Tale of the Tape
|Age at Draft||18|
|High School||Refugio H.S.|
|Baseball America Rank||No. 12|
Jared Kelley is a classic power righty out of the prep ranks, with one significant deviation: he’s incredibly polished for an 18 year old flame thrower. An easy, fluid delivery with a fastball already sitting in the upper-90’s, Kelley’s repeatable mechanics flash the ability to have plus-command in his career.
That heater is complimented with a plus change, a rarity for such a young, power arm to already have mastered. His change generates plenty of whiffs, and sits in the low-80’s with good arm action. An outstanding student, Kelley also demonstrates poise and humility, character traits that align with how the front office assesses players.
Ranked as the sixth-best pitcher in the draft per Baseball America (and second best prep arm), Kelley projects somewhere in the middle of the first round — less due to his talent and more likely because his senior season was cut short from the Covid-19 pandemic.
With a big frame that promises durability and workhorse capability, and an easy delivery with repeatable mechanics, Kelley’s repertoire suggests he could be a future Ace at the big league level.
The biggest weakness concerning Kelley is his still-developing breaking ball. Scouts have deemed it as inconsistent and lacking the proper depth to become a powerful wipeout pitch, but even within this perceived weakness Kelley has the potential to develop this pitch into at-least an average offering.
Working on his breaking ball this off-season (which has been labeled as a slider, curve, or slurve, depending on the source), Kelley has changed his grip on the pitch to positive results. Dan Zielinski of Baseball Prospect Journal interviewed Kelley earlier this year, and Kelley spoke about developing his breaking ball:
“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.”
If the development of the breaking ball is as good as Kelley’s confidence, he’ll be a steal as a mid-round pick.
The Cubs are desperate for impact starting pitching in their farm system. With only Brailyn Marquez as a true head-turner on the farm (and the still-maybe-possibly-is-he-ever-gonna-establish-himself Adbert Alzolay still lurking), it is imperative the Cubs focus the 2020 draft on pitching. To that end, Kelley is absolutely a fit.
Kelley is also realistically available at No. 16, one of the reasons my Cubs mock draft has them taking the standout prep star. My colleague Daniel Shepard recently dove into new VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz’s draft history, suggesting the Cubs will look for a more proven arm out of college. (In fact in our full MLB Mock Daniel has the Cubs selecting Cade Cavalli out of Oklahoma.) While I understand the logic, I think Kelley will be the best arm available at 16 — and they shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to secure his services.
The biggest caveat here is that in addition to impact, the Cubs need a pitcher that can rise quickly through the minors. While that’s typically a trajectory reserved for established college arms, Kelley’s demeanor, easy mechanics, and solid frame grant him the chance to fly through the lower levels of the minors.
His status as a prep arm shouldn’t impact the Cubs interest in selecting him.
Despite respected, national outlets projecting either the best bat available or the best college arm still on the board, the probability of Kelley to the Cubs at 16 isn’t all that low. Admittedly, there’s significant bias at play here, as relative to the pitchers that might still be available, Kelley is the most exciting arm in the draft to me. He’s so polished at such a young age, and a breaking ball can be refined in the Cubs Pitch Lab.
Even though the industry-wide consensus is that college players will dominate the draft come June 10, I’m buying a lot of Jared Kelley stock.
Cubs fans should expect no fewer than three pitchers selected by the Cubs in this year’s draft. They need to start in round one, and must hit with an impact arm that could soon be big-league ready.
The 2020 MLB Draft is rich with pitching, especially from the college ranks, giving the Cubs plenty of remaining options when they’re on the clock. While I’ll be satisfied with any impact arm with top-of-rotation upside, I want the Cubs to swing big, and take a chance on Jared Kelley.
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