Who is he?
A contact hitter who has played second base, third base, and corner outfield. His career slash line is .283/.379/.378; his offensive strength is getting on base. He doesn’t have great speed. Defensively, he doesn’t really have the arm for third base or the range for second base. If you’re a Cleveland Indians fan, or follow the International League closely, Kelly is like Cord Phelps without the power. Or maybe a Bill Mueller-type offensive player; not as good but the same basic type. Baseball America rated Kelly as the #30 prospect in the Orioles’ system for 2013.
Can he play in the majors?
Offensively, Kelly’s 2012 was far better than any of his previous seasons. Twenty-five years ago, he’d be a perfect candidate for a bench role on a National League team — his primary role would be as a left-handed early-inning pinch hitter, but he could fill in at second, third, or a corner outfield spot. If you go back that far, think of a defensively versatile Greg Gross.
Today, with teams carrying more pitchers, Kelly is a luxury most teams can’t afford, especially American League teams. If you carry twelve pitchers, and you have eight regulars, that leaves five spots. You need a backup catcher, an infielder good enough defensively to play short, and an outfielder good enough defensively to play center field. You want one really big bat to be your DH. That leaves one remaining bench spot, and although Kelly does do a number of things it’s not clear that he does the right things.