Why I’m Not Jumping on the Ty Kelly Bandwagon


== Sorry, but not feelin’ the love ==

I will grant that I’m not someone who dwells on the negative or styles myself with a jaded attitude, which is, I suppose, one reason why the cool kids don’t invite to sit at their lunch table.

And when a prospect shows results indicating MLB potential, I do tend to be positive about it.

But when the results don’t look promising to me, I’ve been willing to put that out there, too.

  • I pretty much gave Casper Wells no shot.  Ditto Trayvon Robinson.  And, needless to say, Carlos Peguero.
  • I was very negative on Alex Liddi, though I kept giving him some benefit of the doubt because he was very young coming up.
  • I’ve been considerably more negative about Stefen Romero than most.
  • While not super-negative, I’ve had quite a bit of skepticism about Nick Franklin’s long-term outlook over the years, and was the only one to rank Brad Miller ahead of Franklin on my ratings list.
  • I consistently said that Brandon Maurer didn’t have a good record of using his “stuff” to get outs.
  • I’ve been cooler about Gabriel Guerrero and Patrick Kivlehan than most.

So now I’m adding Ty Kelly.

Now I admit there’s a lot to like about Kelly, but his record doesn’t add up for me … unless he were going to play second base or center field.  But he’s not.


First, let’s look at our Spectometer chart.

Year Age Age Arc HR% BB% XBH + BB% ISO K% PSA+ Conv+ Comp
Slugger > 4% Goal > 8.5% Goal > 19% Goal > .200 Goal < 20% Strong Prospect > 100
2009 20 “+1” 0.37% 12.18% 14.76% 0.045 10.70% 111 60 71
2010 21 “+1” 0.70% 11.91% 18.91% 0.111 14.19% 110 82 92
2011 22 “+2” 0.75% 12.55% 15.73% 0.054 11.80% 113 65 78
2012 23 “0” 1.95% 14.03% 21.49% 0.140 12.79% 136 96 132
2013 24 “+1” 0.67% 17.14% 22.86% 0.094 15.13% 141 80 121
2014 25 “+2” 3.36% 17.45% 25.17% 0.177 17.45% 153 105 158


Yes, those are some pretty positive numbers.  But let’s drill down a bit.

1. Unsustainable BB-rate.

Only monster sluggers walk at a 17% rate in the majors.  That’s just fact.  And minor league hitters who run huge walk rates rarely sustain them in the majors.  That’s part of the reason Justin Smoak was overrated.  So there’s a big chunk of his value that’s already suspect.  I suppose I should adjust my formula for that.

2. Age-arc.

It’s almost always true that successful MLB hitters show MLB promise before age 23, and in age-appropriate levels or above.  Virtually no one with sustained MLB success as a hitter is a true “late bloomer.”  Guys don’t fail to hit in the non-winnowed-out minors and then figure it out against the fully-winnowed-out MLB pitching staffs.

One of the reasons I disliked Casper Wells is that he was ordinary until age 24, when he lit up AA.  That didn’t mean much to me.

Kelly is a little better, in that he did reach AAA by age-23, which is really the latest you see among successful major leaguers, but it was only for 11 games at the end of a season he started in High-A.

Unless there’s an explanation (like an injury or Kivlehan playing football for four years), a 23-year-old putting up big numbers in High-A, or a 24-year-old in AA, or a 25-year-old in AAA is not a major factor for me.

It’s better than not being successful, of course, but it’s not a strong indication of MLB success.

3. Limited speed.

Kelly is a “plate-skills technician” — low-K, high-BB, limited ISO until this year.  I got nothing against that — in fact, I like that particular template — but it helps a lot to have speed.  Kelly doesn’t really steal bases or hit triples, so I’m assuming he’s not really a speed guy.  That doesn’t make his approach impossible, just harder.

4. Corner position.

Even with all that apparent negativism, I would like Kelly as a second baseman.  He clearly has the ability to get on base, and I’m not skeptical of his ability to produce offense at a middle-infield level.

But he won’t play second base in Seattle.  At least not very often.

As a corner outfielder, which is where he would play for the M’s, I’m skeptical.  His two power surges (2012 at High-A, and this year at AAA) both came at levels where he was “+2” on our scale (which is based not on average age but on the typical development arc for guys who go on to MLB success).  Those kind of performances often don’t translate in the majors.  You look for performance when the guy is at or above the age-appropriate level.


OK, but …

Kelly ought to be a good bet to have a “high floor.”  With his low-K, high-BB approach, he won’t hurt himself much at the plate.  And I will grant that he has the chance to carry his 2014 production to the majors.  You can’t rule it out.

So in that sense, he’s a good bet.  Unlike Carlos Peguero, he won’t snuff a bunch of rallies with outs while you’re waiting for him to produce.

But I don’t see a high ceiling.  I wish I did.

As always with negative reviews, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.



One thought on “Why I’m Not Jumping on the Ty Kelly Bandwagon

  1. Really interesting write-up about Kelly. I still think he has a chance at carving out a decent major league career – but agree with you that the upside and potential is significantly hindered by the shortcomings you mentioned. Fair comparable for me would be Robbie Grossman with the Astros, at least from a prospect profile standpoint as far as skills go. Nice work, Jim!

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