Aidan Keenan had a pretty good idea he was going to be selected to the 40-man 18U National Team Training Camp roster.
After all, USA Baseball was reserving 20 of the 40 roster spots for pitchers, and given what he did at the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League—a weeklong event which was used to determine the 40-man list—the incoming Live Oak High senior felt great about his chances.
“I thought I performed pretty well and had high odds of making it,” Keenan said July 21 by phone from Florida, where he was taking part in a Perfect Game event. “It’s an honor being a top-40 player and also a relief to know I was able to accomplish that.”
The squad will be cut down to a final 20-man 18U National Team roster, to be announced on Sept. 2. From there, the team will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Sept. 9-18 in Bradenton and Sarasota, Fla.
With the best players in the nation, competition will be fierce for every roster spot.
“If I’m selected to the top 20, that would be unreal,” said Keenan, a Stanford-commit. “It would be incredible.”
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound flame-throwing right-hander is having quite a summer, as he also took part in the renowned Major League Baseball-USA Baseball High School All American Game at Dodger Stadium on July 15. The event was part of the MLB All-Star Week in Los Angeles and featured many of the top U.S.-based high school prospects for next year’s 2023 MLB Draft. Some consider the event the most star-studded prep showcase of the year. In fact, 37 of the High School All-American players participated in the PDP League at the USA Baseball National Team Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
Each pitcher in the PDP League had two, two-inning outings. Keenan didn’t allow a hit or run in either of his outings.
“Both outings were efficient and quick,” he said. “I think I might have been the only pitcher who didn’t allow any hits. I walked a few kids, but that was about it.”
Keenan pitched one inning in the High School All-American Game, allowing no hits or runs with one strikeout. He received some nice praise from the broadcasters, including former MLB second baseman Harold Reynolds, who commented on the spin rate on one of Keenan’s fastballs and needing just 15 pitches to get through an inning of work.
Keenan started making waves nationally after he hit 95 mph in between his sophomore and junior year. But things have really taken off once he popped 98 mph—yes, 98—on the radar gun last December.
“That was a really crazy moment because I know it’s one of the fastest fastballs in the entire 2023 class,” Keenan said. “That number came out of nowhere because I jumped from 96 to 98. I was a bit surprised I hit that number.”
Keenan said he’s hit 98 two more times since then, and if he continues to develop and get stronger, it’s well within reason that he could hit 100 mph in the next year or two. That’s one of the reasons why Keenan could very well be a first or second-round selection in next year’s MLB Draft.
Nowadays, it’s almost impossible for a pitching prospect to get noticed unless his velocity is consistently in the low to mid-90s because the MLB has increasingly become a home run-strikeout game.
Keenan’s fastball progression has been meteoric. He was topping out at 86 mph just two years ago and could barely touch 80 in 2018, but since then his velo has kept on ascending. Not only that, but Keenan’s fastball has tremendous movement, or in baseball terms, some serious run. He also utilizes a hard, biting slider, a curveball and has a 3/4ths delivery with lightning quick arm speed.
Keenan will probably grow to 6-2 or 6-3, and he would like to put 10-15 additional pounds of muscle on his frame.
“There’s a saying that mass is gas,” he said. “The goal before the next high school season is to be 185 pounds and then 190 going into college.”
Keenan didn’t play for Live Oak as a junior but confirmed he will play his senior season. That will make everyone around the program extremely delighted. A big part of Keenan’s motivation is to help lead the Acorns to a historic Division I championship, where it would have to beat a couple of powerful West Catholic League Schools along the way.
In May, Live Oak had this year’s D1 champion, St. Francis, on the ropes but couldn’t put the Lancers away.
“That was tough,” he said. “We’re a small-town team and a school not as known for raising athletes like those WCAL schools. So if we could beat them and win the D1 championship, that would be insane. We’d be the biggest underdogs, but I know we could do it.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]