Kenneth Merrill Kelly
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 190 lb.
- School Yavapai College, Arizona State University
- High School Desert Mountain High School
- Debut April 1, 2019
Starting pitcher Merrill Kelly began his professional career in 2010. After toiling five years in the minors of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, he went to South Korea and was a successful pitcher for four seasons (Jamie Romak was a teammate during a couple of those years). Then he came back to the U.S. to make his major league debut.
He was originally drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles in the 37th round of the 2007 amateur draft, but did not sign. He was 15-1 in two years of junior college. He was then taken by the Cleveland Indians in the 22nd round of the 2009 amateur draft, but again did not ink a contract. Transferring to Arizona State, the Houston native was 10-3 with a 4.23 ERA. He finally signed when he was taken by the Rays in the 8th round of the 2010 amateur draft, one pick before Jabari Blash. The scout was Jayson Durocher.
Kelly has advanced about one minor league level each season, beginning his career at Low-A in 2010 and reaching Triple-A for the first time in 2013. He split his first summer between the Hudson Valley Renegades (1-1, 2.11 in 7 G) and the Bowling Green Hot Rods (0-1, 7.16 in 5 G). He was 8-7 with a 3.28 ERA for the 2011 Charlotte Stone Crabs. He was 6th in the Florida State League in ERA, between Jonathan Pettibone and Nate Baker. He had a 8-3, 3.57 record for the 2012 Montgomery Biscuits, used primarily in relief. 2013 was perhaps his best season to that point, as he went 13-8 with 111 strikeouts and a 3.64 ERA in 28 games (26 starts) for the Biscuits (5-6, 4.15) and Durham Bulls (8-4, 3.19). He allowed only 128 hits in 158 1/3 innings. He was third in the Rays chain in wins (behind J.D. Martin and Matt Buschmann), tied Jake Thompson for first in losses, was third in IP (behind Buschmann and Martin) and was 5th in strikeouts (111, between Enny Romero and Blake Snell). In 2014, Kelly went 9-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 114 innings for Durham.
He signed to play with SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2015 and went 11-10 with a 4.19 ERA in 30 games (29 starts). Back with the club in 2016, he went 9-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 29 starts and in 2017, he was 16-7 with a 3.60 ERA in 30 starts. In 2017, he led the league with 189 strikeouts (28 ahead of reigning MVP Dustin Nippert). Following the 2018 season, he returned to the United States, signing a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks for two years and $5.5 million. He made the D-Backs' opening day roster and was a winner in his major league debut on April 1st. He started the game against the San Diego Padres and pitched six solid innings in a 10-3 win. He was then relieved by Jon Duplantier, who was also making his big league debut. In his second start on April 7th, he gave up just 1 run in 8 innings, walking none and striking out 9, but a solo homer by Mitch Moreland of the Boston Red Sox was enough to tag him with a 1-0 loss. On June 12th, he blanked the Philadelphia Phillies over 7 2/3 innings to lead Arizona to a 2-0 win. This improved his record to 7-6 while lowering his ERA to 3.73.
- 2013 Rays Media Guide
- Arizona State bio