Rays Top 50 Prospects: Number 26, Brandon Koch
By Mat Germain
Rays Top 50 Prospects includes a tremendous number of high-quality prospects. We at RCG are bringing you an in-depth look at those we consider to be the Top 50.
While gathering as much information as possible from various sources, we’re going to put it all together for your enjoyment and raise the bar on what you expect from a prospect knowledgable site. Stay tuned, check-in often, and please let us know how we’re doing. Being such a lengthy process, some encouragement will go a very long way. We hope you’ll enjoy reading this series as much as we enjoy putting it together. If anything, all of us will know that much more about the quality of the Rays system.
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We’ll go through this exercise in an odd way, to make things more interesting. The first one to be looked at will be #40, then #30, then #20, and #10. Then we’ll go through 41, 31, 21, and 11. We’ll go through each ranking until we are all done 11-50, all aside from the Top 10. Then we’ll have a regular countdown for the top 10.
The rankings will be based on all aspects of each prospect, but will focus first on how likely the player is to make an impact in MLB, and ceiling next. Mikie Mahtook and Enny Romero have been graduated to the majors and will not be included in these rankings.
Once completed, the Top 50 will be updated mid-season with an explanation to why they’re moving up or down, and the entire process will be repeated each season.
The next player to be examined in detail is …
#26: Brandon Gregory Koch, RP, 21 years old
- Throws: Right Ht/Wt: 6’4″ 210 lbs
- Drafted: in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB draft
- Signed: for $437,500
- 2015 Affiliate: Bowling Green, LoA
- Anticipated MLB Arrival: 2017+
Koch’s 2015 Splits
- Follow him on Twitter: @brandon_koch1
- Koch is actually pronounced “coach”
- Isn’t afraid to display his faith publicly, and his Favorite Bible verse is Colossians 3:23
- Earned an invitation to pitch for the Team USA Baseball Collegiate National Team
- Big fan of country music, “When I go home, I go country dancing,”
- Has 3 younger brothers who also play baseball
- Made 2014 First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference, and was also a semi-finalist for the Gregg Olson Breakout Player of the Year Award
- Drafted out of Dallas Baptist, where he was the closer and majored in Sports Management
- Named to the 1st Team All-District in both 2011 and 2012 while in HS
- Managed a 1.97 ERA over 100.1 College IP with 54 BB, 163 Ks, 2 HR, and a .188 average against
- Truly has a closer’s mentality: “My attitude is no runs. Nobody crosses that plate,” he said. “If I let a runner on, I just say ‘They got lucky’ and set down the next guy.”
- Managed a 2.37 FIP in 2015, along with a .288 BAbip and 32.6% K-BB ratio
Showed off his late innings pride in this Tweet after Aroldis Chapman was acquired by the Yankees:
Best Tools & Abilities
- Fastball which can reach 98 MPH
- Slider which some grade at 70 on the 20-80 scale
- Composure and Focus on the mound
Make no mistake about Koch, the Rays signed him so that he would one day – soon – compete for the closer’s job in Tampa Bay. His personality is a perfect match for the role, he performs best when under pressure, and he’s focused on making it hard for the Rays to consider using him in any other role. There’s a lot to like about Koch and his personality, but it’s his stuff that will get him into the majors.
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There are scouts who are bigger fans of Koch’s fastball than others, but the velocity is one thing they all agree on as it sits somewhere in the 93-98 MPH range. Generally speaking, he mentions wanting to take a few MPH off his fastball in order to locate it as best he can, without taking so much off that it becomes hittable. What seems to happen in some cases, usually when he has a big lead to work with, is that he either relaxes and locates it wrong – usually higher than he’d like, or takes off too much and becomes hittable.
What makes his fastball, more than anything else, is his strikeout pitch – the slider. It’s a true above-average pitch with strike out ability and works somewhere between 83 and 87 MPH. Scouts point to its bite as a weapon, and some call it one of the best they’ve seen in a long time. The ability to maintain a good spread between the fastball and the slider will be crucial to his success going forward, and that leads us to health.
Many detractors of Koch point to his violent “full out” delivery and his reliance on the slider as issues that could result in an injury. I can distinctly remember people saying the same thing about Max Scherzer and some believed he would wind up a reliever because of it. As you can see, sometimes the delivery can seem more violent to the body than it is, and some wear that violence better than others.
Judging from the small sample size we have to work with, you can see why the Rays were ready to dedicate a 4th rd pick and close to a half million dollars on Koch. While his overall ERA doesn’t look dominant, it’s really the result of a slow start. Once he got going, he improved his SO/9 to 13.8 over his last 13 IP and managed an impressive 0.692 whip.
We expect that based on his end to the season, he’ll begin the season in HiA and should take little time to reach AA. While it’s hard to peg how quickly he’ll move on from there, it’s entirely possible that he reaches AAA and the majors by the end of the season. It’s happened before, but it’s not something we like to predict. Essentially, he would have to be lights out and the Rays would have to really need his services for him to reach the majors in 2016. Koch is more likely to break into The Show in 2017, when he’ll begin pressing for a role in the back of the pen.
The Rays need to have guys like Koch in their system because having an affordable alternative at the back of the pen is essential to their competing under their current budget restrictions. They’ve chosen a great talent to gamble on in Koch, and he looks poised to amp up the chatter around his stuff in 2016.
Next: Tampa Bay Rays Top 50 Prospects: Number 14, Daniel Robertson
Koch is joined by Ian Gibaut and others in the system in providing the Rays with intriguing stuff within the relief prospects corps. As some starters may also join the fray, they represent encouraging up-and-coming pitchers that are sure to help the Rays compete. We anticipate that Koch will make quick work of his HiA assignment – when he gets it – and that we’ll see him in Montgomery before long. We wish him all of the best in 2016 and beyond.