It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Casey Kelly!
One of the best athletes available in the 2008 draft, Casey Kelly was taken as the 30th pick overall by the Boston Red Sox. He fell further in the draft than he should have because he had a strong commitment to the University of Tennessee, where he had a scholarship to be a quarterback for the football team. The Red Sox drafted Kelly as a pitcher, but he publicly said he wanted to be a shortstop (some teams saw him as a 1st round talent as a SS as well). So what they did for the 2009 season was have Kelly pitch until he hit his innings limit and then play SS. Turns out, even Kelly agreed with the Red Sox’s assessment once the season was over — he had a 2.08 ERA and a 74-15 K/BB ratio in 95 IP before hitting .222/.302/.340 with 3 HR in 182 PA. After an aggressive assignment to Double-A at the start of 2010, Kelly struggled to put up numbers equivalent to his talent, even though scouting reports remained positive and he was young for the league.
In the winter of 2010, he was dealt to the San Diego Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, but 2011 yielded similar results to the previous year. Coming into the 2012 season, Kelly’s prospect shine was starting to wear off as scouts expected better than his middling results. However, 2012 saw a different Casey Kelly. Both his stuff and command were sharper in spring training, where he put up a 1.74 ERA with an 18-2 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 IP. He took this into Triple-A, where he had 14 K and 0 BB in 2 starts before going on the DL with inflammation in his right elbow. In July, Kelly picked up right where he left off. All in all, Kelly has struck out 57 batters and walked only 5 in 56 1/3 IP between spring training, Triple-A, the AZL and Double-A. Now, Monday, he is being summoned to make his major league debut against the Braves in San Diego. Let’s see what we can expect from Kelly.
Kelly’s scouting report is pretty straightforward. He’s listed at 6’3″, 195 lbs and repeats his delivery extremely well due to his previously mentioned athleticism. He’s got a fastball that sits in the low-90’s and can touch the mid-90’s with nice sink on it — which has allowed him to put up a 1.5 GB/FB rate in the minors. His best secondary offering is a curveball which grades out as at least a plus pitch and features late, heavy break. Throw in a change which is average and a plus command/control profile, and you get what should be a very solid #3 starter. On top of that, he’s got the bloodlines that scouts love, as he’s the son of Pat Kelly — former major league 2B mostly with the Yankees.
As some of you who’ve read my stuff over at Fake Teams may know, I’m driving the Casey Kelly bandwagon. I ranked him #64 in my preseason dynasty league prospect rankings heading into 2012 and bumped him up to #29 in my mid-season update, despite barely pitching 30 innings between spring training and his two starts at Triple-A. That’s how good the scouting reports on him were, and that’s all I needed to bump him way up. But even I was surprised that he got the call to the majors this quickly after returning from his elbow injury. I figured he’d finish out the minor league season and then possibly get a spot start or two down the stretch, since he’d have to be added to the 40-man roster in the off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
If you’re in a dynasty league (or keeper league with minor league spots) where he’s available, he’s a must grab — part of this is his talent and part of this is the fact that he’ll pitch half his games in PETCO. Not only that, but he’s a solid pickup in 12/14 team mixed leagues and deeper (including redrafts) to plug and play in his home starts. I believe Kelly will only rank behind Edinson Volquez as the most valuable Padres starter the rest of the way if he’s given the rotation spot to run with — though I’d sit him in weekly leagues due to a likely start Sunday at Coors. In time, Kelly has top-20 fantasy SP upside, as he should put up very solid ratios in San Diego and has the stuff to strike out 175-180 batters in a season. In fact, if he can combine the ground ball success he’s had in the minors with his new and improved K/BB numbers, we could be looking at a serious #holytrinity candidate.
There’s plenty of room available here on the Casey Kelly bandwagon, and I’ll save you a seat.