Alex Kielar | June 9th, 2020
The Major League Baseball amateur draft will begin on June 10th at 7 pm ET. Next up in our draft profiles is one of the top high school arms in the class, Jared Kelley, out of Refugio High School in Texas.
Make sure to check out our other MLB Draft profiles here.
Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (Texas)
Weight: 215 lbs
Kelley was born on October 3, 2001, in Refugio, Texas, which is the same birthplace of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. Obviously, he has a lot of work to do before he can be in the same elite company as Ryan, but for now, he is one of the best pitching prospects in the class. He will be the very first Refugio HIgh product to be drafted as Ryan was drafted out of Alvin High School in the very first MLB Draft. He is also regarded as the best prep pitcher from Texas since Jameson Taillon was drafted No. 2 overall by the Pirates in 2010. Kelley was the all-around athlete in his freshman year as he played football and basketball, and ran track.
He pitched for the USA 18U National Team in the Pan-American Championship and helped the United States win gold. Kelley was extremely dominant in his junior season in 2019 as he pitched to a 0.22 ERA with 144 strikeouts over 65 innings and helped Refugio to the Class 2A Division I state title. He was the winning pitcher in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field after striking out five batters over two innings.
After being committed to TCU since his freshman year, Kelley de-committed and committed to Texas in 2019. For his career, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander went 32-3 with a 0,43 ERA. He got 12 innings (three appearances) in for the 2020 season before it was shut down. He struck out 34 of 36 batters while not surrendering a hit, including throwing a no-hitter. Following this dominance, he was named the 2019-20 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year and was surprised by Bryce Harper on facetime, seen below.
Kelley has the best velocity of all the high school pitching prospects. His fastball usually sits around 93-96 and can touch 98-99 with running action. He can reach this velocity with seemingly very little effort. His secondary pitch or really “One-B” pitch, in his changeup pairs very well with the fastball as it has impressive fade and sinks to get hitters off-balance and guessing. He is willing to throw it at any point in an at-bat. His third pitch in a hard slurve that sits in the low 80s is not as advanced as the other two, but as he progresses it will only get stronger for at least a solid pitch.
Kelley doesn’t just have great stuff but also a really good feel for pitching. He attacks hitters by pounding the strike zone. He isn’t afraid to challenge a hitter in any count. Kelley has an easily repeatable delivery that will help him record plenty of innings and should be able to move quickly through the minors. He has the strength and physical frame for a potential frontline starter.
Check out his highlights from the 2019 Perfect Game All-American Classic Game where he struck out four over two innings:
As I mentioned, Kelley doesn’t have a slider that has caught up to his other two pitches. It doesn’t nearly have the wipeout ability that scouts would like to see out of a top pitching prospect. The more he uses it and progresses through the minors, the better the pitch should get. It could be at least a dependable option for him. The fact that he is also committed to his hometown University is a red flag. Teams may stay away especially in a very short draft, but he could decide to sign if he is drafted in the first round with the signing bonus that brings.
This profile sounds very similar to Padres’ 2019 rookie Chris Paddack who also has a lethal fastball-changeup combo. Paddack is two inches taller at 6-foot-5 and 20 pounds lighter at 195 pounds. He had a very good rookie season in 2019 as he had a 9.8 K/BB rate in 26 starts over 140.2 innings. Paddack took four years to develop in the minors after being drafted in 2015. Kelley could see a quicker development and possibly shoot up the system before his 21st birthday.
Draft Projection: Round 1 Pick 20, Milwaukee Brewers
While there is no guaranteed success with Kelley, he has some of the best potential that any prep pitcher has had in a while. The last time the Brewers drafted a prep arm was in 2010 with Dylan Covey, and before that, it was Jeremy Jeffress in 2006. Kelley has been working with former Brewers right-hander Mike McClendon at Sports Fitness Solutions to work on his progression towards a potential ace of a pitching staff. Kelley was once projected to go sooner, even in the top 10, so this could be a good value selection at 20th overall if he does in fact fall here.
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