Willy Kesler Interview: The Big Cat is Ready to Pounce on Seattle

Wednesday February 15th, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Good news Mariners fans! The Big Cat is headed to your city one day very soon. No…Andres Galarraga has not come out of retirement. Your cat is a homegrown talent, being groomed for a spot on your pitching staff. Willy Kesler is his name. The 24-year old Kesler was a steal of a pick by Seattle in the 18th round of the 2010 draft. He went from the University of Mexico to pro ball and the transition has been seemless. How good is this kid? Try a 2.21 ERA over 2 seasons, with a 1.260 WHIP. Kesler rarely gives up a long ball and a strong 3.52 SO/BB ratio. At the rate that he is going, we could be seeing him in the Mariners pen as soon as 2013. With a young team based on gifted pitching talent, Kesler is coming up at the right time with the right organization. Plus he loves Bull Durham- so we know he is legit. Hailing from Colorado, today we get to meet one of bright pitching prospects in the Mariners organization. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you- Willy Kesler: 

Welcome to the Reports Willy! Gotta ask you to start off-  born and raised in Colorado. Did you grow up a Rockies fan? Had you ever been to Seattle prior to being drafted?

Yes I grew up watching the Rockies. I had been to Seattle a couple different times because I have family just south of Seattle.

How did you enjoy your time in University?  What was the University of New Mexico like?

Most of the time I would hang out with the roommates which were teammates when I was at school. Playing at UNM was a lot of fun. We had a very close team so that made it even better. I enjoyed being down there for 3 years. (redshirt, redshirt jr and redshirt sr)

Did you have a favorite player growing up?

My favorite player growing up was Andres Galarraga when he played for the Colorado Rockies. His nickname is the “Big Cat”, which is kind of funny that he was my favorite player being my teammates call me “The Big Cat” now.

Which current MLB star do you most admire and why? Any current players that you pattern your game after?

I don’t really have a current MLB star I admire or anyone I pattern my game after. When it comes to this, I am kind of my own player with everything that I do.

What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

One of my biggest goals for 2012 is to continue working on my command of the strike zone with all of my pitches that I throw. Continue growing as a pitcher and learning the game every day.

You were an 18th round pick by the Mariners in 2010.  How did you find out you were drafted?  Big party that night?

When drafted I was sitting in a suite at the Albuquerque Isotopes game. I first found out when my name came across the draft-tracker. Then just shortly after that I got a phone call from the Mariners letting me know that they took me in the draft. It was a great feeling to finally be given a chance to play ball professionally. There wasn’t much of a big party that night; I just celebrated with some of my closest friends that night. My family then had a graduation/getting drafted party once I got home the day before I left for the season.

Where did you expect to go in the draft? Did you see Seattle in your future?

I didn’t have any expectations on where I was going to get drafted and it really didn’t matter to me. I just wanted the opportunity to play professional baseball and see what I could do with the opportunity to do so. I knew I filled out the player questionnaire for the Mariners before the draft, but I wasn’t sure about who I was going to get drafted by, if at all.

You start off your career as a member of the Everett AquaSox and then moved on to the Clinton and High Desert last season.  Tell us about all your professional teams…and what the heck are AquaSox?

Playing with Everett after getting drafted was some of the most fun I have had on a baseball team. We had a great group of guys on that team. It also helped that we won the Northwest League Championship. That was my first ring I have ever won, so that was a whole new experience in itself. Clinton was fun as well; I liked playing in the Midwest. Playing ball in California was nice as well. I enjoyed the weather out there. An AquaSox is a frog.

How did you feel going from school to professional baseball?  What was the transition like?

The biggest thing was no more homework after graduating before pro ball. So that’s always nice. The baseball is still the same game, just a faster version of it. Getting to pro ball I was extremely happy to get rid of the metal bats and go to wood bats now.

At what age did you know that you would be a pitcher?  Do you see yourself long-term as a starter or reliever? (perhaps future closer…)

My whole baseball career I have been a pitcher. In high school I was one of the starting pitchers, but I did most of my playing behind the plate and hitting. My whole life I have been a starter until I got to pro ball. I like doing both starting and relieving, but I will do whatever role that my team needs me to do.

What do you consider your best pitch(es)? Any new ones that you plan to be working on this season?

The command on my fastball or my CB could be the best pitch I throw. I haven’t been working on any new pitches for this season. I want to make all the pitches I already throw better.

Who were the strongest baseball influences growing up?  Any particular coaches that had a deep impact on your game?

There are many coaches that had a huge impact on my baseball career.  To start, Jim Morse would have to be on the list. He was my football coach that got me to play baseball. (quick story- Jim asked my parents if I played baseball when he was my football coach at the age of 7, my parents said no I didn’t. he told them that I would play for him next season because he was a baseball coach as well. At my first practice I showed up in jeans and a t-shirt with no glove. After practice Jim told us to follow him home, he then walked out with a brand new glove. When my mom went to pay him, he told my mom that he didn’t want any money, just tickets behind home plate at my first big league game. So now that I am playing professional baseball it feels crazy that I will hopefully have to give him a call someday in the future letting him know he has a ticket waiting for him behind home plate).

The next set of coaches would be Steve Curry and Terry Smith. They were my first competitive coaches. I am still in contact with both of them. They helped teach me how to respect the game of baseball. Then the next set of coaches that really helped get me to this level are Scott Crampton and Donnie Alexander. They were my coaches at Lamar CC. they helped light the fire that sparked me to the pitcher I am today..I wouldn’t be the player I am on the field without any of these coaches.


Your numbers to-date have been outstanding. Lifetime 9-5 record, 2.21 ERA, 1.260 WHIP, 23/81 BB/K, only 4 home runs allowed…what has been the secret to your success

One of the biggest things I can look back and say that has helped me along the way in pro ball is just attacking hitters and going right after them. I don’t like to pitch around guys. I also know that its professional baseball and I will get hit; it’s just limiting those hits. Not being afraid to pitch to contact has helped me along the way as well.

What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

The first thing that comes to my mind for this question is just more command with my curve ball and my change-up.

If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

That’s a tough question. I’m not sure. I would love to say this year but I am realistic. The expected time of arrival in the big leagues is all out of my hands. I am a huge believer that my plan has already been chosen by God. I just take it day-to-day and when its my time its my time. I’m not to worried about it. I just know that I have to continue getting better every day. Working on my mechanics and command will help me get to where I want to be.

Favorite baseball movie of all-time and why?

My favorite baseball movie is Bull Durham. I just love the movie. There really isn’t much to say except if anyone hasn’t seen it, they need to.

Final thoughts?

Thank you very much for the opportunity of doing this interview. I appreciate the fact that you wanted to get to know me better. I would be happy to do an interview anytime you need one.

***Thank you to Willy Kesler for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports.  You can follow Willy on Twitter (@WKesler). Good luck on the season Willy and we can’t wait until The Big Cat pounces on Seattle!***


Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on February 15, 2012, in Interviews with MLB Stars and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Has he been invited to the Big League spring training?

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