With a fastball that is regularly clocked at 100 MPH, right-handed pitcher Ken Giles has garnered increased attention since joining the Phillies’ organization and is primed to be a fast moving prospect that could make an impact on the big leagues in the near future.
Selected in the 7th round of the 2011 amateur draft out of Yavapai (Junior) College, although he was committed to transferring to Arizona at the time, Giles began his professional career with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies that year. After facing a difficult decision to turn pro and leave college behind, Giles struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 innings over three outings with the GCL team. Prior to making his debut in the minors, Giles, a big-time strike out artist, notched 67 strike outs in 38 innings during the 2011 college season.
Giles began the 2012 season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws where he went 3-3 with five saves, a 3.61 ERA and a .215 batting average against in 29 outings (six starts). Giles was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in July and proceeded to pitch exclusively as a reliever for the Threshers, going 1-0 with three saves, a 3.07 ERA and a .183 batting average against in 10 appearances. Combined at those two levels, Giles sported a 12.18 K/9 mark
Last year, Giles was limited after dealing with two separate oblique strains (one on each side). In just 24 appearances with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Giles sported a 2-2 record with six saves and a 6.31 ERA. While his typical ability to overpower batters was on display in the Florida State League (11.92 K/9), his walks were up (to 6.66 BB/9 from 5.49 BB/9 a year earlier) as he battled to recover from his health concerns.
The Phillies would have liked to see Giles sport tidier numbers so they could have moved him up to Double-A ball for a stretch before the 2013 campaign was complete, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he was assigned to pitch in the highly competitive Arizona Fall League following the regular season, where he continued to impress with his triple-digit velocity.
With Peoria in the AFL, Giles made 10 appearances, recording no decisions, notching three saves and tallying a 5.23 ERA. In 10 2/3 innings the New Mexico resident struck out 16 and walked eight. Aside from a lone poor outing (six earned runs without recording an out) Giles was not scored upon in the AFL.
The outstanding velocity is clearly what makes Giles stand out, but team personnel also very much admire his aggressive style and the manner in which he goes after opposing batters with a drive that shows he can’t wait to notch his next out.
The highly competitive Giles shows flashes of being a complete hurler, using his full six-foot-two 190-pound frame to finish his pitches. He’ll need to continue the exemplary mechanics and avoid any regression toward solely using his power arm to throw the ball toward the catcher’s mitt if he is to reach the big leagues and maintain good health.
His repertoire features that impressive fastball that’s earning him so many accolades and a quality slider that compliments his heat well. Considering the type of role Giles has filled in previous seasons and the duties he is expected to take on going forward, those two pitches will be all that he needs to stand out as he continues to ascend toward the big leagues.
A career ground ball rate of 36.5% is an area that likely won’t improve much, based on his menu of offerings, but combined with a strike out rate of 12.18%, that may not be too hard to live with for Giles and the Phillies.
The walk rate for Giles is certainly something he’ll want to improve, as the 23-year-old has averaged a 14.1% mark in three pro seasons.
It seems likely that Giles, who is currently in spring training with the big league squad, will start the 2014 season with Double-A Reading, where he’d take on some closing duties. The ceiling for this talented hurler is as a back-end big league reliever. His health and ability to display control will determine how quickly he gets that opportunity.