A team will often select a pitcher in the Rule 5 Draft who may not have the best numbers but has displayed excellent stuff. In a draft where the only thing that is put on the line is $100K to the other team, you might as well take the risk on a high-ceiling arm. That could be the case for Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Levi Kelly.
Kelly was an eighth-round draft pick by the D-Backs in 2018. After a brief but strong showing in 2018, Kelly would post a phenomenal 2.15 ERA, 2.80 FIP, and 1.11 WHIP through 100.1 innings in ’19. Kelly’s 9.6% walk rate may not have been anything to write home about, but he struck out 30.9% of the batters he faced with a 0.38 HR/9 rate.
But that was the last time Kelly pitched a meaningful amount of innings. Over the previous two years, he’s thrown just 26.1 frames, allowing 21 earned runs, 32 free passes, and four home runs. He’s still struck out 29 batters, but he’s been both ineffective and unhealthy in two seasons now. Injuries may contribute to the poor play, but either way, things have not gone Kelly’s way in 2021 or 2022.
Kelly has one of the best sliders among all prospects. It projects as a 70-grade offering. On top of that, he throws a four-seamer, splitter, and curveball. His other offerings project as average but could play up in a bullpen role. Kelly is the proto-typical Rule 5 pitcher. He has good stuff but not good numbers. He’s had some injuries, but for as little risk as you’re putting in, you might as well go for the guy with a high ceiling.