Breaking Down the White Sox pick of Jared Kelley

One thing that I usually dislike in drafts, is taking prep right-handers early. All high school right-handers in consideration for a draft selection do the same thing, throw really hard. It’s often hard to sift through the glut of big radar gun readings, making this position a particularly volatile one. But when the No. 12 ranked draft prospect — according to MLB Pipeline — falls to you at No. 47, you take him.

That’s just what the White Sox did with Refugio High School righty, Jared Kelley.

Sources say, that Kelley and the White Sox had an over-slot deal worked out before the pick, and while financials are yet to be disclosed, that explains why the Sox essentially punted on the remaining rounds. It likely took a pretty penny to get the flame-throwing Texas commit to sign at No. 47, but it was well worth it no matter the price.

Many had Kelley as a round one talent, and I even thought he would be gone in the first 20 picks. But a college heavy draft helped push Kelley down into the second round, and the White Sox essentially got a second first-round pick by paying up for him.

The White Sox were slotted at $1.58 million for the second round, but Kelley will probably demand twice that to sign. Even The Dugout Deputy Editor-in-Chief Austin Bloomberg had Kelley as a fit for the Cubs at No. 16 in the first round.

Photo: Baseball America

“When you speak of Garrett Crochet and Jared Kelley in the same breath, these guys are hard to find. We walk out of the 2020 draft thinking we got two elite arms? That’s a good draft.”

Let’s start this with the fastball, Kelley’s best offering. Kelley brings a 65-grade heater to the table, one that he can consistently run up into the upper 90s and touch 100. Kelley also features a plus changeup that MLB Pipeline grades out at 60.

Kelley completed his high school career with a 32-3 record and a 0.43 ERA for the Refugio Bobcats. With a fastball that can reach 100 mph and an excellent changeup, Kelley is the definition of a big-framed power pitcher, but he’s also known as a high-level competitor on the mound. Kelley was named the 2020 Gatorade National Player of the Year for the high school ranks.

Kelly’s 60-grade changeup generates a ton of swing-and-miss results and sits in the low 80s, a 10-15 mph drop off from his fastball.

Video shows that Kelley has a smooth and repeatable delivery, one that allows him to pound the zone with his plus-plus fastball-changeup mixture. Kelley also has a developing slider — sometimes referred to as a slurve –, a third pitch rated a 55 by MLB Pipeline.

Despite a solid 55 grade on that slider, it’s still an inconsistent pitch that lacks the depth that would make it a wipeout pitch at the next level, but since modifying his grip on the pitch he’s garnered better results from a consistency standpoint.

“It’s like a night and day difference from what it was last summer… I have found the right grip for me and have also just had trust in it. I didn’t trust it very much. Now it has the action I want, and I am just working on just throwing it whenever and wherever I want.”

Jared Kelley on his developing breaking ball in an interview with Dan Zielinski of Baseball Prospect Journal.

At six-foot-three, 215-pounds Kelley’s effortless delivery and lethal arsenal make him a bona fide ace prospect.

Watching Kelley’s outing at the Perfect Game Nationals last June, I came away with a few takeaways;

  • Lots of swing and miss with the fastball-changeup combo.
  • Blows his fastball by this level of competition. Even contact was late more often than not.
  • Lots of arm-side run on his fastball, resulted in lots of misses outside to left-handed hitters.

There’s obviously some glaring issues with Kelley, namely his command and the necessary development of his breaking ball if he is to be a front-end starter eventually. However, there’s a heaping amount of talent here, and Kelley can absolutely be labeled as an “ace” ceiling guy.

All told, Kelley is a top-15 draft prospect who comes to the White Sox with southpaw Garrett Crochet. What a one-two punch of a draft for the White Sox.

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