Kevin Pucetas Joins ‘From Phenom To The Farm:’ Episode 77

Image credit: Tom Priddy / Four Seam Images

Kevin Pucetas was never supposed to sniff the big leagues. Truthfully, it wasn’t likely that he’d
even sniff college baseball.


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“I was 5’ 10” when I graduated from high school, and I threw about 82 miles per hour,” said
Pucetas. “But I had a little tenacity about me, I always thought I threw harder than that.”

Pucetas had one single collegiate offer, to Division 2 Limestone College. As a freshman, he
wasn’t even pitching on the school’s varsity squad, but by the time he left Limestone, he was a
school Hall of Famer and 2006 17 th round draft pick of the Giants. He’d grown into his body,
picked up his velocity to the 88-90 range, topping out at 94, and was able to throw multiple
pitches for strikes.

Despite his stellar college career and aptitude for his craft, 17 th round small school draftees aren’t
expected to amount to much. Pucetas quickly proved that might not be the case. His professional
debut (a 2.17 ERA in 70.2 innings at short-season Salem-Keizer) was eye-opening, but his full-
season debut put him on the organizational map. The Giants sent Pucetas to Low-A Augusta, and
the righthander responded by leading all minor leaguers in ERA.

“What really made the difference for me in that first Low-A year was I was in the South Atlantic
League, I grew up in the South,” said Pucetas. “Every town that we played in, I had friends,
family, people that I knew coming to watch. It helped me stay focused, because I didn’t want to
let anybody down—I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to my friend, my family.”

Pucetas provided more of the same during his 2008 promotion to High-A San Jose, going 10-2
with a 3.02 ERA in the notoriously hitter-friendly California League. A little over two years after
being a draft afterthought, Pucetas found himself pitching in the 2008 Futures Game at old
Yankee Stadium.

“I’m warming up in Monument Park and trying to focus and get in the game, lock in, but I’m
also reflecting,” said Pucetas. “I’m from Limestone College and I’m standing in the most
hallowed ground of baseball immortality, trying to get ready for a game where I’m pitching
against the best prospects in all of baseball (…) I came to that realization, like man, I’m close.”

He skipped Double-A entirely, beginning the 2009 season with Triple-A Fresno, knocking on the
door of the big leagues. Pucetas began the season with more of the same as in his previous stops,
but hit a roadblock midway through the season.

Pucetas had always been a fastball, changeup, curveball guy on the mound. On the precipice of
being a big leaguer, the Giants felt he needed another breaking ball in order to succeed.
Following a start, Pucetas was instructed it was time to add a slider—and the pitch didn’t take.
“It just didn’t come naturally to me, it really didn’t,” said Pucetas.

Pucetas’ numbers slid during the second half, partly due to arm fatigue, and partly due to the
repertoire change; a mandate to incorporate a slider 55% of the time during his outings.
Still, the following Spring Training, Pucetas found himself as close as he’d ever been to the big
league roster. As the team broke camp, Pucetas traveled with the big league Giants for an
opening exhibition series in then-AT&T Park. He was in the big league stadium, wearing the big
league uniform, pitching on a big league mound just days before the season started.
Unfortunately for Pucetas, it’d be the closest he’d ever get.

“I got cut right after the game,” said Pucetas. “I literally had guys coming up to me like Jeremy
(Affeldt) saying ‘You’re making the team dude, you’re still here—there’s nobody else left to

Pucetas spent the rest of his career trying to get back to the same pitcher as he was during his
Futures Game season, but things never clicked at the right time. He pitched in multiple
organizations, as well as winter stints in the Dominican Republic constantly tweaking his
repertoire and style, trying to find the right fit. Eventually following an attempt by the Rangers to
convert him into a knuckleballer, Pucetas called it a career.

While he came as close as one can come to being a big leaguer without actually accruing service
time, the 17 th rounder has no regrets.

“I was never supposed to get drafted, I was never supposed to win a Minor League Cy Young, I
was never supposed to do any of that because I was a 17 th round, roll of the dice, small D2 kid,
that could pitch a little,” said Pucetas. “A lot of guys it would eat them alive, but it doesn’t eat
me alive. I had a pretty damn good run—I played a long time, made some money (…) met a lot
of really cool people, and I’m still involved in the game in some capacity, that’s pretty dang

On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ former professional righthander Kevin
Pucetas joins to discuss his journey. He talks going from 17 th round Division 2 pitcher to Futures
Game participant, the importance of sticking to your identity on the mound, and the art of the

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