 6.6 K/9, a 2.2 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9 in 42 appearances and 53 IP. But as a hitter he was pretty darn impressive, posting a .300/.355/.614 line with 7 homers and 12 RBI in 76 plate appearances. Kieschnick became the thus far the only player in major league history to homer as a pitcher, as an outfielder, and as a pinch-hitter in the same season. Kieschnick played the same game in 2004 but got better results as a pitcher and didn’t actually play the outfield or DH. In 32 relief appearances, Kieschnick went 1-1 with a 3.77 ERA, a 5.9 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 1.3 HR/9 in 43 IP. And at the plate he posted a .270/.324/.365 line with 3 doubles, 1 homer, and 7 RBI.
The Brewers released Kieschnick at the end of spring training 2005, and he spent the rest of the season in the Astros organization. He appeared in all 50 of his games as a pitcher but posted just a 5.12 ERA, but he hit well, posting a .327/.424/.551 line with 3 homers and 12 RBI in 59 plate appearances.
Kieschnick is a cool story and a good trivia question answer. And even though he couldn’t get his career together with the Rays, they got his pitching career started. The Rays didn’t contribute much else to the big leagues in 1999.