There’s a lot to like of what you see in Franklyn Kilome, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound anomaly of a starting pitcher, a hard-throwing right-hander with a closer’s body shoehorned into a rotation.
There’s a lot to like of what you hear from him, too.
The newest experiment in the Mets’ system, acquired at the trade deadline from Philadelphia for Asdrubal Cabrera, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 and debuted in 2014. It took him moments to realize the disadvantages he was facing coming from another country and another world; understanding coaches and teammates was a problem. It took him just a year before he was speaking the language.
“Came here, first time I was just like, I didn’t know anything in English,” the 23-year-old said over the phone this weekend. “I didn’t know what they said. [I thought], I need to learn that language. I worked on it, I get better and better, and at the end of the year I was much better. The next year, 2015, I was just like, I get it.”
The more universal language — baseball itself — has come in spurts and not as quickly.
Kilome has the high-octane stuff that organizations covet, a mid- to upper-90s fastball and a big-time curveball, to pair with a changeup that still needs work. A breakout 2017 season, in which he pitched to a 2.83 ERA in 127 innings of Single- and Double-A ball with the Phillies launched his profile, registering him as Baseball Prospectus’ No. 68 prospect entering this season.
This year has been a struggle. Through his first 15 games, Kilome had a 4.91 ERA and a mounting control issue (38 walks in 77 innings). He’s turned his season around in his past six starts — 2.45 ERA, with batters hitting .227, the last two of those outings coming with Double-A Binghamton. He couldn’t pinpoint the source of the downturn or resurgence, but did say he has been working for much of this year on repeating his delivery.
His Double-A Reading pitching coach, Steve Schrenk, said the two had worked on his mechanics this year, but he felt Kilome had turned a corner and “come into his own.”
“They got a good pitcher, a power arm,” Schrenk said. “He has everything to be a major league pitcher.”
Replicating a delivery is a frequent obstacle for bigger pitchers, and the Phillies reportedly were torn on whether his future resided as a starter or out of the bullpen. The Mets, who field a rotation mostly composed of successful projects, don’t seem to have the same hesitancy.
“He’s athletic and has the pitch mix of a future starter,” Mets director of minor league operations Ian Levin said.
Saturday, against Double-A Harrisburg, Kilome ran into trouble in the first and allowed two runs, but bounced back and didn’t allow another run.
“You don’t see guys like him — he’s huge,” Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy said. “His ball’s going to have a little extra giddy-up, even when he’s throwing 95, 96. I liked him. “He’s a big-body kid. Threw the ball over the plate, cruised through the lineup. … Nice little addition [for the Mets].”
The trade came as a surprise to Kilome, who had spent his entire professional career with the Phillies. A pitcher who had become so adept at adapting was not expecting to have to do it again.
“I was just thinking, that really happened,” Kilome said, reliving his hearing the news. “It’s weird. They called me to the office, the manager just told me I got traded. They say it like, you just got traded for Cabrera.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, what to say.”
Eventually it sunk in. Kilome has faced bigger hurdles than trading teams.
“When I have to pitch, I just pitch,” said Kilome, whom MLB.com has slated as the Mets’ fifth-best prospect and second-best pitching prospect.
“I don’t worry about anything else.”
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