Kelly was emerging as a top high school prospect in West Virginia when he made the move to IMG Academy in Florida after his sophomore year. He took advantage of the opportunity, showing off premium arm strength against top competition. He also became good friends with shortstop Blaze Alexander, who he now gets to call a professional teammate after the D-backs took Alexander in the 11th round and Kelly in the eighth, giving the right-hander an above-pick-value bonus of $350,000 to sign. Arizona rarely sends its high school picks straight to full-season ball, but that's precisely what it did with Kelly, who responded to the challenge with an eye-opening showing in Class A Kane County's starting rotation.
A 6-foot-4 right-hander with a pair of plus pitches and plenty of room for growth, Kelly has all the ingredients teams look for when projecting a future big league starter. He sits at 92-94 mph and bumps 95 mph with his fastball and has present feel for commanding it to both sides of the plate. His two-plane slider is a legitimate swing-and-miss offering that registers in the low-to-mid 80s with hard bite, and he's made strides in learning to command the pitch in his first full season. Kelly's changeup is a distant third pitch right now, but he throws it with splitter-like action that plays nicely off of his heater, and scouts expect it to be at least average once fully developed.
Kelly's high-tempo delivery led to questions about his control and command profile and many evaluators pegged him as a future bullpen piece coming out of the Draft. But the big right-hander has already simplified his mechanics in pro ball by working exclusively from the stretch, and in turn he's already made gains with his command.
RHP Levi Kelly assigned to Kane County Cougars from AZL D-backs.