A Unique Animal

Red Sox take Casey Kelly with top pick




BOSTON—There are few questions about Casey Kelly's talents. The sole dilemma facing the 18-year-old out of Sarasota (Fla.) High is how he might best apply them.

Kelly—the son of former Blue Jays catcher Pat Kelly—was viewed by scouts as a first-round talent, both as a shortstop and as a righthander pitcher. His abilities extend to the gridiron, as evidenced by a scholarship offer to play quarterback for Tennessee.

JIM CALLIS'
QUICK TAKE
The Red Sox went for a tough sign with the final pick in the first round, as RHP/SS Casey Kelly wants top-five-pick money to give up a scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee. He wants to play every day, while Boston likes him on the mound, so stay tuned. Athletic and sweet-swinging OFs Pete Hissey (fourth round) and Ryan Westmoreland (fifth) will be great values for their rounds—if they turn pro.
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of the Red Sox' picks
His commitment to the Vols led some teams to back off of Casey. The Red Sox, however, were eager to use the 30th and final pick of the first round to take the multi-sport athlete.

"It's a unique animal," general manager Theo Epstein said. "We have someone who is a potential first-round talent as a position player and a pitcher, and who can go to Tennessee and play quarterback."

Kelly was a full-time shortstop through his sophomore season before starting to pitch as a junior. His mound aptitude quickly became obvious, and if he signs, the Sox hope to develop him as a pitcher.

As a high school junior, the 6-foot-3 righthander went 11-0, 0.24 on the strength of a low-90s fastball and changeup. This year, he added a hammer curve that has become a swing-and-miss pitch. In two years, he fanned 139 in 111 innings.

"He's probably got as good of action on his fastball as I've seen from a high school kid in Florida in a long time," said Sarasota coach Clyde Metcalf. "He's very mature on the mound, has great location and throws three plus pitches."

Area scout Anthony Turco saw Kelly pitch at least six times, and a chorus of organizational scouts verified his glowing reports. Scouting director Jason McLeod was impressed by his own first-hand exposure.

"(Kelly had) size, arm action, delivery, worked on both sides of the plate, could throw fastballs away that ran back over the corner—which you don't see a lot out of a high school kid—(and a) hard breaking ball," McLeod said. "It was a good look."

The Sox recognize that Kelly enjoys ample negotiating leverage given his talents and his offer to play at Tennessee. Yet the club—which has typically waited until later rounds to pursue players with signability questions—was sufficiently convinced of Kelly's desire to play pro baseball that it made him its prize pick of this draft.  

"You can hear the passion in his voice when he talks about baseball," Epstein said. "We wouldn't have taken him if we didn't feel, in our hearts, that he wanted to go out and play professional baseball."

SOX YARNS

With the 45th overall pick, the Sox selected righthander Bryan Price out of Rice. Price, whose fastball touches 96, worked less than 20 innings in his first two years at Rice while enduring command problems. An adjustment to make his delivery more compact led to a junior year breakthrough.