The Detroit Tigers drafted Kenny Faulk in the 16th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Kennesaw State University. The southpaw reliever was easily dismissed as an organizational filler by the majority of the “experts”. They provided us with a laundry list of reasons why Faulk couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that.
Apparently Kenny Faulk didn’t get the memo. And, if he did, he wasn’t exactly a fan of the future that they painted for him.
As they say, actions speak louder than words. So far, Faulk’s actions are doing all the talking for him. The numbers can’t be ignored. The numbers are making those so called “experts” eat crow.
Despite being relatively unknown, Faulk has consistently been a lock down closer for the Tigers Minor League Affiliates. He has posted a sub-3 ERA and hovered at or above a strikeout per inning every season. Relying heavily on his change-up, Faulk has also allowed just 6 home runs in 139 2/3 career innings.
Like most low draft picks, he’ll have to continue to post solid numbers at every stop to prove his worth. Regardless, for a guy who has received virtually no hype, Faulk impressed the hell out of me last season. He is fearless on the hill, routinely challenging hitters by pounding the strike-zone.
Ignoring the naysayers, Faulk has done his part. He’s put in the work and posted the numbers, proving them all wrong.
Recently Kenny Faulk was kind enough to check in with us and participate in a Q&A.
MCB: At what point in your life do you remember deciding that professional baseball was something that you wanted to pursue?
Kenny Faulk: I never really thought getting drafted was even going to happen. So when I did get drafted I decided I would give it a chance. It is every kids dream, but you have to be realistic with pro ball.
MCB: Who has had the biggest influence on your baseball career?
KF: I’m gonna have to say my family for providing the money to be able to play the game of baseball. As far as pitching goes, my junior college head coach Scot Hemmings taught me the approach that I still use today. At my Junior College, if I was relaxed when I pitched I would get hit. However, when he would yell at me, I would strike out 8 or 9 guys and be a different pitcher.
MCB: Have you had any favorite coaches or mentors allow the way?
KF: Yes my pitching coach at kennesaw state Kevin Ermino was a great coach. He just was always down to earth and he made you want to practice and work on mechanics because of his great attitude. He was all about playing the best pitcher, not the hardest thrower.
MCB: You played your college ball at Kennesaw State University. Can you tell us a little about the University and the time you spent there?
KF: It was the best time of my life. I always dreamed of going to KSU, but I wasn’t good enough out of high school to get offered anything. I only had a offer to a NAIA school. After all, I was just a lefty throwing 80mph as a senior. Kennesaw State has a great Education program, and I’ve met some of my best buddies from that team. It was a crazy experience having 2 first rounders on your team. We always had about 15-20 scouts at every game.
MCB: The Tigers drafted you in the 16th round of the 2009 draft. What was the whole scouting and draft process like?
KF: I don’t really like the whole scouting process honestly. I was a closer and only threw fastballs at Kennesaw because they couldnt hit it. So if I did throw a change-up all I would do is speed up the hitters bat. So scouts would write me off. But its an honor to be drafted, it was cool to see my name and have my family with me.
MCB: You’re an absolute bulldog on the mound. You seem absolutely fearless and you do an outstanding job of regularly attacking the strike zone. Have you always had that, here it is, go ahead and hit it if you can approach?
KF: Heres the thing, in high school I threw 80mph as a senior. So I have learned to pitch with a fastball, change-up combo. So when i did pick up velocity I knew how to pitch already. When I pitched in high school, I always challenged hitters. But yes, it’s my approach because when I tried to be Tom Glavine and spot up my first low A full season pre All-Star break. It didn’t work, So when i came back I told myself that I would pitch like Kenny Faulk wanted and since then the numbers have backed my approach
MCB: You’ve always posted impressive strikeout numbers north of a strikeout per inning. Last season you really addressed your walk ratio though, posting a career best 2.6 BB/9. Did you make any changes in your approach?
KF: Yes I did, I tried to really work on throwing first pitch strikes to every batter I faced. It does make a huge difference in the batting average if you’re regularly ahead in the count. Plus most of the time hitters will take the first pitch.
MCB: You’ve only allowed 6 home runs in 139 2/3 career innings. Keeping the ball in the yard is important, especially late in the game. What’s your secret?
