Jared Kelley knew this spring would be important for his baseball future.
The right-handed prep pitcher from Texas excelled on the showcase circuit last summer and was eager to show professional scouts the improvements he made in the offseason in anticipation of his senior season. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kelley’s senior season of high school baseball was cut short.
It was a frustrating occurrence for Kelley, who was looking forward to competing one last time with his high school teammates. Despite the shortened season, Kelley has dedicated time each day to working on his own in preparation for the next step in his baseball career following high school.
“I have been going to the field every single day trying to do some kind of throwing or running or some kind of workout to keep my body and arm in shape,” Kelley said. “I just want to stay in shape. With this lockdown thing, it sucks because sometimes all you want to do is eat. I am just trying to stay in shape.”
Kelley is committed to the University of Texas at Austin. But there’s a slim chance the right-hander suits up for the Longhorns next spring. Kelley, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound hurler, is one of the top prep pitchers in this year’s MLB draft class and is arguably the state of Texas’ best prep pitching prospect since Jameson Taillon, who went second overall in 2010.
Scouts consider Kelley as a potential top-10 pick in this year’s draft. He is in the mix to be the top prep hurler selected with prep righties Mick Abel and Nick Bitsko also in the discussion.
Refugio High School in Texas has never produced a drafted player but that will change when Kelley hears his name called this year.
“Right now, it’s just humbling,” Kelley said. “I am just trying to keep getting better and just continuing to work and work and work to just get up higher.”
Kelley has a three-pitch mix featuring a four-seam fastball, changeup and hard curveball that he throws from an easy and fluid delivery.
He is known for his above-average fastball that consistently sits in the mid-90s and touches 99 mph. The hard-throwing righty uses a four-seam grip but his fastball features some natural movement.
His changeup also is an above-average pitch that he made strides with last summer on the showcase circuit. The pitch has sink and fade, and he has confidence in throwing the pitch in any count.
“It’s just an effective pitch because it slows down a lot,” Kelley said. “It’s around 10 to 15 mph less than my fastball. But my arm is not slowing down. You are seeing the same arm speed as my fastball, but it’s just dying down at the last second.”
Kelley spent the last offseason refining his hard curveball. It featured little consistency last summer on the showcase circuit, but his dedication in the offseason to improving it paid off, as he showed better feel for his curveball this spring.
This spring, Kelley was encouraged with the progress he made with his curveball but knows it still has room for improvement. He hopes to refine his curveball over the next couple of months in anticipation of the next step in his baseball career when he will face high-end hitters on a consistent basis.
“It’s like a night and day difference from what it was last summer,” Kelley said. “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.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.