Stats just part of story for Vermont HS star

4th-rounder had 133 K's in 49 IP, but it's stuff, makeup that impressed Pirates

July 13th, 2021

There was only one player drafted out of Vermont in the 2021 Draft, and he made history when he was selected.

Right-hander Owen Kellington, who was not among MLB Pipeline’s Top 250 Draft Prospects, was taken by the Pirates with the No. 102 overall pick to begin the fourth round. According to research by the Vermont Baseball Coaches Association, that is the highest a Vermont high schooler has ever gone in the Draft.

And it’s for good reason when you see his unbelievable numbers.

This spring, Kellington went 7-0 with a 0.22 ERA for U-32 High School in Montpelier. In 49 innings, he struck out 133 batters.

No, that is not a typo: 91 percent of Kellington's outs came via the strikeout. Batters were virtually high-fiving themselves if they put the ball in play against him, and dozens of scouts made the rare trek to Vermont to see how this was possible.

“If I had faced someone like Owen Kellington, I might have been doing the same thing,” said Pirates general manager Ben Cherington, who grew up playing baseball in New Hampshire. “I know a little bit about what high school baseball is like up there. He definitely stood out from the crowd.”

If someone were putting up those kinds of numbers in, say, Georgia preps, he might be getting No. 1 pick consideration. The truth is that competition in Vermont is not up to par with baseball hotbeds down South and in the West.

So how do you scout a guy who is facing less advanced batters than the bulk of top Draft prospects, many of whom are not only in baseball-heavy states but also on national circuits?

“Given that, the performance itself and whatever the numbers say is probably less important than what we see in him as an athlete,” Cherington said. “How he moves on the mound, the arm action, the arm speed, the raw pitch qualities that we can measure, and the person himself -- the makeup and kind of who he is.”

Cherington and the Pirates’ scouting team got a chance to see how Kellington stacked up against Draft prospects at the inaugural Draft Combine this summer in North Carolina, and they were impressed by what they saw.

But director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri said they knew even before then that Kellington would be on the Pirates’ board.

“The Combine didn't hurt, to see him one last time, where you’re deciding to go down there and compete a little bit,” DelliCarri said. “In all, bringing it together -- Owen's makeup [and] tying it all together with all the traits -- was a combination we couldn't pass up."

Kellington has a low-90s fastball that has rise and life on it that he pairs well with a 12-6 curveball, which is his trademark pitch. High school pitchers are always a bit of a risk to take high in the Draft, but the Pirates love the upside and aren’t afraid to say what kind of pitcher they think he could become.

“We think he has all of the traits to develop as a starting pitcher, and we’re hoping and looking forward to working with him for a long time,” Cherington said.