Jaden Noot, Riley Kelly Continue Draft Rises With Strong Outings
TUSTIN, Calif.—Jaden Noot has been a staple of the showcase circuit and one of the top draft prospects in his class for years. Riley Kelly didn’t have a single college offer until last fall and only began to draw scouts’ attention two months ago.
The two prep righthanders have taken different paths in their young careers, but both are in the same place: rising quickly up draft boards with high-ranking evaluators flying in to watch them pitch.
Noot, a 6-foot-3 righthander at Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) High, and Kelly, a 6-foot-4 righthander at Tustin (Calif.) High, both pitched Wednesday in front of 30-40 scouts and front office officials and delivered strong performances. Noot pitched a two-hit shutout with no walks and nine strikeouts to lead Sierra Canyon to a 3-0 win over Martin Luther King (Riverside, Calif.) High in The Boras Classic. Kelly pitched six no-hit innings with 14 strikeouts to lead Tustin to a 5-0 win over Crean Lutheran (Irvine, Calif.) High.
Jaden Noot (Nick Koza/Courtesy Photo)
Noot got the day started with his latest in a string of dominant performances over the past month. The Louisiana State commit sat 92-95 mph on both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs and held his velocity the entire way. He complemented his fastball with a 74-78 mph breaking ball he landed for strikes, albeit inconsistently, and an 83-84 mph changeup he unveiled in the middle innings that got swings and misses in the strike zone. In addition to his nine strikeouts, he also induced 10 groundouts with the heavy run on his two-seamer and repeatedly induced weak contact off the handle against righthanded batters.
Noot allowed only two balls to leave the infield. His final pitch of the game was an elevated 94 mph fastball for a strikeout.
“Jaden has just been masterful,” said Sierra Canyon coach Jerry Royster, the 16-year major league veteran and former Brewers manager. “He’s throwing as hard in the seventh inning as he is in the first, that’s the sign of someone (who) is committed to what he’s doing and doing the job right. Throwing in the mid 90s and striking out (nine) guys, it’s not easy, especially in a tournament like this.”
Noot previously touched 97 mph this season and showed a more consistent breaking ball, specifically during a highly-attended start at Crossroads (Santa Monica, Calif.) High in March. The Boras Classic represented another chance for him to pitch in front of high-level decision-makers, one that he relished.
“I’m not going to lie, when Coach called me and told me I was pitching Wednesday, I ran upstairs and told my dad,” Noot said. “I was screaming. I was so happy. It was fun.”
Between a pedigree that includes being selected for the Perfect Game All-America Classic last summer, a mid-90s fastball headlining a three-pitch mix and a series of strong performances this spring, there is a growing sentiment that Noot has pitched his way into the second round of the draft, with little chance he slides past the third round as long as he’s signable.
Shortly after Noot’s start, the same 30-plus scouts drove 20 minutes north up the I-5 freeway to watch Kelly, the fastest-rising draft prospect on the West Coast and one of the fastest risers in the country.
Kelly was the quarterback on his high school football team and sat 84-87 mph on his fastball before he stopped playing football as a senior. With his focus solely on baseball, his fastball jumped to 88-94 mph this spring to go with a 78-80 mph curveball that consistently registers 3,000-plus rpms and earns plus to plus-plus grades from evaluators.
Riley Kelly (Debbie White/Courtesy Photo)
Kelly didn’t make the Area Code Games last summer and didn’t receive his first college offer until last fall. He began his senior spring with only one or two area scouts occasionally in attendance, but as his velocity steadily increased and word of his curveball began to spread, the number of scouts at his games slowly began to multiply before growing exponentially in the last three weeks. Those in attendance on Wednesday included assistant general managers and scouting directors in addition to a gaggle of area scouts and crosscheckers.
“Being able to see kind of the growth … and seeing how it went from a kid in the summer who had zero college offers to figuring out a college to watching 25 pro (teams) in the stands, you can’t really put that into words,” Tustin coach Ben Owens said. “It’s amazing to watch.”
Kelly sat 89-92 mph in his start and consistently got swings and misses up in the zone with his fastball before tiring in his final inning and seeing his velocity drop into the mid 80s. His curveball was his best pitch as usual, getting both called strikes in the zone and swings and misses out of the zone. He was able to command his curveball and alter the shape of it, a trait that, combined with its top-of-the-scale spin rate, has some evaluators calling it one of the best high school curveballs they've seen in recent memory.
“At first it's nervous (seeing that many scouts), but after the first pitch or two it’s like all right, it’s excitement,” said Kelly, who is committed to UC Irvine. “I had a little better command of my curveball today and everything was working pretty well. I just felt good out there.”
Because he was a two-sport athlete who has received limited formal instruction, Kelly is still raw and has room to make significant strength and delivery improvements. Combined with his athletic, projectable frame and the fact he’s one of the youngest pitchers in the draft class, teams highest on him see him as a candidate to go in the second round given his current ability level and room for improvement still remaining. Even those lower on him still view him as a top-five rounds pick as long as he's signable.
From where he was even just two months ago, it's a meteoric rise.
“It’s really cool,” Kelly said. “I’m playing baseball which I love so it’s a good experience. I’m just going out and playing the game I love.”