Scottsdale, Ariz. -- Walking around the Colorado Rockies' backfields, you come across players that weren't on your radar going in, even with a deep knowledge of the club's farm system. After all, with more than 160 minor leaguers in camp this spring, there are bound to be some surprises along the way.
One pitcher that stands out—no doubt in part due to the fact that he's taller than almost everyone in camp—is Alec Kenilvort. The Rockies' 15th round draft pick in 2014, the 6'6" righty spent the last two summers playing short-season ball, appearing in Grand Junction two summers ago and Boise last season. Now, the 23-year-old has one destination in mind.
"Asheville is definitely the goal, even though it’s not necessarily a focus of mine," Kenilvort tells Purple Row from the club's minor league training complex. "I’m trying not to make that a focus, because it’s a result, but everything I’m working on here every day is going to end up getting me there or not."
Kenilvort certainly has a lot to work on—in his brief two-year career, he's allowed 9.8 H/9 and 4.8 BB/9 against 7.8 K/9—but he also markedly improved from 2014 to 2015. Statistically, at least, this could be the perfect time for him to take the next step towards Low-A Asheville in 2016. If, or when, he can accomplish that, he'll join a Tourists bullpen with a better understanding of how to set up hitters with his off-speed pitches.
"The changeup is really coming along, though definitely my slider, between the two, is my better offspeed pitch," Kenilvort admits. "I'm just throwing [the changeup] like a fastball and trying to get a little bit of pronation. For me, the biggest thing is the command and consistency with it. And that comes from development in my delivery."
Kenilvort's delivery is fairly conventional, as you can see below in scouting video Purple Row filmed of the big righty throwing in an intrasquad scrimmage at the Rockies' complex. The northern California native's biggest asset is his height, which gives him a phenomenal downward plane to the plate when he stays on top of the ball, fastball or otherwise:
Kenilvort, who more or less comes straight over the top to his release point, has fairly long arm action. It's not quite as long on the back side as what we've seen from Parker French, but he is deliberate to the plate. He also has some sneaky good offerings, as seen on the video above. At the one minute mark, he ties up Ryan Stephens with a late-breaking slider inside, and gets some other bad swings and misses throughout that show a little deception on his part towards hitters.
But as is true of almost every tall pitcher, the more moving parts one incorporates into their delivery—and the longer movements those parts make to get to the release point—the more often things can go wrong. Kenilvort says tying it all together and working towards one end point has been a challenge for him in the past.
"I’ve really refined what I need to work on," he says. "Instead of approaching everything all at once, I’ve just started to take things one step at a time, and I learned to be patient with the process."
"A lot of times back in college, or even in high school, we look for results right away," he adds, "and that’s not the goal here. We look at development, and the long term side."
Kenilvort's maturity is a good sign for his future, but it's not just saying the right things during interviews that make the College of Marin product stand out in camp. To hear fellow pitcher Matt Meier tell it, Kenilvort is something of a role model by virtue of his professional approach.
"He has a great work ethic, he’s always one of the first ones at the field, first one whether we’re doing towel drill or going through mechanics, and he’s always willing to be out there and help in what you want to do," Meier says during an interview about his own outlook ahead of the summer.
"I mean, I looked up to [Kenilvort] last year," he adds. "Whether it was in the weight room, or on the field, he works hard. He does what he needs to do."
Role model or not, Kenilvort knows he still has quite a bit to work on—and a jump to Asheville would be a different world for which to prepare.
"It can be tough not to get in your own head, and that’s at least half the battle, the mental side," Kenilvort admits about his mental outlook. "We have mental strength coaches, but the most prominent thing to work on is having a day to day routine. That sets you and mentally prepares you for when the moment comes."
Soon, perhaps that preparation will all lead to Kenilvort's moment.
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