Kelley is considered one of the best high school pitching prospect in the 2020 class for good reason. The Texas commit is already highly refined and nearly a finished product. Kelley was awarded the Gatorade National Player of the Year award last week.
He is a mature player who takes control of the field when he walks out onto the mound. Kelley has a starters body with a smooth release. There is very little head whack in his delivery. Kelley raises his leg to his waist working his hands and leg together in rhythm keeping his timing on point. He is a very low effort type of pitcher who uses a high three-quarters delivery. Kelley isn’t overly long with his release, but he doesn’t have extremely short arm action in back either.
Kelley has worked up to 99 mph on several different occasions already this spring including in his first two starts of 2020. The fastball has some armside run to it but not much. It has good spin and carries well. Kelley tends to work up more than down with his fastball but can work both easily. He has very good command and can throw it right where he wants.
Kelley throws a breaking ball that is more of a slurve. The pitch has tight spin and he can drop it in for a strike or work it off the plate down for a swing and miss. The pitch is good and fools high school hitters routinely. The pitch has low-80s velocity.
Kelley also throws a change up that works in the low-80s. The pitch might be too much of a velocity difference from his fastball but really fools hitters and has a lot of arm side movement. It has been mentioned as possibly being a plus pitch by several evaluators. Personally, I think he needs to pick up a few mph on this pitch to help keep professional hitters off of him.
Through his first 7.0 innings of 2020, Kelley had given up zero hits, walked one, and struck out 20 batters. In his March 2 outing, he only worked 4.0 innings to keep his pitch count low but all 12 outs were recorded by strikeout. He flat out dominates high school hitters. In fact, he recorded 36 outs this spring and 34 of them were by strikeout.
If Kelley were to add a true slider to his mix that could work in the upper-80s, he would have three velocities hitters would need to be able to hit. At this point, professional hitters might be able to pick a velocity they want to hit and focus solely on that. His breaking ball and change up mph range are currently too close together. Also, if he struggles to adjust to a slider, the cutter would be a good option. Kelley needs to do something to keep hitters off his somewhat straight fastball. If he could master some 2-seam movement, he could rely on movement as well as velocity to get hitters out. Up to this point, Kelley has been able to rely on his pin-point control and high velocity to take advantage of hitters who are not at his level.
I am nit-picking him, but when you take a high school kid as high as Kelley should go, you need to make sure he is almost a finished product. Kelley is very close, there are just a few areas that can be refined to push him more toward his ace potential. He might be the best high school arm in the nation and has been the best arm in his high school class for several years.
Kelley has experience, size, talents, and the traits that you want in a potential high level starter. He has talent that you can dream on and even though there isn’t much projection left, you know can be a high level major league pitcher for years to come.
The Royals have had some bad luck when it comes to high school RHPs. Think back to the two Indiana kids that didn’t make it. They have been a little tentative to draft high school pitchers in the first round but if Kelley is there at 32 or 41, he is someone that is definitely in play. I don’t think he will be there as I think someone will take him in the first round.
With the draft just two days away, make sure you check out the other names we’ve looked at in the 2020 MLB Draft Profile library! Start preparing a board for yourself and get ready for your Shadow Draft!
Image from Corpus Christi Action 10 News. No photographer was given credit.