As mentioned before in the Nick Bitsko scouting report, the team has a decent number of arms with MLB upside but most of them are #2-4 starter upside in the rotation. The Diamondbacks seem to have their attention turned towards the top three prep arms: Bitsko, Mick Abel, and Jared Kelley. Like Bitsko, I had Kelley in my ten players to keep an eye on at the D-backs top pick in the draft.
Name: Jared Kelley
Size: 6’3” 215
Rankings: Baseball America - 12th, MLB Pipeline - 12th
Excepted Draft Range: Top 20
Projected Tools: Fastball 65, Slider 55, Change-Up 60, Command 55
Thanks to a strong summer circuit, Kelley developed into one of the top prep arms in the draft. His fastball sits 94-97, with very little effort in his delivery, and can reach as much as 99. He complements that with a plus change-up, which he throws with good arm speed and gets a significant change in speed relative to the fastball and gets late diving action. The one pitch he’s been needing to improve is his slider, which showed up slurvy in summer but has tightened up in the few looks he got in the Texas high school season.
With the effortless delivery, I believe Kelley can work on building up above-average to plus command of his three offerings. Even as a high school arm with very little future projection, the now stuff is good enough for him to develop into a top of the rotation pitcher by his mid 20s. I currently have Kelley as the 2nd prep arm to go in the draft after Abel and before Bitsko.
Why the D-backs might draft him?
If one of the top pitchers in the draft is available at the D-backs top pick, they should take him without hesitation. Landing Abel, Bitsko, or Kelley at 18 would be a big win, as they’ll add a potential top of the rotation talent to their system. Kelley already has two plus pitches that would play in a big league role and the development of the slider will likely determine his future ceiling. The D-backs best hope is that enough teams avoid the risky demographic of prep righties to allow Kelley to drop to their laps at 18.
Why the D-backs might not draft him?
Unless Abel is also available at 18, I’ll be shocked if the D-backs pass on Kelley in the draft, as I don’t believe there is a reason that they would. I don’t expect Kelley to be available that late to begin with, although mock drafts seem to have him going after Arizona’s pick.
There is significant risk for Kelley to go to Texas and try to manage his draft stock for three years against college competition, so I believe he’ll be signed out of the draft even at 18. The team may have to go over the slot value to get Kelley, probably in the ballpark of $3.5-4MM, which can be easily done with a college arm or bat selection at 33 for the necessary savings.
ETA: June 2024
Even as a high school arm, Kelley has an advanced feel for pitching that could allow him to zip up the system. I think he could start 2021 in Low A and could easily reach AA in 2022. He’s got three pitches that project to be above-average or better and could stand to develop more command and sequencing as he faces more hitters in the pros. I believe he’ll be able to improve the shape and command of his slider, which could become the secret to unlocking a top of the rotation pitcher.