No. 9 prospect Keegan dominating at and behind plate in Fall League

November 9th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Playing catcher is one of the toughest tasks in baseball. Not only do you have to be locked in for every single pitch behind the plate, but you still have to be able to produce when it’s time to get into the batter’s box.

has found a way to excel at both aspects and has been showing that off to great effect in the Arizona Fall League. With Wednesday's game between his Peoria Javelinas and the Glendale Desert Dogs tied in the eighth inning, 1-1, speedy Mets prospect Rowdey Jordan attempted to steal second. The Rays' No. 9 prospect sent a missile to second baseman Ryan Bliss (SEA No. 14), who applied the tag to nab Jordan.

So Keegan’s arm prevented Glendale from getting the winning run in scoring position, but he also played a factor in the outcome by calling Peoria's eventual 2-1 win in 10 innings. Seven hurlers took the mound for the Javelinas, combining to allow one run on six hits.

“I mean, everybody was just really confident with their fastball,” Keegan said. “They wanted to attack with their fastball and I like that point of attack and it worked out for them today. They were feeling it, keeping the ball high and just throwing strikes."

Tampa Bay's 2022 fourth-round Draft pick reached base on a walk in the second inning and eventually scored on a fielding error by the Desert Dogs. He went 0-for-3 in the contest, but has been one of the most effective offensive players on the circuit.

Keegan ranks fourth in slugging percentage (.585), sixth in OPS (1.031) , ninth in average (.340) and 10th in OBP (.446) among qualified players.

“[I’m] just playing loose and not putting too much pressure on myself or doing too much,” he said. “Really just come out here with small goals and try to accomplish those. [I’m] not looking at the numbers too much, playing my game and having fun.”

Coming out of the prestigious Vanderbilt University program prepared to face some of the toughest young talent in the game, Keegan hadn't spent that much time behind the plate. He only started catching full-time in his final season of college baseball. He back-stopped 80 games in the Minor Leagues this season and has continued to iron his defense over 13 games in the Fall League.

“It’s been good,” Keegan said. “I’ve been able to catch a lot of games. … Being out here and adding to all the games I’ve caught out here has been good. I’m just trying to keep up with my body and staying healthy.”

The AFL usually emphasizes individual performances, but at this point in the season, the top teams bring out the competitiveness in their pursuit of a playoff spot. The Javelinas' victory gives them much-needed momentum heading into a critical game against the Salt River Rafters. Thursday’s winner will advance into Friday's play-in game at Camelback Ranch.

The bond Keegan has been able to create with his teammates in the desert has enabled him to learn more sides of the game. And he thinks an AFL championship would be the perfect capper to the fun season.

“Not only do we have really good ballplayers, but we also have a lot of good people,” Keegan said. “We get along with each other, we’re out here at the clubhouse every day, hanging out, playing ping pong, whatever it is. That makes it a lot more enjoyable to come to the field and start chemistry out there on the field when we play.”