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Future Redbirds Top 25 Prospects for 2015: #12 - Carson Kelly

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I've seen Kelly ranked as high as 5th on some lists and as low as 15th on others. Just a year after moving behind the plate I have Kelly right around the same spot in the ranks where he was a year ago. Not because he's regressed or, quite the opposite: There's other players in the system that jumped ahead of him.

Carson Kelly
Carson Kelly
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired: Draft, 2012 (2nd Round, #86): Westview High School, Oregon


Birthday: 7/14/1994

Age: 20

Minor League Stops in 2014: Peoria (A)

2014 Totals:

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

ISO

K%

BB%

wOBA

415 .248 .326 .366 .118 13.0% 8.9% .324


F-R Grades:

(You can find the primer on the 20-80 grading scale here)

Hit

Run

Arm

Field

Power

50/60 40 65 50/60 45/55


I was able to see Kelly four different times in his stint with Peoria last season and came away very impressed with his defense behind the plate in his first season learning the position. He's very quiet behind the plate, moves really well into his setup and his plus arm really plays back there -- giving him average pop times even though he's not fundamentally sound getting into throwing position just yet and doesn't have a quick release that he'll likely develop as he learns the positions more. Kelly has the raw tools to be an above average defender at the position as he develops better fundamentals and gets used to the rigors of the position, but I found him to be better defensively already than Steve Bean, who's a year older and has been catching since Little League.

Good video of Kelly working out here (red helmet):

<iframe width="1280" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/y7lJRyRgNT8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Notice his quick feet and good body control during the blocking drills and how his release is a bit longer than what you see from guys like Yadi when he sets up to throw.

More questions surround Kelly's bat, however, which is ostensibly what got him drafted in the top 100 and hasn't really emerged as everyone thought it would to this point in his minor league career. That may be because Kelly's stout 6'2", 200 pound frame elicits thoughts of a slugging Mickey Tettleton style backstop and that might not be Kelly's offensive profile at all.  While the power is certainly there are times, Kelly hits much more like Stephen Piscotty: Lots of line drives and hard ground balls, uses the whole park, and rarely swings and misses.

Kelly's approach is advanced, his walk rate has improved every year in the pros, and his contact ability is impressive and plays better than the average hit tool that he's shown to date. He's also just 20 years old and has a full season and part of another in a full season league.

I guess I'm not too worried about the bat given all the intangible offensive skills and the fact that he looks like he'll be at least an average defender behind the plate. I think that his power may never be as good as his build would indicate that it should be, but I think his contact ability, approach, and ability to draw a walk will make him at least an average offensive player for his position moving forward.

Here's an excellent interview with Chiefs play-by-play man Nathan Baliva from last summer:

<iframe width="960" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vJnO0stnzco" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

I do wonder how that putt-putt match worked out...

2015 Outlook:

Likely starting at Palm Beach at the beginning of the year and possibly getting a look at AA before the end of the season. I wouldn't expect to see much of a power stroke show up at in the Florida State League, but I do expect the contact rate and walk rate to improve in 2015. The jump to AA will tell us a lot if Kelly is there long enough to make an adjustment.

Overall Grade: B