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White Sox sign RHP Kelley, 2nd-round pick

@scottmerkin
June 27, 2020

CHICAGO -- If Jared Kelley had selected a different path in high school, he might someday be competing for the starting quarterback job with the Chicago Bears. After all, Kelley threw 54 touchdown passes as a sophomore at Refugio High School in Texas before giving up the sport to focus

CHICAGO -- If Jared Kelley had selected a different path in high school, he might someday be competing for the starting quarterback job with the Chicago Bears.

After all, Kelley threw 54 touchdown passes as a sophomore at Refugio High School in Texas before giving up the sport to focus solely on baseball. The White Sox are mighty glad Kelley made that decision, announcing Saturday the signing of the hard-throwing 18-year-old right-hander and the team’s second-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft to a Minor League contract with a $3 million bonus.

Kelley, who was ranked No. 12 among MLB Pipeline's Top 200 Draft Prospects, was selected No. 47 overall by the White Sox. Kelley is described as having easy, effortless power, with his fastball reaching 98 mph, and a polished changeup well beyond his years.

But in a Draft-day interview with MLB.com, Kelley admitted his football days contributed to his baseball prowess.

“That’s one of the reasons why I am just real big and strong, because our football program is like no other,” said Kelley, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. “We started working out in seventh grade. So, I’ve just been getting stronger and stronger each year.

“Football just makes you tough. There’s a bunch of adversity that you go through, and as a quarterback you have to learn how to handle that. I think that translates on to the mound going through the same thing.”

The recommended slot value for the 47th pick was $1,580,200, so Kelley, with his lofty status and high expectations going into the Draft along with his verbal commitment to the University of Texas, came in over slot. Kelley was named the 2019-20 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year and had a 3-0 record with a 0.00 ERA in 12 innings before the coronavirus pandemic canceled this season, recording 34 outs via strikeouts. He posted a career 32-3 record, a 0.43 ERA and 23 hitless pitching appearances.

Garrett Crochet, the team’s top pick in the 2020 Draft at No. 11 overall, signed with a $4,547,500 bonus, matching the slot value. The southpaw who pitched for Tennessee could be part of the White Sox 60-man player pool for the upcoming season.

All five White Sox Draft picks have signed, with Auburn southpaw Bailey Horn and his under-slot $150,000 bonus in the fifth round being announced with Kelley on Saturday. Right-handed pitchers Adisyn Coffey (third round, $50,000) and Kade Mechals (fourth round, $10,000) came in well under slot as well. The White Sox bonus pool was set at $7,764,800 and totaled $7,757,500 after the signings.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, speaking during a Thursday Zoom call, praised Mike Shirley, the team’s director of amateur scouting, for doing a wonderful job managing what turned out to be an odd process due to the pandemic. It was Shirley’s first year at the Draft helm.

“For us to be able to walk out of the Draft feeling like we got two of the top arms available was a big success and a nice testament to the work done by Mike and Garrett Guest and Nathan Durst and all the crosscheckers and the area guys to put us in the position to be able to convert on both of those opportunities,” Hahn said. “Crochet obviously is probably a little closer to helping the Chicago White Sox, but we think Kelley's ceiling is every bit as high and could be a factor here for a long time once he, too, is ready.”

Kelly worked out of the spread offense as a quarterback, so his job was to throw passes. Now, he’ll be throwing slightly different strikes for the White Sox, while showing that same competitive spirit.

“Here's a kid in the state of Texas, where you know football's so huge, an accomplished quarterback who stops playing football after his sophomore year,” said Shirley after the Draft was completed. “That's how dedicated he is to his craft.

“You think about athleticism on the football field and then the fact that he gave up a sport he was excelling at at a young age to commit himself to baseball and you see him reap the rewards from it. The interesting things that he does, he drives like an hour and 15 minutes to his trainer where he trains, does this relentlessly with no caution.

“It's been a consistent training pattern. Those are the commitments this guy has shown that gives us hope that he's going to have the maturity for a young man to accept the responsibility that's going to be put on his shoulders.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.