SAN ANTONIO, Texas — If you have too much time on your hands you could find yourself talking to bullpen catchers trying to glean scouting reports on the guys that they are catching as I did last year in San Antonio. The one guy everyone continually raved about as having great “stuff” is is former 2011 first round pick Michael Kelly.
Since Kelly powered West Boca Raton to the Florida state 5-A title in 2011, scouts and the Padres’ organization have had high expectations for him whose career really didn’t begin to take off until he put together a breakout season in short-season Eugene in 2014.
Last year he experienced Kelly, 24, best season when he threw 128.2 innings between El Paso, San Antonio and Lake Elsinore, striking out 115 and walking 52. The six-foot-five 215 lbs. right-hander posses a major league fastball which sits in the low to mid-90s along with some decent secondary pitches.
"I think physically and stuff wise, he's everything you look for in a starter," said Missions' broadcaster Mike Saeger. "If he can become consistent, he'll be in the big leagues."
If he can improve his command, he has a chance to become a big league starter. So far this season he has a 4.11 ERA in 30.2 innings with 31 strikeouts against 12 walks.
MadFriars: Last season you had the best year of your career. What was the biggest thing you took from the season?
Michael Kelly: I think last year I learned how to bounce back from a bad outing. I learned to stay with my preparation and trust it to make me better and build on the positive things from each outing.
You guys talk about bouncing back, but you also learn how to learn from the bad outings.
Michael Kelly: My first few years in pro ball I would dwell on it to much and last year I learned that there is always next time. I tried to learn to live in the present and find ways to get better instead of worrying what happened.
You kind of examine it and see what you can learn from it, then move on.
Everyone always talks about how good your stuff is but you would be the first person to state that you need to get more consistent. How do you work on that?
Michael Kelly: For me its just about looking at my delivery. I have been working with JJ [Jimmy Jones, the Missions’ pitching coach] to get it simple and repeatable. I try to get a lot of the excess movement out and the timing is better.
It also helps that JJ has seen you quite a bit, since you were here last year. When he comes out to the mound for a visit during the game is he pointing out something mechanical to you?
Michael Kelly: During games its more to just get me to take a breather and readjust myself. Get my focus back and allow me to think about what I need to do. When he comes out there he is not giving mechanical advice, because that can screw you up.
If anyone hasn’t read all of the interviews that we have done with you in the past six years; you throw a four-seamer mainly, a few two-seamers, changeup and curve.
Michael Kelly: Correct and I throw a slider too.
How do you make sure you don’t blend your curve and slider?
Michael Kelly: It’s a different feel for me. I try to stay behind the slider a little more while the curve you have to be more on top of it or through the ball.
What pitch have you been happiest with this year and which one do you want to see more improvement from?
Michael Kelly: My most improved is my changeup this year, because I have a new grip and what needs to improve, or what I can get better at, is always my fastball command.
Everything always begins and ends with fastball command.
Michael Kelly: Exactly.
How long did it take you to get the correct changeup grip?
Michael Kelly: I have been playing around with changeup grips since for five years now. The one I’ve been throwing now really feels comfortable in my hand, so I think I finally got one.
You are a big guy, so is it circle changeup grip?
Michael Kelly: Yes, the circle change and getting my finger placement on the right seems really helped. I can feel my middle finger pulling down on it which helps.
What is the biggest thing you are trying to work on this season?
Michael Kelly: Just staying consistent in my preparation. If I can do that, I think I will be able to get the results that I am looking for.