Knowing that they need improvements in their bullpen, the Phillies made another waiver claim that may provide a piece of the puzzle. The Red Sox placed Trevor Kelley on waivers and the Phillies jumped to claim the 26-year old sidewinder, who made his MLB debut last July with Boston. After putting up good Triple-A numbers, Kelley struggled at the major league level and wound up being a victim of 40-man roster cuts made by the Red Sox.
Kelley was drafted by the Red Sox in the 36th round of the 2015 Draft out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In five minor league seasons, Kelley posted a 2.37 ERA with 32 saves. Kelley made his Triple-A debut in 2018 and posted a 1.54 ERA in 13 relief appearances and followed that up with 52 relief appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019 and a 1.79 ERA.
The Red Sox purchased Kelley’s contract from Pawtucket and he made his Triple-A debut on July 2nd against Toronto. In 10 relief appearances with Boston, Kelley was hit around to the tune of an 8.64 ERA. His first stint with Boston lasted just three days, but he was again recalled when rosters expanded in September.
Kelley is primarily a sinker/slider pitcher, relying most on a high-80s sinker and complimenting that with a high-70s slider. While Kelley can get a lot of swing-and-misses with the sinker, hitters can sometimes – more often that with sinkers from other pitchers – lift them into the outfield. Meanwhile, most hitters stay off the slider, so he has to command it well. When they do hack at it, again, he allows more flyballs than most sliders. On occasion, Kelley mixes in a cutter in the mid-80s and only rarely will show a change-up that approaches the plate in the low-80s.
Making him a little more difficult to hit is his sidewinding motion with an\ low arm slot. He gets about average movement on his pitches.
Author’s observation: Having seen Kelley a number of times at Triple-A over the past two seasons, he has good stuff. His mechanics are somewhat funky and that goes a long way toward keeping hitters off-balance. He does need to find a way to keep the pitches down in the zone more than he does to limit the flyball contact if he’s going to be truly successful.