Ranked in the Top 50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects list, Kelly actually regressed quite a bit this year. With a fluid and athletic delivery, Kelly throws a 88 to 93 MPH fastball that he can cut or sink with stellar command, a great and potentially plus 12-to-6 curveball, and a deceptive changeup, this former two-way player ran into a road block at Double-A. Although he once played shortstop, he couldn’t hit well enough for the BoSox to seriously consider playing him there long term (but his defense was awesome). All three of my sources (Baseball America, John Sickels, and Keith Law) state explicitly or implicitly that he throws strikes, has front-line starter potential, is advanced beyond his years, and that he may add a few MPH onto his fastball as he develops and matures. How did his season fare (2010 Stats are at Double-A and had 95 innings pitched at Single-A and High-A in 2009):
2010 Stats: 7.7 K/9 | 3.3 BB/9 | 95 IP | 5.31 ERA | 4.23 FIP | 1.61 WHIP | .9 Hr/9 | 11.2 H/9 | .365 BABIP | 45 GB% | 18.0 LD% | 32.9 FB% | 9.4 Hr/FB%
Career Stats: 7.3 K/9 | 2.4 BB/9 | 190 IP | 3.69 ERA | 3.67 FIP | 1.23 WHIP | .7 Hr/9 | 8.7 H/9 | .301 BABIP | 48.1 GB% | 14.6 LD% | 33.3 FB% | 7.0 Hr/FB%
So much for the hype. I am truly amazed that a pitcher who lacks a blazing fastball or a high strikeout ratio was so highly ranked (Keith Law ranked him his 18th overall prospect pre-2010, and at midseason ranked him 10th overall – excluding other prospects already called up). Nevertheless, his fantasy upside isn’t worthy of the prospect upside. He’s a better real life pitcher. His 2010 stats are inflated due to a .365 BABIP but his 4.23 FIP show us his truer performance. I’d like to pick a quote from Keith Law, “Would it be unfair to say that I expected him to perform better in Double-A? He’s still just 20 and is in his first year as a full-time pitcher, but I thought he would treat Eastern League hitters the way he treated Class A hitters last year: with disdain.” The truth of the matter is, he pitched at Double-A at age 20, was his first full year pitching, and, well, probably shows the volatility of values in prospects. If you bought into the hype, don’t sell him thirty cents on the dollar, but if you can buy him for that, think of a 7.5 strikeout per nine, 3.5 walks per nine, with a mid-four ERA type pitcher in the majors until he reaches his prime.
Every year, fantasy experts are looking for the value pick at the middle infield spot. In 2009, it was Elvis Andrus, in 2010 Grey was pimping Everth Cabrera and Alcides Escobar but it looks like Starlin Castro was this year’s steal (although I was skeptical of Castro thriving in the majors). The 2012 pimped out MI will be Grant Green. I’m going out on a limb and saying that now, meaning, it is possible Green could be 2011′s Starlin Castro. Green has a short compact swing that produces line drives and some slight natural loft. There are times when his swing becomes wonky, but for the most part he keeps his mechanics sound. His power potential is considered average – think potentially 20 home runs – Keith Law says, “[M]ight hit for more power if he didn’t leak or let the ball travel deeper, although his swing is probably more geared to line-drive contact than big flies. He’s patient and should post at least adequate OBPs, although pitchers can get him out now by changing speeds on him, an adjustment he’ll have to make by AA.” His defense ranges from solid to Gold Glove caliber depending on the scout. With a strong arm, soft hands, good range, and an athletic body, this seems to be a fair outlook. However, Keith Law has heard from scouts that they don’t believe Green will stay at shortstop while Sickels and Baseball America see him as a shortstop long-term – could end up at third or in the outfield where his plus speed would play well. This is how his 2010 season fared (Playing at High-A California League):
2010 Stats: .318/.363/.520 | 548 AB | 65 XBH | 20 Hr | .202 ISO | 9/5 SB/CS | 117:38 K:BB | .375 BABIP | 51.5 GB% | 14.6 LD% | 33.8 FB%
Career Stats: had only 20 plate appearances in addition to 2010 stats
League average slash line for California League hitters: .275/.344/.423 and Oakland’s minor league affiliate Stockton Ports slash line: .269/.350/.432. Green played well, all things considered, and received a postseason All-Star selection. His plus speed hasn’t really translated to the base paths with only nine steals in fourteen attempts, although he did leg out six triples. 117 strikeouts to only 38 walks isn’t exciting or confidence inducing. Matter of fact, a 4:1 K:BB probably means his .375 BABIP played a key role in his pretty looking slash line. (It is important to note, that although strikeouts are generally a bad thing, the more strikeouts a player has, the high his batting average on balls in play should be because he is putting fewer balls into play. Consequently, the balls that are put into player generally are hit better. See: Delmon Young, B.J. Upton, Mark Reynolds pre-2010, Adam Dunn in recent years. I can’t find the article at FanGraphs, but that is where I found out about this interesting point, but I digress.) The power looks to be in the doubles (39 of them this year) and the home runs, I personally believe, were due to his hitting environment. What you see here, would be his upside (See: Sickels: “At worst = .270-.280 with 15 hr; at best= .300 with 20 hr and Gold Glove defense. Has a high ceiling and a high floor.”). His low line-drive rate (14.6%) and high ground ball rate (51.5%) will result in fewer home runs in more pitcher friendly environments. Nevertheless, at just 22, these numbers are great. Scouts believe he is a poor man’s Troy Tulowitzki. I’d take that every year, let’s just hope he hits before September and isn’t as injury prone.