If Joe Kelly can win the battle into the St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation in March he could find himself up the Mississippi River at Target Field in July, seriously.
Kelly was defeated by Rookie of the Year candidate Shelby Miller last spring for the final starting spot in the Cards’ starting staff. But after having a shockingly strong 2013 while filling in for injured arms, Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak will give JK extra consideration.
Once the civil struggle (final roster moves) concludes Kelly could find himself in the same position as Lance Lynn did in July of 2012. All is takes is a scorching start. If the MLB had its All-Star game after the season like the NFL then Joe Kelly would have certainly represented the Birds on the Bat in Queens last year.
Backing up to last year, when I was one of the many who underestimated ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly by claiming that he was not the answer, let us examine exactly what he proved during the summer and fall.
When ‘Joey Guns’ went from long man to starter he did more than fill in nicely like Tyler Lyons or John Gast. Kelly dominated. Not only did Kelly help the Birds jog into the playoffs, he (along with others) led them.
He was doing more than throwing hard sinkers to get ground balls and breaking bats, Kelly was striking batters out with heat! In the 2013 Post Season JK averaged almost 1 strikeout per inning while limiting walks.
Joe Kelly demonstrated that he is the Real Deal like Evander.
Names like Michael Wacha, Baby Pedro, and Shelby Miller are all more fun to yap about and predict awards for, but do not forget about the guy with glasses.
If Kelly’s 2013 domination can be carried into the spring then he could edge out an inconsistent Lance Lynn or a damaged Jaime Garcia. Kelly has the killer instinct that Lynn and Garcia have not shown yet.
However there is the realistic possibility that Kelly will not fit in the five man rotation which is bursting with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia, and Lance Lynn. There is also the chance that one of the above will find themselves on the disabled list (knocking on my table) or that Martinez is going to be working out of the pen again.
Despite where #58 starts the season, it is comforting for MM and Moe to know that a beast who has tallied 231 innings in the last two seasons is ready for action. Or, if needed, Kelly will be desirable for other teams before the deadlines.
If 25 year-old Joe Kelly is not an All-Star in St. Louis he might relocate to a place where he can shine and get the attention that he deserves. No matter what, he has my vote for Least Hyped Pitcher in the Birdinals organization.