Atlanta Braves Scouting Report on LHP Jon Kennedy
Big Australian lefty Jon Kennedy pitched through three levels in 2016. Could he work his way to the Atlanta Braves in 2017?
Kennedy had pitched in the Australian league since the tender age of 16, making his most appearances at age 19 in 2015, sporting a 3.94 ERA and 1.56 WHIP over 8 starts and 32 innings.
The Braves started Kennedy out with their low-A club in Rome, and his first two appearances went well, but after two “blow up” appearances, they sent him down to extended spring to work on his location.
The work paid off as he came up with Danville and quickly earned his way back up to Rome after just two appearances for the Danville squad.
His only other time back in Danville was predicated on having thrown 6 1/3 innings over 5 days and needing to let his arm rest for a bit, so the Rome team played the roster shuffle game, sending Kennedy down and bringing up another arm to have available innings in the bullpen.
He returned to Rome and threw well, earning a final promotion to high-A Carolina to finish the season.
His overall line was 19 appearances, throwing 30 2/3 innings with a 2.93 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and a sparkling 4/29 BB/K ratio.
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Size – Kennedy is listed at 6’5 and 215 pounds. He is long and lean with long arms and legs in spite of his listed weight as he really sports no “bad” weight.
The only contention with his size is that Kennedy is listed at 6’5, and, according to Australian news sources I found, that is from his initial entry into Australian professional baseball at 16. He is now listed there as 6’9″!
Delivery – Kennedy throws purely from the stretch out of the bullpen.
He has a very basic delivery, with a waist-high leg kick and then a stride toward the plate.
He stays fairly tall through his delivery, and he brings the ball to the plate from a low 3/4 slot.
Kennedy is notable for the solid landing in his delivery that leaves him in excellent defensive position.
Control (55) – One of the more remarkable things to me from Kennedy is his consistency in his delivery. He seemingly hit the same spot with his foot every single time. His arm slot, even though at a less usual angle, was consistent in its location every time.
For a guy who is 6’5, that is difficult, but for a guy who is actually 6’9, that’s flat-out remarkable to have that level of consistency. I have watched dozens of guys who are 6’8 and taller, and Kennedy is the most consistent delivery I’ve seen.
That consistency shows up in his command and control. While he can sometimes miss his spots by a bit, he is always working within the zone, and he has hitters consistently on their toes due to being around the zone consistently as well.
Fastball (55) – Kennedy is not a guy who runs a fastball up there at 95+. His fastball sits more in the 88-91 MPH range, though he did gain a couple MPH on the top end, as he touched 93 in spurts this season, after previously topping out at 91.
The fastball does have some late life, but his arm angle deception provides most of the difficult hitters have with the pitch.
Due to the more average velocity and Kennedy’s typical location around the zone, if he misses his spot with the pitch, it tends to be within the zone, and he can get hit fairly hard.
Change Up (50) – Kennedy gets great arm deception on his change, which he throws at 79-82. I had to rely on gun readings to tell which was a fastball and which was a change in video view due to the tremendous similarity in arm action and movement of the pitch.
The issue is that he doesn’t get a tremendous amount of movement, much like his fastball, and the change is essentially a batting practice pitch when he misses a spot.
Curve Ball (55) – While it seems like his curve has a “tell” when he throws it, as Kennedy wraps his hand over the top of the ball differently than his fastball or change, but his arm angle makes it hard to see the pitch.
The curve comes in around 74-79 and has a 12-6 break to it. He tends to like to bury the pitch in the dirt, starting it at the waist and having it finish in the dirt.
While it floats up in the zone, Kennedy locates the pitch much better low in the zone to anywhere from left side of the plate to the right side of the plate.
Kennedy does alter his grip now and then to get a slurvy curve that can really throw hitters off that expect a looped break. I caught roughly 4 of those in the entire time I watched Kennedy.
MLB Player Comp
Though they throw with opposite hands, Kennedy reminds me quite a bit of a guy who was with the Atlanta Braves in spring training in 2016, Chris Volstad.
Volstad was a guy who was a first round selection in 2005 by the Marlins, and many viewed him as a future star with his 6’8 frame and a sinker/curve combination that was near impossible to elevate in the minor leagues.
There was a time when Volstad was rated as highly as the #40 overall prospect in the game before the 2007 season, coming off a very solid season in low-A as a 19 year old.
Volstad’s arm angle and delivery from his height has a lot of similarity to Kennedy, and the pitch mix that Volstad had, other than his fastball being more of the sinking variety, is similar.
I watch the two of them and see a lot of the reasoning why people wanted to try Volstad in the bullpen, yet he’s only even made six relief appearances total in the minor leagues in his career in over 185 appearances.
Kennedy in a relief role does offer the ability to go multiple innings with his easy, repeatable delivery that minimizes wear and tear on the arm, and he can work well to batters from both sides of the plate.
He turned 21 after the minor league season was over, so he’ll be 21 for the entirety of the 2017 season, and he’ll likely open at Carolina, but don’t be surprised if the big Aussie finds his way up the minor league ladder in a hurry.