On the Horizon: Casey Kelly


Two-way players in high school? Sure. College? Maybe. But in the pros? Not many. Not many at all. Meet 19-year old Casey Kelly, a successful two-way player in the Red Sox farm system. His father, Pat Kelly, briefly reached the Major Leagues in 1980, and managed at the minor league level for some time. Out of Sarasota, FL, the younger Kelly is as athletic of a guy as you will find in baseball; not only can he pitch, play defense and hit, but he was a highly recruited quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers (that’s NCAA Division I football). That’s some rare talent right there, and you can start to see why the Sox balked when J.P. Ricciardi reportedly asked for Kelly as part of a deal for Roy Halladay this year.

Tools

Kelly is one of those players who makes everything look easy. He’s 6-3, 200 at only 19 years old, and the Sox love his frame. The Red Sox project him as a pitcher in the big leagues, but Kelly prefers playing shortstop; so far there’s been no reason for him to give up either one.

At the plate, Kelly is raw but shows some exciting potential. His swing is considered a bit long, and he struggles with strikeouts (thus far low breaking stuff has been his kryptonite). As a defender, Kelly is very good, showing a great arm, good footwork, good range and sharp instincts. Some scouts see him as too big to stick at short for too long, and maybe a move to third base will be in order down the line. Others wonder whether his bat will play in the bigs, but he’s had little trouble thus far. He’s not a burner by any means, but runs pretty well.

Despite not pitching much in high school, Kelly is considered pretty advanced on the mound and already has three very good pitches in his low-90s sinker, hammer curve and changeup; he can be consistent with location and and commands very well for his age group. That curve was ranked best in Boston’s farm system by Baseball America, and that changeup allows him to be effective against lefties and righties (he was actually better against lefty hitters this year). His throwing motion is sound and fluid, and scouts think he’ll be durable, as well as probably add a few mph to that fastball as he fills out. His skills with the leather translate well to the mound, and he’s as graceful there as he is in the hole.

Performance

Kelly has shot to the top of the Red Sox prospect charts with an impressive debut on the mound in 2009. Kelly was selected as a South Atlantic League All-Star and was also Carolina League Pitcher of the Week twice in June. He won the Red Sox Pitcher of the Month Award in April and didn’t allow a single HR in 48.1 IP with the Greenville Drive. He is now participating in the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox.

In two short seasons, Kelly has compiled a .219/.282/.336 batting line in Rookie and A-ball. He is also 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA (3.05 FIP) in 95 IP. He’s allowed just 65 hits over that span (.244 AVG against) and allowed just 10.7% liners, while getting 51.6% ground balls with that sinker and changeup. Maybe more impressive is his extremely low 1.5 BB/9 rate and 4.63 K/BB ratio. The boy throws strikes. Given his success, it looks like the Red Sox front office might be right in steering him towards pitching; still only time will tell if Kelly’s bat can come around.

Outlook

With some outstanding early success, Kelly looks to have a very bright future in the Majors, most likely as a starting pitcher. We may get a look at him as early as next September, though my guess is they’ll take it slow with him and wait until late 2011. Some of his current comparables are SS J.J. Hardy and RHP Kevin Brown; that’s some pretty decent company, Hardy’s 2009 season notwithstanding.

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One Response to On the Horizon: Casey Kelly

  1. Pingback: 2010 Consolidated List of Non-roster Invitees « Monozygotic

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