Shining and Dimming: Kelly and Kirsch Show They’re for Real


Everything can change in a week. The unstoppable rookie could already have fallen back to earth and the washed-up veteran could have everyone asking why people had ever doubted him. Crazy things can happen in such a short period of time. But as the week ends and another begins, it’s nice to lose the big picture perspective for a second and just talk about all the baseball we saw in the last seven days. Every Saturday here at RCG, we have Shining and Dimming, where we discuss the Rays prospects on both ends of the spectrum, the ones who are red-hot and the ones who have lost their way, and take a snapshot of the state of this Rays organization that we all can’t get enough of. Please head to the comments after you’re done reading with any questions or comments about the Rays prospects discussed below or any other prospect in the system.

Kelly’s breakout season just keeps getting better and better.


Merrill Kelly, RHP (Durham)– Merill Kelly is not supposed to be here. An 8th round pick by the Rays out of Arizona State back in 2010, Kelly had never done badly but failed to attract either over the course of his first two and a half pro seasons. He had a 3.28 ERA in 129 innings pitched at High-A Charlotte in 2011, but with just a 1.37-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He threw 88.1 innings between starting and relieving at Double-A Montgomery in 2012 and managed a 3.57 ERA, but still he struck out just 6.2 batters per 9 innings. Then 2013 began and he was back with the Biscuits picking up right where he left off. In 12 starts and a relief appearance, Kelly managed a 4.15 ERA, a 5.0 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 73.2 innings pitched. But everything changed when the promotions of Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Colome forced Kelly into the Triple-A Durham rotation. Kelly has gone 8-3 with a 3.07 ERA, a 7.4 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 73.1 innings pitched. And this week, he looked as good as ever, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA, a 12-4 strikeout to walk ratio, and a 48% groundball rate in 13.1 innings pitched. Kelly, a slim 6’1″, 170 right-hander, is making his best effort to turn into Jeremy Hellickson lite for the Rays. He throws a fastball in the 88-90 MPH range that he commands decently down in the zone, but his money pitch is his changeup. Kelly throws his changeup to both righty and lefty batters with sink and late fade, although bizarrely it’s better against righties at this point. Kelly will have to keep working on it to turn it into the traditional put-away pitch against opposide-side batters. Kelly also throws a breaking ball, although it’s slurvy at this point and he will still have to work on it. Kelly throws all his pitches out of a deceptive delivery that is especially tough on right-handed batters. Kelly isn’t all that young at 24 years of age and may run out of time to establish himself as a legitimate starting pitching option, but his fastball-changeup combination could be enough for him to at least make it to the majors in middle relief. Kelly has been a quiet success story the last three years, and after this breakout season, it may not be too long before he cracks the major leagues.

Enny Romero, LHP (Montgomery)– It has been years since Enny Romero burst onto the scene as a David Price and Matt Moore-esque starting pitching option. Years later, his fastball command and secondary pitches remain significant concerns. But a week like this past one may be a sign that Romero is finally putting it together. Romero went 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA, striking out 16 while walking 6 in 2 starts and 13 innings pitched. On the year, Romero is 11-6 with a 2.56 ERA, but his 107-66 strikeout to walk ratio in 137.1 innings pitched leaves something to be desired. Romero, a projectable 22 year old lefty, throws a fastball in the mid-90’s to go along with a 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup, virtually the same arsenal as Matt Moore, but he has to figure out hwo to locate his fastball, get consistent break on his curve, and gain more trust in his change. Adding some muscle to his wiry frame is as important as anything, and the Rays still believe that his command will click when he fills out. The good news about Romero is that in a system like the Rays’ they have no reason to rush him and just let him take as much times as he needs to get himself together. Chris Archer broke out after repeating Double-A. Maybe Romero could do the same.

Kevin Kiermaier, CF (Durham)– It was only four games, but when Kevin Kiermaier jumped from High-A to Durham at the end of 2012 and went 3 for 9 with 3 walks and just one strikeout, you had to think in the back of your head that he just might be ready for the level. He finally arrived there after starting 2013 at Double-A, and the past week he has shown that he is ready for Triple-A and beyond. Kiermaier hit to a .400/.483/.720 line with 3 triples, 2 doubles, 5 RBI, 2 stolen bases and a 4-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 29 plate appearances. He has rebounded from a tough start at Durham to manage an .830 OPS in 112 plate appearances. Kiermaier, a 23 year old 6’1″, 200 outfielder, was always somewhat interesting because of a good fourth outfielder skill-set, but this season he is starting to show that he might turn into more. Kiermaier is not quite a burner but has above-average speed that he uses extremely well. He makes contact on the ground knowing he can beat it out and is an excellent bunter. He has a near-perfect combination of aggressiveness and patience, taking what pitchers give him and doing everything to get on. He is also a great defensive centerfielder with an above-average arm. The question has always been his hitting. Kiermaier has never had much power and was mostly a tap hitter. This season, however, Kiermaier has picked his spots to take some bigger swings and hit some balls into the gaps, and the results have been outstanding. Kiermaier’s average bat speed is enough for him to be a solid hitter thanks to his speed and discipline. Kiermaier may still end up a fourth outfielder, but if things break right, he could end up being a starting centerfielder. And if that even comes close to fruition, selecting Kiermaier in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB Draft will be an absolute steal.

Chris Kirsch, LHP (Hudson Valley)– Sometimes if you take a little more risk on a draft pick that might not sign, the reward can be incredible. Chris Kirsch dipped to the 14th round of MLB Draft because he had failed to sign for reasons nobody could quite understand. But since signing, Kirsch has shown that his talent far outweighs his draft slot. This past week for the Renegades, Kirsch went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, striking out 9 while walking 3 in 11 innings pitched. On the year, he’s 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA,a 5.1 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9 in 13 starts and 68.1 innings pitched. The strikeouts haven’t come yet, but with Kirsch’s stuff and a 56.6% groundball rate, that is less of a concern. Kirsch throws a fastball that touches 94 MPH with late sinking action, and he complements it with a 1-to-7 curveball, a slider, and a changeup. Kirsch is still working on throwing all his pitches for strikes, but all of them show flashes of being plus pitches. Kirsch will be a bit of a project, but his upside is certainly worth it.


Leslie Anderson, 1B (Durham)– The Anderson detractors waiting for him to fall apart finally got their wish this past week as Anderson went just 2 for 25 (.080). THe timing could not be worse for Anderson with no place in the Rays’ future and the need for him to prove himself to other organization that he would be worth signing.

Todd Glaesmann, OF (Montgomery)– Glaesmann, the Rays’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, has had a much rougher go this year. In the past week, he’s went just 3 for 25 (.120), and on the year he has a .240/.293/.380 line in 488 plate appearances. Glaesmann’s power-speed combination remains extremely impressive, but he needs more plate discipline to take advantage of it.

Kes Carter, OF (Charlotte)– Carter had himself a week to forget, going just 1 for 12 (.083). At least the one was a double. Carter is another power-speed guy who strikes out too much and doesn’t walk, and he has just a .239/.298/.377 line in 426 PA’s nearly identical to Glaesmann.

That will wrap up this week’s addition of Shining and Dimming. Any questions or comments on these prospects or anyone elsewhere in the Rays system? Feel free to comment below and hopefully we can have a nice discussion.