Baltimore Orioles prospect Keegan Akin doesn’t have the look of a top pitching prospect, but he has one important skill – deception.
Akin had a lot of success at WMU, setting the single-season strikeout record for the school with 133 strikeouts in 109 innings pitched. That year, he also pitched to a 1.82 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.
Those strikeouts translated once he came to the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league system too, as he had 29 strikeouts over 26 innings in low-A ball in 2016 (as well as a 1.04 ERA), and 111 strikeouts over 100 innings pitched this past year at high-A (though with a 4.14 ERA).
So naturally, you would look at those numbers and think that Keegan Akin must be a strikeout pitcher. But here’s the thing – he is but he sure doesn’t look like one.
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Akin is 6’0″, 225 pounds, far from an intimidating presence on the mound. His pitching repertoire includes a plus fastball that sits around 90-95 MPH on average, an above-average slider, and an average changeup that flashes some decent potential.
But that’s it. He doesn’t have one pitch that’s a wipeout pitch, nor is his command particularly good either. Last season with the Frederick Keys, Akin had a 10.9% walk rate (for reference, Robbie Ray had the worst walk rate in the major leagues last season with 10.7%). So what does Akin have that makes him effective?
What Keegan Akin has is deception, specifically with his fastball, which others have referred to as an “invisiball.” While Akin isn’t overpowering, his delivery makes his fastball hard to track. “I’m not throwing 100, but from what everybody tells me, what everybody jokes around about… they say it’s an ‘invisiball.’ Both hitters and guys I’ve played catch with have told me that,” he said.
As for where his deception comes from, he’s not totally sure, but his guess is it’s thanks to “an easygoing arm action where you don’t expect the ball to get on you as quickly as it does.”
Here’s a look at Akin’s delivery on a curveball:
Akin has been smart though. While in the Arizona Fall League, he’s been working on his mechanics, and specifically his secondary pitches. His fastball may be effective, but there isn’t a good starting pitcher in the major leagues that only has a fastball.
“My slider is my second-best pitch, and it was hit-or-miss throughout this season — more miss than hit — but it got better in instructs,” he said. “My changeup is my third pitch, and it’s a work in progress. Actually, I guess all of my pitches are a work in progress. I’m far from perfect.”
At 22, almost 23-years-old, Akin will likely move up the minors relatively quickly, assuming health. And given the desperate state of the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation, a solid starting pitcher is just what they need. Hopefully Akin can be just that.