There are a gaggle of prospects participating in Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida. A number of them have Cardinal Nation in quite the tizzy. Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez, Stephen Piscotty, and others have drawn most of Cardinal Nation’s attention. For my money, however, there is one prospect that to me is far more intriguing. Were I creative enough, which I am clearly not, I might even edit a video to anoint him as my “Most Interesting Prospect in the World.” That prospect is Carson Kelly.
Kelly was selected by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2012 draft. At the time the Cardinals were so invested in Kelly that they gave him a million dollars over his slot value in the draft to make sure that he chose the Redbirds over the University of Oregon. As of this writing Kelly now has 143 minor league games under his belt, and he will not turn twenty until the second half of this season.
Thus far Kelly’s time in the minors has been pretty much what we would expect from someone tackling professional baseball in their teens – a mixed bag. He has played well at times, and at times he has looked like he still has a lot to learn. In high school he played pitcher and third base, but despite the ability to hit the low 90s from the mound, the Cardinals have been playing him exclusively at third. At least he was playing at third. At the end of last season he was given the option of switching to catcher for instructional league work. Kelly took the opportunity and thus far the team seems to be pleased with his progress.
As a third baseman Kelly was a good prospect, as a catcher he has the possibility to be a revelation. It really is amazing how a position switch completely changes the dynamic. At third base the Cardinals have Matt Carpenter at the big league level and other prospects, such as Patrick Wisdom in the minors. At catcher, without ever having caught a live pitch in a real game, Kelly immediately moves up the prospect list. Who is there in front of him as a prospect? Really none of the catchers in the system are considered top flight prospects right now. Even with the prospect of learning a new, and incredibly difficult position, he is still considered one of the Cardinals’ top 10 prospects by Baseball America, and a few others have him even higher.
Is anyone ready to anoint Carson Kelly the heir apparent to Yadier Molina? Not just yet, but we all know Molina will not play forever, and the light at the end of the tunnel just might not be a train after all.