Rookie Review: Casey Kelly, RHP, San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres rookie Casey Kelly made his major league debut yesterday, throwing six shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves in a 3-0 victory, allowing three hits and two walks, fanning four. Here's a look at this intriguing young pitcher.
Casey Kelly was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 2008 draft, from high school in Sarasota, Florida. The son of former major league infielder Pat Kelly, Casey was a shortstop/pitcher in high school and didn't become a full time moundsman until 2010. He was also an excellent football player and had a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Tennessee. The Red Sox spent $3,000,000 to convince him otherwise.
Kelly has had a mixed season in 2012. On the positive side, he's been quite effective when on the mound, posting a 3.45 ERA with a 32/3 K/BB ratio in 29 innings between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson. On the negative side, he missed most of the season with a sore elbow. He seems fine now, but it should go without saying that missing most of the year with a sore elbow is not a good thing.
Kelly is a 6-3, 195 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born October 4th, 1989. As you should expect from a former shortstop, he's an excellent overall athlete. Elbow problems aside, scouts like his delivery, saying that his mechanics are clean and repeatable. The combination of good mechanics and superior athleticism should help him stay healthy, in theory anyway.
The arsenal: Kelly's fastball tops out at 95 MPH, and he'll throw it anywhere between 88 and 93 in most games. He locates the pitch well, keeps the ball low in the strike zone, and avoids excessive home runs. He makes frequent use of an above-average curveball. His changeup is inconsistent: sometimes it is very effective, but sometimes it is little more than a show-me pitch. He goes through phases where he doesn't use the changeup much, relying on the fastball and curve, but in general he throws strikes and has a good feel for pitching.
Although he doesn't consistently dominate or blow people away, Kelly has a lot of things going for him. I see him more as a number three-type efficiency expert than a future star-caliber ace, but there's nothing wrong with being a number three starter. He looked good in his first major league start, and his outstanding K/BB ratio in the minors shows his potential.