In the time Brett Kennedy has played double-A baseball this season, three of his teammates have been promoted to the San Diego Padres’ roster.
That’s when it finally set in for the Brigantine native — he is no longer in the developmental stages of his professional baseball career.
He could be a future Major Leaguer.
“Guys are getting called up every day. It’s kind of surreal seeing that, but you try not to worry about that,” Kennedy said by telephone Wednesday.
Kennedy, who turned 23 on Aug. 4, is having a very successful season with the San Antonio Missions, the Padres’ double-A affiliate in the Texas League. In 23 starts, Kennedy is 12-6 with a 3.60 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 125 innings.
Heading into Saturday’s games, Kennedy leads the Texas League in wins and is second in strikeouts. He’s also fifth in the league in WHIP (1.18) and eighth in ERA.
His next start is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Sunday against the Tulsa Drillers. Heading into Saturday, the Missions are 30-23 and locked up a playoff spot by winning the first half of the league’s South Division.
Kennedy has been a big reason for the Missions’ success. He has allowed three earned runs or less in six of his last seven starts.
“I’m just making strides,” he said. “I started off the year not too great, but over the course of the year I’ve gotten better, got in a groove and I’m becoming a better pitcher every day.”
San Diego selected Kennedy in the 11th round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
He spent his first summer playing rookie ball and all of 2016 in single-A ball in Fort Wayne and Advanced-A Lake Elsinore. He went a combined 6-10 with a 3.80 ERA. He pitched 113 2/3 innings, striking out 147 while walking 51.
He had a nice spring training this year, and the Padres started Kennedy with San Antonio. After a slow start, he’s pitched well over the last month and a half.
“I think one of the things he does well that I like is he pitches with his fastball,” said Missions pitching coach Jimmy Jones. “He has good command with it. He doesn’t throw overly hard — about 92-93, and he’ll hit 94 once in a while. It seems to beat hitters. One of the things I attribute that to is being able to have good command. He’s attacking those guys.”
Still, Kennedy tries to keep himself grounded, knowing that he doesn’t really have a say on if or when he’ll be promoted.
“You don’t really know what the big picture stuff is. The organization doesn’t really tell you when you’re getting moved up or down,” Kennedy said. “Your main thing is to stay focused day to day. When you lose track of that and think about getting promoted, you lose track of what you need to do.”
There is little doubt in Jones’ mind though that Kennedy will keep moving up.
“I just think right now, for me, it’s a matter of time. Having that opportunity to have spots open at the higher levels,” Jones said. “I’m sure he’s going to be there next year at a higher level. It’s just time. Right now, he’s having a good season. We’re in the playoffs and I think our roster is set for the remainder of the year.”
He enjoyed a nice career at Atlantic City, capped by a stellar senior season in 2012. He went 6-1 with a 0.93 ERA and 74 strikeouts, and was a first-team Press All-Star.
He played three seasons at Fordham and finished second all-time at the school with 218 strikeouts. He went 6-8 with a 4.14 ERA with 97 strikeouts his junior year.
He was drafted following his junior season. But unlike most professional baseball players taken before they finished college, he made sure he finished his education. He has gone back to Fordham each of the past two fall semesters following his pro seasons and graduated with a degree in business last December.
“Baseball and school are two important things to me. The Padres paid for my last year and it just worked out,” Kennedy said
What Kennedy has accomplished has made an impact back home.
“He came to the high school over the winter and we sat and talked,” said Atlantic City High School coach Brent Bean, who Kennedy played for. “He’s not the same high school kid. He’s a man now. Just to be able to sit and talk to him and we can have great conversations about baseball now.”
Bean plans on making a trip to San Antonio next weekend to finally see Kennedy pitch. Bean didn’t get a chance while Kennedy was in college because their seasons ran alongside each other.
Every time Kennedy does something newsworthy, Bean tweets it out and makes sure his current high school players use Kennedy as an example.
“He’s much older than these kids,” Bean said. “I put it out there so the kids don’t forget about him. Even though they don’t know him, they know a kid from Atlantic City can make it in the pros.”