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6/9/1988 (28 y, 8 m, 10 d)
2009 June Amateur Draft - Round: 3, Pick: 18, Overall: 98, Team: St. Louis Cardinals
$2.8M / 1 Years (2017)
Kelly will serve as a reliever in 2017, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. (2/13/2017)
Which Starters Would Be Good Relievers?
Scott Spratt (RotoGraphs)
JABO: Meet the New and Almost Identical Joe Kelly
Matthew Kory (FanGraphs)
Joe Kelly: Perennially an Adjustment Away
Eno Sarris (FanGraphs)
Stream, Stream, Stream: #2xSP (4.27-5.3)
Brandon Warne (RotoGraphs)
The Same and Improved Joe Kelly
Carson Cistulli (FanGraphs)
(Click Year to Expand /
Kelly flashed big-time velocity and was effective as both a starter and reliever for St. Louis last season. The club says he'll be a starter this season, but there doesn't appear to be room in the rotation for Kelly at the MLB level to begin the season. His grounders and gas should make him a solid option if he earns some spot starts later in the season. (Jack Moore)
Kelly has been quite the revelation over the last two seasons, compiling a career 3.08 earned run average in 231 innings. However, it doesn't take too much digging to discover that he's been tremendously lucky on his way to that ERA. The 25-year-old is a pitch-to-contact guy who generates lots of ground balls, which is fine, but his career 3.12 walks per nine innings and 1.37 WHIP suggest that his ERA is far from sustainable. Last year, Kelly was the beneficiary of a ridiculously low strand rate of 82.4%, which is a big part of why his ERA was a full 1.50 runs lower than his expected FIP. Take that tremendous ERA out of your mind and think of Kelly as a luckier, right-handed version of Jeff Locke. Locke produces about one more strikeout and walk per nine innings as Kelly does, but other than that, they're essentially the same pitcher on paper: A high-WHIP, low-strikeout pitcher whose success is directly related to his ability to strand the hitters he will inevitably allow to reach base. (
The Quick Opinion:
Even with Jaime Garcia hurting again, Kelly will likely be battling both Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez for a spot in the St. Louis rotation. Kelly undoubtedly has the lowest ceiling of those three. Even if he earns a spot in the rotation to start the season, he's far from a lock to stay there.
It will be tough to gauge expectations for Kelly going into 2015, but generally there are more things to dislike than like. Let's start with the bad. He has always gotten a serviceable number of strikeouts (16%) as long as he kept his walks down, but in 2014, he didn't keep his walks down. His walk rate jumped to 10.1% which was the 12th-worst value in the league out of the 171 pitchers with 60 innings pitched. With non-elite strikeout potential and a high walk rate, his ERA estimators have him pegged in the low fours. His 2014 ERA was at those same values even though his 2012 (3.53) and 2013 (2.69) ERAs were below his estimators. Part of the reason he has not lived up to his potential is his curveball. It just doesn't have the life it once had. The swinging strike rate on it has gone from above league average to below league average over the past three seasons (12.5% to 11.3% to 8.3%). Hitters are just not chasing it as much. As for the good news, he had a top five percentile ground-ball rate in 2014 (55%) and ground balls are encouraged in the AL East due to its home run happy ball parks. With the off season starting pitching additions to the Red Sox, playing time will also be an issue with Kelly. He may have the role of a swingman or fifth starter. (Jeff Zimmerman)
The Quick Opinion:
Joe Kelly is one of several ground-ball pitchers who joined the Red Sox this past year. His biggest issue is that he needs to improve his high walk rate.
Given that Boston's acquisition of Allen Craig seems worse and worse by the day, Joe Kelly is the remaining beacon of return from the trade of John Lackey to the Cardinals. Even after a brief demotion to Triple-A, Joe Kelly reached a career-high 134 innings in 2015, with each of his 25 outing coming as a starting pitcher. Many look at his pre- and post-break ERAs (5.67 and 3.77) and see a different pitcher as the season drew to a close. A closer look at the peripherals imply that he appeared to be the same old Joe Kelly, however. Yes, his strikeout rate ticked up a bit in the second half and his walk rate dropped a point, but his xFIP only dropped from 4.22 to 3.90, a much smaller gain than indicated by ERA. A lot of the discrepancy can likely be explained by a strand rate that jumped from 64% to 76%. The righty will likely fight for a spot at the back end of Boston's rotation next year, but the odds increased greatly with Wade Miley's departure for Seattle. While the 27-year-old's 95 mph average fastball keeps some salivating, the fact that he's never been able to convert it into swings-and-misses (career 7.2% swinging strike rate) should temper expectations. If he's starting, draft Kelly to round out a fantasy rotation, but there should be higher-upside options even late in drafts. (
The Quick Opinion:
Joe Kelly's 2015 seemed to be a tale of two halves. Nothing seemed to stand out amongst his in-season peripherals, however, so it's tough to value him any differently than when he headed into last season. Assuming he starts, he probably can sustain some fantasy value at the back part of rotations, but with each passing year, the upside projected by his mid-90's heat seems to decrease more and more.
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Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2017 3:32 AM ET
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