29th Rounder Keaton Steele Talented All-Around

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays love versatility. You don’t get more versatile than Keaton Steele.

In the 29th round, the Rays selected Keaton Steele, 6’3″ and 225 pounds out of Iowa Western Community College. Notice that I didn’t list a position. Steale saw time all over the place at Iowa Western CC, seeing time at third base, first base, the outfield, and on the mound for the Reivers. The Rays chose to designate him as a right-handed pitcher. Wherever he actually ends up is anybody’s guess.

In the National Junior College Championship game, it was the Keaton Steele show. Steele hit a go-ahead 2-run homer, later gave the Reivers another lead with a sac fly, and then he moved to the mound to close out the game as the Reivers were national junior college champions. That was a glimpse of Steele’s various talents.

Steele tossed just 9.2 innings all season, posting an 8.38 ERA but striking out 14 while walking 4. But he has shown a nice sinker-slider arsenal that could give him a future in a relief role. His sinker in the low-90’s features heavy sink when it’s at its best, with enough movement to force swings and misses. When hitters finally think they’ve figured out the movement on his sinker, Steele can go to a sweeping slider with a little more movement that looks like it could be an effective if not plus pitch. Considering Steele has never been primarily a pitcher before, the control and command problems he has experienced are not much of an issue, and he could add a little velocity as well once he gets more comfortable on the mound. Steele could be a player who moves quickly if he acclimates himself well to a full-time relief role.

But you can’t discount Steele as a position player- he did hit .438 for the Reivers in 2012 in 110 at-bats. Steele shows nice bat speed with some lift and power in his swing. He needs work on his plate discipline, but he has the ability to drill line drives all over the field. Steele is a good athlete and he could handle right field, although his power may not quite be enough for the position. He has some raw hitting tools, and the Rays could change their mind and choose to develop those.

I’m sure Joe Maddon would salivate over having a player on his team that was a super-super-utilityman- able to play not just the outfield and infield but also provide a solid arm out of the bullpen. I’m sure that even when the Rays commit Steele to hitting or pitching they’ll give him at least some time in the other role to give him that type of crazy versatility.

Steele is probably more talented on the mound, but his potential for unheard of versatility makes him even more interesting. Getting any type of major leaguer in the 29th round would be a great value, but getting as eccentric a big leaguer as Steele has a chance to be would just magnify that even more.