TCN 2014 Cardinals Prospect #9: Carson Kelly

The former Oregon prep star has a promising bat, but where will be his ultimate home defensively?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)

School: Westview High School, Portland, Ore.

2013 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
10 C 7/14/1994 6-2 210 R R 2012 2nd

Selected 2013 stats

Peo 0.219 0.248 146 18 32 6 2 13 13 25 0 0.280 0.288 0.301 0.590
SC 0.277 0.301 271 35 75 16 4 32 20 31 1 0.345 0.340 0.387 0.728
Total 0.257   417 53 107 22 6 45 33 56 1   0.322 0.357 0.679

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (9): Carson Kelly debuted as the 10th prospect on the community list last year. In his sophomore season as a professional, the community tabs him as the ninth prospect following a re-vote due to his positional change from third base to catcher.

Coming out of high school, Kelly was considered by scouts to be a third baseman or pitcher. He had the arm strength for either position but now the Cardinals have moved their high-dollar selection from the 2012 draft behind the plate during Instructs. Farm director Gary LaRocque called Kelly the catcher a "good project" and Cardinals officials have reportedly said that he will continue behind the plate in spring training 2014.

What makes this such an intriguing move was Kelly went from being blocked by fellow 2012 draftee Patrick Wisdom at third base from virtually being blocked by no one at catcher - assuming this project works out. That would make a much clearer and more sensible path to the major leagues. A relevant example is Buster Posey, who at the same age as Kelly, shifted from shortstop to catcher at Florida State. That move worked out ok in the long run for not only Posey but for the Giants as well.

I am not saying Kelly is the next Buster Posey. But Kelly's situation can be fairly compared to Posey's. He is a great athlete, with a cannon of an arm, with power that can profile at pretty much any position on the field, and has always earned respect for his maturity, even at the age of 19 years old.

Catching is the most difficult position to develop but luckily the Cardinals have one of the game's best at the position in Yadier Molina to give Kelly tutelage and perhaps even mentor him starting with this spring training.

I fully imagine the Cardinals will be very conservative with Kelly on the conversion process the rest of the way, especially in 2014, but a start with Peoria would not be surprising. He could perhaps be the potential Molina replacement for whom the Cardinals have been looking for a long time. - DTFlush234

Brian Walton (11): I do not intend to rain on the parade, but even after Kelly logged a full year of injury-free play, I am more worried about his future this winter compared to last. The Cardinals took a chance by starting Kelly in the Midwest League in 2013, and it backfired.

On the other hand, it is not like I am way down on Kelly. I am not. After all, I only dropped him three places, from eighth last year to 11th now, in my personal rankings. He continued to show good bat control, as his strikeout rate of 13.5 percent was eighth-best in the entire system in 2013. Yet, as recently as instructs this fall, I did not see Kelly hitting with the consistency and authority I had expected.

Now, he has a very challenging position change to deal with on top of it. In other words, 2014 will not be the time for the organization to again take risk with Kelly.

In 12 months, what I thought had been an impressive logjam the Cardinals had created at third base has proven to be just the opposite. While the organization selected three players at the position in the first 86 picks of the 2012 draft, just one remains at the hot corner in Wisdom. There are no other third sackers in this entire top 40. In other words, it looks as if they will need to try again to restock in the 2014 draft.

As I said in an earlier capsule, I do not think that Wisdom was blocking Kelly. It is not like the position is overflowing with talent. The reason the two have consistently been playing at different levels is because both Wisdom's bat and glove are more advanced. I have to assume that the simple reason that Kelly is no longer a third baseman is because the player development staff, who know him best, did not see his major league future there.

My main worry is what the organization will do with Kelly if he cannot master the difficult job of catching. On one hand, the raw numbers here indicate that he is the top prospect in the entire system at his new position – and it is not even close. Yet that is completely a reflection of his offensive potential, since Kelly's catching is still in its infancy.

I felt on draft day 18 months ago that Kelly had the highest ceiling of the three 2012-drafted third basemen, but he also carried the highest risk. Perhaps the former is still the case, but Stephen Piscotty's progress since makes that far less clear. In parallel, I see Kelly's risk increasing.

What has also not changed is that Kelly continues to show the greatest need for development. Fortunately, there is still plenty of time, even if some of us are exhibiting a bit less patience and more concern.

Our 2014 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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