This post is about Kenny Long, star left-handed reliever for the Astros minor league affiliates in Tri-City and Lancaster. If you want to read about somebody other than Kenny Long, sorry, you will just have to wait.
I am not a social media guy. I deleted my Facebook account after college and did not join again until given this opportunity to write for TCB (so I could advertise). At the same time, the editors
guilted me into getting suggested that I get a Twitter account to follow Astros news. Turns out, as long as I keep away from anything non-Astros-related, Twitter is a pretty neat tool.
And then there came Kenny Long. See, Kenny Long legitimized my standing as an unofficial blogger for the Houston Astros by becoming the first professional baseball player to follow my feed. And for that, he deserves an article mostly--but not quite entirely--to himself.
Long was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2012 Rule IV draft out of Illinois State, where he destroyed the school record for earned saves, once held by MLB veteran Jeremy Accardo. It seems odd that he should fall all the way to the 22nd round, with his 2.50 career ERA in college with a K/9 over 9.00 and a BB/9 under 2.50. He was listed among the Top 100 College Propsects coming into the draft. Some media outlets suggest that even in Round 22, Long was one of the best draft picks made by the Astros this season.
Once in pro ball, Long did not dawdle to become an important part of the Tri-City ValleyCats' and Lancaster Jethawks' playoff teams. He dominated the New York Penn league, to the tune of a 1.61 ERA in 22 innings with 38 strikeouts and only 7 walks. (Pause for dramatic effect) That's a K/9 rate of 15.3! After a surprise promotion to Lancaster, skipping Low-A Lexington, he baffled High-A hitters by yielding 1 earned run in 8 innings, but with an astonishing 18 strikeouts.
If you read the preceding link, you can see Long's own description of his repertoire, which he varies through use of two different arm slots. His fastball can reach the high 80's and with a bit more bulk (he's a skinny dude, but is only 23 years of age) probably will add a few mph of velocity. His out pitch is a sidearm slow slider he calls his frisbee that he uses to baffle left-handed hitters.
I'm no scout, but to me Long looks like he has a good chance of becoming a strong piece of a major league bullpen, either as a LOOGY or late-inning reliever if he can keep those walks down and strikeouts up. Stats have shown that the odds are against any 22nd-round pick making an impact in the majors, but the Astros front office picked a guy who should have a much better shot than most.
I'm glad that Kenny Long followed me on Twitter because it gave me the opportunity to do more digging into his stats and "stuff" than I would have otherwise. What I found was info about a young pitcher with a bright future in Major League Baseball, and another reason to raise my esteem of the new Astros front office.
Immediately after promising to write this post, Long's Tri-City battery mate Tyler Heineman and Lancaster pitcher Andrew Robinson followed me. Sorry guys, if I wrote an article about everybody who followed my Twitter account, I'd have to quit my day job and do this full-time (sorry TCB editors - it's not gonna happen). However, I did a little additional digging on both these guys just because they earned an honorable mention. In the prospect rankings that we published last month, I had Heineman in a virtual tie with Carlos Perez for top catching prospect in the Astros' farm system and both were in my Top 30 overall. Robinson's stats look like a right-handed version of Long's. Once he was converted from starter to the bullpen this season, Robinson blew away the Cal League (a notoriously hitter-friendly place), with a K/9 of 11.0 and a low walk rate. LIke Long, both of these fellas look to be future major leaguers, and I thank them for thinking that my 144-character inanities are worth a casual glance.