The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

TCN Blog 2012 top story #16: Kelly steps in and delivers

There is no doubt that the major league arrival of top prospect Shelby Miller was more anticipated than the comparable debut of Joe Kelly. Yet the latter not only reached St. Louis first, he made an unexpected and major contribution to the present – the success of the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. Miller’s relatively brief introduction was all about the future.

As such, Kelly’s debut trumped Miller’s in this countdown, 16 to 17.

After all, Kelly stepped in for Jaime Garcia and later, Lance Lynn, making 16 starts and eight relief appearances while logging a very respectable 3.53 ERA. He had never pitched in the majors before.

The Cardinals had selected Kelly in the third round of the 2009 First-Year Draft, two rounds after Miller. The right-hander was an All-American closer at Cal-Riverside. As with all their top pitching prospects, the Cardinals made Kelly a starter in the minors.

Like so many others who pitched for the 2012 Memphis Redbirds, Kelly suffered from a lack of run support. At the time of his promotion, Kelly had just two wins in 12 starts despite having a 2.86 ERA, which was second-best in the entire Pacific Coast League. Still, Kelly proved his readiness by having worked seven or more innings in each of his last three outings for the Redbirds, allowing only one run each time.

On June 10, just one day after his 24th birthday, the right-hander made his MLB debut, starting for Garcia. Kelly went five innings against Cleveland, allowing one run, but taking a no-decision.

On August 15, with 12 major league starts under his belt with a 3.41 ERA, Kelly was moved to the pen. Bringing matters full circle, Garcia was ready to come off the disabled list. Kelly had won two of his three August starts, but was not given much run support overall, picking up just three wins in those 12 outings.

Kelly’s best game was on June 10 at Busch Stadium, when he tossed six innings of two-hit ball at the Marlins. Only one run scored, which was unearned. Kelly took a no-decision in an eventual 5-4 Miami win.

On August 29, just two weeks after Kelly left the rotation, the struggles of Lynn led to Kelly being given four more starts. He went 1-1 with two more no-decisions before Lynn reclaimed his spot. Kelly shifted back to the pen following his September 14 start in Los Angeles.

To close the regular season, Kelly tossed seven frames of late-inning relief across six appearances. He allowed just two runs, both earned.

In the playoffs, he continued to pitch out of the bullpen. When Garcia went down again, Lynn stepped in this time. Pitching in seven of the Cardinals 13 post-season games, Kelly allowed two runs, both earned, in 7 2/3 innings. He did not have a post-season decision.

While it takes an entire roster to drive a playoff season, the contributions of Kelly may have been one of the most unheralded success stories of the 2012 Cardinals.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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6 Responses to “TCN Blog 2012 top story #16: Kelly steps in and delivers”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Kelly had a great rookie season. Little man with a big arm. Like Edwin Jackson, nothing tricky, likes to deliver heat.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Pretty good article at the MLB site about 2B.

    Descalso has inside track, Kozma, Carpenter, and Jackson are in the picture as competition. The Cards will keep an eye open for an opportunity to acquire a middle infielder at a reasonable price, but this possibility is controlled by others.

    • Brian Walton says:

      If only quantity equaled quality. At this point, all anyone can say about Carpenter and second base is that he is trying really hard. Reminds me a bit of the optimism about Skip four years ago. Hopefully it will be without the ongoing TV commentary, “No one feels worse than Skip about that play.” Maybe this outcome will be more favorable.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        We have quality in Descalso, Kozma, Jackson, and Matt Carpenter.

        I like their quality a lot more than Ty Wigginton’s.

        • Brian Walton says:

          A very convincing counter! 😉

          In 2012, the Cardinals second basemen were 14th in the 16-team NL in batting average and OPS. They were 12th in fielding. Obviously, all were below league averages.

          Not that Wigginton is relevant to this discussion, but as bad as his 2012 was, he still had a higher OPS than the Cardinals’ second basemen.

          Clearly, middle infield is an area that needs improvement. To date, the improvement consists of dumping Skip and hoping that another guy, Carpenter, can learn second base on the fly better than Skip did. can write optimistic articles about the situation, but I can’t.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Descalso was just a second year player in 2012. When Yadier Molina was a second year player, fans bemoaned his inability to hit at the time. Players routinely improve at the ML level as they gain experience, and there were signs that this happened with Descalso during Sept/Oct 2012, why Matheny settled on him. Descalso is reliable as a fielder and should have a stronger season with the stick in 2012.
            Matt Carpenter showed he can hit ML pitching. Since a determined person, he will learn how to handle 2B. If the genius TLR can put Allen Craig at 2B, then Matheny can use MCarp there.
            Pete Kozma can join either Descalso or MCarp in a 2B platoon. This is a way to share the work among players who are still learning at the ML level and a reasonable way to go.
            Jackson is highly promising and can spend a second campaign at Memphis. He may be the SS of the future. The fact the Cards played Kozma over Jackson during September 2012 is unimportant.
            Kozma, Descalso and Jackson are much better prospects than was Bo Hart, a good AAA second baseman without enough bat or speed to fill the role at the ML level. Kozma’s advantage over Hart is he can field SS, as is Jackson’s. As a lefty swinger, Descalso can outhit Hart. Hence why they can become MLers and why Bo could not retain a job there.

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