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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 9: Jared Kelley

It’s time to shake off a rough first full pro season and take a strong step forward toward Chicago.

Jared Kelley (second from right) is still a centerpiece hurler in the White Sox system.
Chicago White Sox

Jared Kelley
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
230 pounds
Age: 20
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 5
SSS rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 2

Refugio, Texas. Never heard of it? This town in southern Texas, the birthplace of Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, is also the home of White Sox prospect Jared Kelley.

Considered one of the best prep prospects ever from his home state, Kelley made mincemeat of the competition. Certainly that’s an exaggeration, right? He only pitched 12 innings during his senior season in 2020, but he allowed nary a hit and fanned 34 of the 36 batters he faced. Pretty impressive, indeed!

Kelley was quite an amazing catch for the White Sox, drafted in the second round in 2020 despite being pegged as a mid-first round talent. Obviously, “signability” concerns saw the fireballing prep drop — he had committed to the dream destination for many Texans, the University of Texas — but the White Sox played a hunch that first-round money could bring him into the fold. With essentially no drama, that’s just what happened.

Kelley spent time at the alternate site in Schaumburg in 2020, as the more MLB-ready fireballer and first-rounder Garrett Crochet advanced to the majors in the season’s final week.

The 2021 season was an adjustment for Kelley, however, as he struggled significantly with his command and control. In 12 starts totaling 23 2⁄3 innings combined with the ACL squad and Kannapolis, he posted a 7.61 ERA and 2.11 WHIP by allowing 24 hits (.247 OBA), 26 walks (9.89 BB/9) and 27 strikeouts (10.27 K/9). Kelly’s season was somewhat limited, as he suffered a right shoulder infringement in August that shut him down for a few weeks. The injury wasn’t serious enough to cause him to miss more than a handful of starts.

Despite Kelly’s struggles, especially with his command and control, most scouts believe he will get it figured out. Prospects Live said this regarding his command in August: “Kelley throws a lot of strikes, and moves his fastball/changeup combo around the zone innately and successfully. The ease of operation in terms of his mechanics allows for extreme repeatability, which leads to this command level. Above-average projection overall.” They gave him a 60 grade for control but 50 for command.

MLB Pipeline gives him the following grades: 65 fastball, 60 changeup, 50 slider and 50 control. Kelley’s repertoire begins with a mid-to-upper 90s heater that has peaked at 100 in combines. His changeup, long considered his best secondary, is thrown in the low-mid 80’s with fantastic sell and arm speed, and turns it over and generates great fading action; the speed variation is a terrific complement to his heater. His slider is currently a distant third offering that has lacked consistency, due to his his feel in spinning the ball. That pitch was hit-and-miss during the pre-draft circuit, with flashes of above-average but more often than not average to slightly-below.

Prospects Live said this of his delivery and mechanics: “XL frame with extremely physical, broad build. Durable and strong with look of MLB starter who can hold up under 200+ inning workload. Absurdly easy operation for someone who throws as hard and is as physical as Kelley. Balanced and fluid with good direction downhill, minimal effort at release with no recoil, repeats well. Starter operation.”

So, after all this, what were Kelly’s struggles in 2021 attributed to? Rust may have certainly played a factor. He wasn’t completely healthy, and this may have impacted his numbers. Perhaps his youth was a factor, as he was nearly two years younger than his ACL competition and three years younger than his Kannapolis opponents. He may have devoted much of his time working on his secondary options, and/or working on a new grip. Likely, it was some combination of all of the above.

Despite his struggles, Kelly could begin next season with Winston-Salem, but it wouldn’t be a disappointment if he starts the year with Kannapolis instead.

2022 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

9. Jared Kelley, RHSP
10. Bryan Ramos, 3B
11. Matthew Thompson, RHSP
12. Drew Dalquist, RHSP
13. Micker Adolfo, RF
14. Yolbert Sánchez, 2B
15. Romy González, SS
16. Sean Burke, RHSP
17. Jimmy Lambert, RHSP
18. Caleb Freeman, RHRP
19. Luis Mieses, RF
20. Kade McClure, RHSP
21. Tanner McDougal, RHSP
22. Jason Bilous, RHSP
23. Wilfred Veras, 1B
24. Lenyn Sosa, SS
25. Jonathan Stiever, RHSP
26. Brooks Gosswein, LHSP
27. Misael González, RF
28. Terrell Tatum, CF
29. Carlos Pérez, C
30. Bennett Sousa, LHRP
31. Luis Basabe, RF
32. McKinley Moore, RHRP
33. Emilio Vargas, RHSP
34. Blake Rutherford, LF
35. Anderson Severino, LHRP
36. DJ Gladney, 3B
37. Luke Shilling, RHRP
38. Chase Krogman, LF
39. Cristian Mena, RHSP
40. Benyamín Bailey, LF
41. Tyler Johnson, RHRP
42. Andrew Perez, LHRP
43. Tyler Neslony, LF
44. Theo Denlinger, RHRP
45. Hunter Schryver, LHRP
46. Jefferson Mendoza, C
47. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
48. Gil Luna Jr. LHRP
49. John Parke, LHSP
50. Victor Quezada, 3B
51. Haylen Green, LHRP
52. Sammy Peralta, LHRP
53. Yoelvin Polanco, RHRP
54. Taylor Broadway, RHRP
55. Noah Owen, RHRP
56. Luis Curbelo, 3B
57. Bryce Bush, RF
58. James Beard, CF
59. Xavier Fernández, C
60. Wilber Sánchez, SS
61. Kohl Simas, RHRP
62. Johan Dominguez, RHSP
63. Jagger Rusconi, 2B
64. Ronaldo Guzman, LHSP
65. Laz Rivera, 3B
66. Adam Hackenberg, C
67. Will Kincanon, RHRP
68. Lane Ramsey, RHRP
69. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
70. Randel Mondesi, RF
71. Shawn Goosenberg, 2B
72. Zack Muckenhirn, LHRP
73. Cameron Butler, CF
74. Godwin Bennett, RF
75. Logan Glass, CF
76. Dario Borrero, 1B
77. Craig Dedelow, RF
78. Carlos Hinestroza, RHRP
79. Gunnar Troutwine, C
80. Kade Mechals, RHSP
81: Caberea Weaver, CF
82. Layant Tapia, SS
83. Homer Cruz, RHRP
84. Kaleb Roper, RHSP
85. Jerry Burke, RHSP
86. Emerson Talavera, RHRP
87. Isaiah Carranza, RHSP
88. Davis Martin, RHSP
89. Tyler Osik, 1B
90. Samil Polanco, 3B
91. Manuel Veloz, RHRP
92. Pauly Milto, RHRP
93. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
94. Colby Smelley, C
95. Manuel Guariman, C
96. Everhett Hazelwood, RHRP
97. Garrett Schoenle, LHRP
98. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
99. Anderson Comas, RF
100. Jake Elliott, RHRP