23. Mitchell Kilkenny (141 points, 15 ballots)
Thus far in his professional career, Mitchell Kilkenny has pitched well across three different levels after overcoming some injury adversity. The adversity in Kilkenny’s case came from a post-draft physical which discovered Colorado’s 2018 second rounder needed Tommy John surgery immediately. The 6’3” pitcher returned in time for a brief spell in rookie ball in 2019, then lost 2020 like almost every other prospect as the Rockies didn’t prioritize him for the alternate site despite his draft pedigree.
When drafted, Kilkenny (who will turn 25 next week) had the profile of a “pitchability righty” in scouting parlance. Basically, he lacked standout stuff but he possessed good command/polish and was likely to remain a starting option. Those are traits that bode well for success in the lower minors, and Kilkenny came through on that promise with a strong 2021 across two levels.
Kilkenny started out in Low-A Fresno in 2021, where he quickly proved in 31 innings over six starts of 1.45 ERA, 10.5 K/9 ball that he had mastered the level. After a mid-June promotion to High-A Spokane (where he was 0.8 years older than average), Kilkenny held his own but wasn’t as dominant. In 15 starts with Spokane, nine of them qualified as Quality Starts, indicating his ability to soak up innings and cruise. In all, Kilkenny threw 82 frames with a 3.95 ERA (4.45 xFIP), 1.15 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9. It was encouraging to see this success at a higher level, but pitchers with Kilkenny’s stuff profile should do well against less sophisticated batters.
Here’s some pre-draft video of Kilkenny courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball:
Kilkenny snuck onto the back of Keith Law’s top 20 system ranking for the Athletic in February:
Kilkenny can bump 96 mph with plus control, but his secondaries are fringy at best, and he might be better suited to short bursts where he can get more power to his slider. He’s enough of a strike-thrower that I could see someone taking him in the Rule 5 Draft, though.
FanGraphs placed Kilkenny as a prospect of note in January, saying only that Kilkenny “is a kitchen sink righty with plus command who sits about 88-91 mph”.
Obviously if Kilkenny’s fastball is closer to the 96 MPH cited by the Athletic than the 91 noted by FanGraphs, he’s a higher upside arm than previously thought, but those are the only crumbs we have about how Kilkenny is viewed by scouts. I liked Kilkenny’s starter utility and scouting blurbs enough to rank him 29th on my ballot as a 35+ FV prospect.
We know the Rockies haven’t prioritized Kilkenny highly thus far, as they didn’t add him to the 40-man roster after the season, nor in 2020 did they bring him to the alternative site. That written, the Rockies will have another year to observe Kilkenny after the cancellation of the Rule 5 draft, this time in the high minors where he will be able to prove his mettle against more advanced hitters.