Scouting Twin Prospect #18: Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly has gone from being one of the better infield prospects in the Twins organization, to possibly the best during his two seasons with the Twins. Though an injury ended his 2006 season, the Twins expect big things from Kelly in 2007, and the young infielder is sure to deliver. Here is our 18th ranked prospect:

Vital Statistics:
Name: Paul Kelly
Position: Infielder
DOB: October 19, 1986
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

To pitch, or not to pitch, that was the question for Paul Kelly after he was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2005 draft, Most within the organization saw him as a Jesse Crain-type pitcher, but he has far to many tools to just be a pitcher in the organization. He has tremendous range, a plus-arm, and has shown the ability to have gap power at the plate.

After overcoming a blood clot before his senior season of high school, it appears that there is almost nothing that can keep Kelly off the field. He loves to play, plays with passion, and brings a child like love to the game. He is one of the better people to be around in the clubhouse, and really keeps it light.

After being drafted by the Twins, Kelly was assigned to the Gulf Coast League, where he and Andrew Thompson manned the middle infield positions. He played well enough for the GCL Twins to warrant a call-up to Beloit, where he hit over .300 during his five game stint there.

For the Gulf Coast League Twins, Kelly batted .277 in 40 appearances, working mostly as the team's shortstop. During his time in the GCL, Kelly also drove in 20 runs, which were good enough for second on the team, and also finish second with 30 hits. He proved that he could definitely play at the professional level, and that he had a legitimate future in baseball.

For Beloit, Kelly batted .313, and showed some nice pop at the plate. Of his five hits, two were doubles, and he also smacked a home run. He also drove in four, scored twice, and posted a .625 slugging percentage.

Due to his excellent play at the plate, and in the field, Baseball America rated Kelly as the 12th best prospect in the Gulf Coast League. Joining Kelly on their top 20 list was fellow infielder Drew Thompson, as the two of them have really upgraded the Twins' prospect depth at the middle infield positions.

This past season, Kelly had his season end in late-July, but not after some scouts felt that he has finally pushed Trevor Plouffe out as the Twins top shortstop prospect. He'll have to prove he is fully recovered in 2007, but all signs point to him being ready. He batted .280 for Beloit before the injury, and was on the cust of a promotion to Fort Myers before the injury.

Kelly has the potential to be an everyday shortstop in the Major Leagues one day, and while the injury may have hurt his timetable, there is no doubt that he should have another solid season in 2007.

Batting and Power: Kelly can do it all at the plate, and most scouts believe he will have the power to hit 20 home runs a season once he is fully mature. He is still very young, and needs to work on his plate discipline some, but all signs point to him being a top of the order hitter in the future. He'll be in Fort Myers during the 2007 season, and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to Florida State League pitching. If he can prove that he is fully recovered from the injury, then it is not a stretch that he could hit .300 this season.

Baserunning and Speed: Kelly's injury was to his knee in 2006, and that may affect the way he gets around the bases in 2007. He was an average runner before the injury, so most scouts predict him to be a guy who steals around 15 bases a season. However, he is still very young, and if he becomes better at picking up a pitcher's move, then there is no reason why that number cannot be higher. For his age, Kelly is a good base runner, and it is something that he is only going to get better at.

Defense: Kelly is absolutely tremendous with the glove, which is the area that separated him from mostly every other player in the Twins' organization. Since his arrival in the Twins organization, Kelly has become the best defensive middle infielder in the system, and he has all the tools to be an everyday shortstop. He has a rocket for an arm, makes all the plays, and if he is fully healthy from his injury, should display the kind of range that wows scouts.

ETA. Late 2009. Jason Bartlett seems to have locked down the shortstop position in Minnesota for the time being, but Kelly heads a group of young middle infielders who are gunning for his position. He should get a full season in Fort Myers in 2007, before getting the promotion to Double-A in 2008. If he continues to flash the leather, and hit for average, then he is going to garner some serious consideration for the Twins starting shortstop job in 2009. Only time will tell because he is so young, but Kelly is the kind of prospect that gets Twins brass excited.

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