Levi Kelly more than held his own through four starts at low Class A Kane County, but to hear the Diamondbacks righthander tell it, the first three were his worst of the year. Based on his reasoning, he might not be exaggerating.
The 20-year-old Kelly said he had heard since the offseason that he probably would be spending the first half of 2019 at extended spring training before heading to a short-season league. The D-backs even reiterated the point when he arrived at spring training, telling Kelly he wouldn’t be going to full-season ball and that there was nothing he could do about it.
Kelly wound up changing their minds.
Through spring training and extended spring, he estimates he gave up only one run and one extra-base hit in perhaps 20 or 30 innings, ultimately convincing Arizona that he was ready for the Midwest League.
“Even though I kind of believed what they were saying, it was kind of a motivation thing,” Kelly said. “I wanted to force them to put me at a full-season affiliate.”
The D-backs’ decision to challenge him looked wise in the early going. Through four starts, Kelly owned a 3.50 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 18 innings. He had issued more walks (nine) than he would like, but he believes he was able to rediscover the rhythm he had this spring.
Kelly isn’t your typical high school draftee in his second year of pro ball. He left his home in West Virginia at age 15 to attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and he has impressed the organization with his mature and professional approach to the game after being drafted in the eighth round last year.
“He came in and has the right mentality about him,” pitching coordinator Dan Carlson said. “He carries himself different. He’s very prepared, very confident, but he’s not conceited.”
Kelly has been working with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s along with a slider that Carlson said already is a plus pitch. Kelly also has a splitter and a curveball, pitches he said still lag behind.
“It’s about getting my third and fourth pitches to be as good as my second pitch,” he said.
— Righthander Harrison Francis has yet to make his season debut but is recovering well from an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his right elbow, farm director Mike Bell said. Francis is expected to build up to five innings by the middle of June and could eventually work his way to low Class A Kane County this season.
— Righthander Kevin Ginkel had picked up where he left off following a breakout 2018 season and earned a promotion from Double-A Jackson to Triple-A Reno in May. Ginkel had a 1.84 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 14.2 innings at Double-A. He struck out 10 in his first five innings at Reno.