KF: [laughs] I would say mostly luck. Here’s the thing, not a lot of pitchers throw change-ups late in relief. It’s effective though because everyone is expecting a breaking ball. When I throw it, I get a weak contact and pop flies because I sell the change up and make it look like a fastball.
MCB: I had the opportunity to watch you pitch in Clearwater last season at the FSL All-Star Game. Can you tell us a bit about the experience? Seriously, you needed just 10 or 11 pitches to strike out the side. That had to feel amazing, right?
KF: The All-Star game was an amazing night for me! It was a blast to have my family and girlfriend come down and stay on the beach!
Yeah the funny thing about it [striking out the side] was that they were all top prospects. I was probably the only guy there who didn’t get any money from the draft. Yet I struck out all 3 Top 100 prospects with my worst pitch, my slider. [laughs]
MCB: You’ve played baseball in several different cities and states. What have been some of the best and worst venues?
KF: West Michigan was the best time of my life, and one of the best crowds and cities to play in. Lakeland has a nice stadium but we never had a crowd or more than like 40 people at the game. Plus its hot in Florida!
MCB: Spring Training is around the corner. For those of us who don’t know, take us through the steps you’ll take to get your arm ready for the upcoming season.
KF: I start throwing the ball in November, long tossing from December, then bullpens in the beginning of February. I try and throw 5 days a week.
MCB: You’re armed with an solid fastball and one of the best change-ups in the Tigers farm system. Have you thought about adding a breaking ball or third pitch to your repertoire?
KF: Yes, I finally got a slider at the beginning of the season. I only threw it to lefties, but it was very effective. I held lefties to a 0.50 ERA in 17 innings with 30K’s. This year I’m working on throwing it inside to right handed hitters, and getting the break sharper and tighter.
MCB: With that in mind, what part of your game, specifically, are you looking to improve on this year?
KF: Well, I’ve always been a big dude, so my dieting and making better choices is number one on the list. Here’s the thing about weight though, just because you can out run me, or out lift me, or throw harder than me…It doesn’t mean you’re gonna out pitch me. And, that’s the truth!
As far as my game goes, I’m working on throwing inside more. Definitely more sliders inside to rightys and getting more flexible.
MCB: Switching gears a bit, I have a few non baseball questions from our readers. What are some of the things away from the game that you like to do for fun?
KF: I love riding four-wheelers, playing video games with my buddies and computer games. Every now and then I love having a cigar while listening to some relaxing music too.
MCB: Who were some of your favorite baseball players growing up? Did you model your game after any of your favorite pitchers?
KF: I was a big fan of John Rocker! Why you ask? Because of his pissed off attitude. The guy threw really hard too. I loved Ken Griffy Jr because he hit home runs and had an amazing swing! I did model my game after Rocker but I don’t have his fastball; even though I act like it.
MCB: What have you been up to this off-season?
KF: Well, being a senior sign I have to work. I coach the North Cobb High School Varsity baseball team. They went 15-3. I also coach the East Cobb team on the weekends. I also park cars and worked at Honey baked ham and Game Stop for holiday help. In addition to that, I also gave pitching lessons on the weekends. So this year when I strike out some teammates, I’ll be sure to let them know that they got struck out by a honey baked ham employee! [laughs]
MCB: Outside of baseball do you follow any sports?
KF: Yes I love college football! Paul Johnson is a great coach; love Georgia Tech! Plus, GT is only about 20 minutes away from my house.
MCB: What are five songs or albums that you’re currently listening to on your iPod?
KF: Luke Bryan – Shake it for me country girl, Metallica – For whom the bell tolls, Five Finger Death Punch – Under and over it, Waka Flocka Flame – Go hard in the paint, Motley Crue – Girls Girls Girls… I listen to rock and rap before I pitch, but love all music.
MCB: What’s your all-time favorite baseball movie?
KF: For the love of the game, because he finally saw that after his perfect game he had no one to celebrate with. It just proves that you shouldn’t always put baseball first.
A special thanks to Tigers prospect Kenny Faulk for taking the time out of his busy day to answer our questions. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KennyFaulk.
For more interviews with Detroit Tigers Prospects, click here.