CHICAGO -- It was just two days ago when Jared Kelley, the White Sox second-round selection in the 2020 Draft on Thursday evening, was having a conversation with Matthew Thompson, the White Sox second-round pick in the 2019 Draft.
Fellow Texans and hard-throwing right-handers, the friends actually were discussing playing together at the next level.
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“He was saying, ‘Hopefully we get you,’ and we have this opportunity now and I’m a White Sox now,” Kelley told MLB.com during a phone interview Thursday. “Now it’s just a reality. It’s crazy how we were just talking about it.”
Kelley’s addition sent a palpable level of excitement across the White Sox fan base, noticed on social media by the 18-year-old from Refugio High School in Texas in between celebrating with his family and friends. MLB Pipeline listed Kelley as the No. 12 Draft prospect overall entering into these two days, meaning the White Sox picked up a pair of first-round mound talents when mixed in with left-hander Garrett Crochet, their top pick at No. 11 of the first round.
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The 47th pick has a slot value of $1,580,200, and the White Sox total bonus pool is $7,764,800. When factoring in his lofty pre-Draft status, Kelley certainly will come in over slot if the University of Texas commit ultimately picks the White Sox. Kelley said Thursday everything is still being discussed with his family, but his comments certainly sounded like an individual ready to take advantage of this White Sox opportunity. He even talked at the close of the interview about bringing a World Series title to the South Side of Chicago.
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White Sox scouting director Mike Shirley, completing his first Draft in charge, said the club planned for this scenario last week in case Kelley became available.
“We had a very late night last night, had a lot of discussion that went into the morning and a lot of consultation between Jared’s camp and our camp to make sure we could make this work, and the opportunity was too great to pass it down,” said Shirley, adding the White Sox considered Kelley for the 11th pick on Wednesday. “We felt so fortunate we could land two top-of-the-rotation arms in one Draft.”
“I’m just excited and blessed,” said Kelley, who admitted to being a little disappointed about not going on Day 1 but chose to keep his focus positive. “Not very many players get this opportunity, so for me to get the opportunity, I feel like the only way I can pay it back is take full advantage of it.”
Over his stellar career at Refugio, Kelley posted a 32-3 record, a 0.43 ERA and 23 no-hit pitching appearances. He also ran the 300 meters and did the high jump for the track team and threw 54 touchdown passes as the football team’s sophomore quarterback before giving it all up to focus on baseball as a junior and senior.
Kelley was named the 2019-20 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, as announced on May 29, with Bryce Harper presenting the award through a surprise video call. Only Luken Baker in 2015 and AJ Hinch in 1992 won this Gatorade honor and did not sign. Kelley 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, one out through a ground ball back to the mound and one on a ground ball to second.
But that sort of dominance doesn’t seem to overwhelm the humble Kelley.
“I don’t really think about it too much,” Kelley said. “I just go out on the mound and do what I do and not try to do too much. I know the scouts are behind the fence all the time but I’m kind of used to it. When I get up on the mound, I just do what I worked hard for and trained for.”
“The thing that’s most unique is you have a power body that really controls his delivery effectively well, a fastball that plays in the strike zone with plus command at times,” Shirley said. “That’s been the most important thing for a young arm, how developed the command is and how many strikes he actually uses with his fastball.”
MLB Pipeline’s scouting report lists the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with a 65 grade fastball featuring the potential to hit 98 mph on the pitch and a 60 grade changeup to go with a 55 grade on control. He has easy power with the fastball, and the changeup is developed beyond his young years.
His third pitch, which Kelley describes as a slider, is listed as a question mark. But that question would have been given more clarity if not for the ’20 season being canceled, possibly not leaving Kelley available to join the White Sox.
“It kind of affected everybody, mainly the high school players,” Kelley said. “It affected me because I had my breaking ball going in the right direction, and as soon as I got it to where I wanted it to be, the season ended. Luckily, I did good in the summer events, and I had a few starts and showed a lot better with the breaking ball.”
Round 3, 83rd overall: Adisyn Coffey, RHP, Wabash Valley College (Ill.)
Coffey, 21, is not listed in MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects. He hit .286 but also pitched 3 1/3 innings over four appearances during this shortened season. Per MLB.com’s Jim Callis, Coffey was looked at more as a shortstop coming out of high school and has a high level of athleticism. The White Sox are classifying him as a pitcher, with a fastball in the 93-96 mph range, but Shirley mentioned they are viewing Coffey as a possible two-way player.
“He’s been a guy who could play shortstop, third base, center field,” Shirley said. “We’ve seen him do multiple things on the field. You think about a right-handed pitcher who plays shortstop, third base and center field, it tells you what kind of athlete we are talking about.
“We are anxious to see him actually transition to the mound. But we do have some hope that maybe he can possibly let this thing play out a little bit as far as a position player as well.”
Round 4, 112th overall: Kade Mechals, RHP, Grand Canyon University
The right-hander out of McMinnville, Ore., made 19 appearances, of which 18 were starts, over two seasons pitching for Grand Canyon. He fanned 118 over 107 innings, finishing with a 12-2 record and a 2.19 ERA.
Mechals underwent Tommy John surgery in May, so he will be rehabbing. Mechals was taken in the 40th round of the 2019 Draft by the Marlins and is not ranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects, but his pitchability and bulldog mentality remind some scouts of Mike Leake, per MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
“His stuff was really ticking up and then the surgery occurred,” Shirley said. “This guy has elite carry on his fastball and a really good breaking ball. His ability to pitch north and south will give him a chance. Just an interesting piece to this puzzle today.”
Round 5, 142nd overall: Bailey Horn, LHP, Auburn University
The redshirt junior from Waco, Texas, was off to a good start to the 2020 season, with a 3-1 record and a 2.08 ERA over four starts to go with 27 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. Horn, who already has undergone Tommy John surgery previously, has a fastball capable of touching 94 mph and can throw four pitches for strikes.
“A year past Tommy John, he is now taking a step forward,” Shirley said. “A 90-94 [mph] guy, breaking ball is really coming, plus a competitor. Having been in an SEC school, we’re very fortunate in his pedigree, what he’s been trained to do. In the fifth round, we feel like we were lucky to get a chance. He’s going to give you some upside.”
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.