Former Boston Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly has re-signed with the LG Twins of the KBO, per Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net (via Twitter). Kelly returns to LG’s rotation for $1.4MM. The contract amount had previously been reported to be a little higher, though the bigger news is that the deal now appears to be official.
Kelly was a consensus top prospect after being a first round pick of the Red Sox in 2008. Baseball America ranked him as baseball’s #24-ranked prospect prior to 2010. Around that time, he was included as a key piece of the trade (along with Anthony Rizzo) that brought Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to the Red Sox. With the Padres, Kelly continued to rank among the best prospects in the game, appearing at #31, #76, and #45 in three subsequent seasons.
The Florida native debuted in 2012 with six starts, but Tommy John surgery early in 2013 wiped out his season. He didn’t return to the Majors until 2015, eventually seeing spot appearances for the Braves and finally the Giants in 2018. In total, he logged 85 2/3 innings spread across four seasons from 2012 to 2018 with a 5.46 ERA/4.43 FIP.
The former top prospect has found new life in the KBO, where he’s posted a 2.93 ERA in 353 2/3 innings across two seasons in the Twins’ rotation. Kelly helped the LG Twins to the playoffs this year, going 15-7 in 28 starts with a 3.32 ERA, 7.0 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. Kelly led Twins’ starters in starts, wins, innings, WHIP, strikeouts, and walk rate. Kelly went seven innings with two earned runs, three hits, one walk, and 10 strikeouts in a playoff start against the Kiwoon Heroes. The Twins won that game in 13 innings, advancing to the next round where they’d be swept by the Doosan Bears.
The 31-year-old is definitely a candidate to keep an eye on, should he desire to return stateside after this season. Miles Mikolas, Merrill Kelly, Pierce Johnson, Eric Thames, and others have set a trend of establishing themselves abroad after meandering or false-started development years in the States. Matter of fact, in the Twins’ final game of the season, they were shut out over six innings by Chris Flexen, the most recent player to return stateside after a successful stint overseas.
If Flexen shines with the Mariners and Kelly posts another strong campaign in the KBO, he could return to an intrigued marketplace, should that be his desire. Keep an eye on Kelly, as he could become an interesting name to add to next year’s crop of free agent starters.