One of the more intriguing two-way prospects in the minor leagues is Red Sox shortstop and pitcher Casey Kelly. Kelly, just 20 years of age, was a first round pick in 2008 out of Sarasota High School. He made his debut in 2008 as a shortstop and in 130 at-bats between Rookie-A and Low-A he struggled with a .255 on-base percentage and .331 slugging percentage. He walked just six times and struck out a whopping 42 times.
He began the 2009 season in the starting rotation in the South Atlantic League (Single-A). He was dominant in his nine starts and quickly was promoted to Advanced-A where he enjoyed similar success in eight starts at that level. In 95 combined innings Kelly registered a 2.73 FIP and had a remarkable 4.63 strikeout to walk rate. The Red Sox organization made a conscious to shut Kelly down following his Futures Game appearance and he was the re-assigned to the Gulf Coast League to adjust back to playing shortstop for the remainder of the season. Once again Kelly struggled at the plate. In his 162 at-bats with the Rookie-A and Single-A teams. He posted a disappointing .302 on-base percentage and a .340 slugging percentage. He is currently playing for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League.
Kelly has continually expressed a desire to be an everyday player, however, after his success on the mound and struggle at the plate the two-way experiment is likely to end next season. Offensively he is very raw. He possesses power potential but his swing is rather long and he has yet to show much plate discipline. He is very athletic (he turned down a chance to play football at Tennessee) and a smooth, fluid fielder but his large frame might be better suited for third base if he continues to be an everyday player.
Kelly clearly shows the most promise as a right-handed pitcher. He has a fresh arm and has excellent control of his offerings. He throws three pitches, a fastball, curve ball, and change-up. His low-nineties fastball rates as only average but his hard, 12-6 curve ball is a true plus pitch. He will also mixes in his heavy sinking change. He has solid command of all three pitches and shows poise and mound presence beyond his years. He does a nice job of keeping the ball low in the zone.
My concern about Kelly is that he will be reluctant to make the necessary steps to becoming a full-time pitcher. There were reports that he would only sign with a major league team if he was allowed to play shortstop and he clearly wants to play there. While the Red Sox have given him his shot, he has shown much more potential as a pitcher. Soon he will need to focus primarily on pitching and this is a change he will need to wholly embrace.