06/08/12 12:41 AM ET
Cardinals pick Kelly mulling big decision
By Mike Still / MLB.com
Kelly's classmates had Day 2 of MLB.com's First-Year Player Draft streaming live on a computer. And even though Kelly was doing his best to concentrate on the project he had prepared, few could contain their excitement as Kelly's name was called.
"I haven't," the Cardinals' second-round pick said with a laugh when asked if he'd gotten his grade back on the presentation. "But hopefully, it turns out pretty well."
Even if Kelly doesn't get a 100, he shouldn't sweat it. The No. 86 overall pick in this year's Draft is now mulling over a decision most high school baseball players would dream of having to make.
Kelly, rated the 48th-best prospect in the Draft by MLB.com, is still up in the air whether he will pursue a professional career with the Cardinals or follow through on his commitment to the University of Oregon. Though the assigned signing bonus slot for the 86th pick is $574,300, he's been committed to the Ducks since November and admits deciding on his future is not an easy choice.
"Whatever happens in the end, I would love to be a Duck, but it'd be awesome to be a Cardinal, as well," Kelly said. "It's just a process I've got to go through."
Kelly said he's hoping to make a decision by the end of this week or early next week. He describes himself as a "family guy" -- one of the reasons he chose Oregon was so his family could watch him play -- and will carefully go through each option with his family.
Kelly does however also have family in the St. Louis area and Chicago, with relatives living in St. Charles, Mo. While they would be thrilled to have Kelly playing so close some day, his Chicago relatives might need a little bit of coaxing.
"They're excited. I think they wish I would have went to the Cubs," Kelly joked. "But getting drafted by the Cardinals is a true honor and a blessing."
Both a highly touted third baseman and pitcher, Kelly was scouted by many clubs at both positions. He was 6-3 with a 1.09 ERA and an 80/7 K/BB ratio this season, while also batting .398, slugging .747 and posting a .514 on-base percentage.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said after Day 2 that the organization is set on developing Kelly at a corner-infield spot, which Kelly doesn't mind at all.
"I've been playing short for high school, but I've always loved to play third base or a corner position," Kelly said. "Third base is where I feel most comfortable. I've played it a lot growing up."
It's also where Kelly's high school coach, Steve Antich, feels Kelly should be playing. That way, Kelly will be able to focus on just one craft.
"Great defensively, strong arm, understands situations and just really, really, really wants to get better," Antich said of Kelly. "He's got unbelievable power and hits to all fields, handles velocity. A lot of people are torn. Should he be a pitcher or an everyday guy? I like seeing him in the lineup every day and playing defense. That's where he's at his best."
Antich endorses this plan even though he watched Kelly carry his Westview team with double duties this year. Kelly's value was exemplified in a 1-0 win over rival Jesuit High School this season.
Kelly tossed a five-hit shutout while driving in the only run off Jesuit's Christian Martinek, an All-State sophomore left-hander garnering serious Division-I attention.
"He's a team-first type of guy," Antich said. "He puts team goals and those types of things as a priority. That's increasingly rare nowadays, especially for a kid with as much attention as he's had along the way."
Antich said that when Kelly found out he'd made the USA Baseball U-18 team -- which Kelly led to a gold medal in last year's Pan American Games -- Kelly wasn't eager to share the news with his teammates, because he didn't want the attention focused on him.
Kelly also doesn't shy away from sharing the aspects of his game he feels he needs to improve on. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Kelly feels he needs to work on his speed and reaction times. It's something he'll address with a trainer in routine speed and agility workouts this summer.
As for his strengths? Besides the raw power that will develop more in time and a slick glove in the infield, Kelly noted consistency as one of his main focuses.
"That's the big thing I've been working on, staying neutral with everything," Kelly said. "Just kind of the mental side because at this point, everybody in the game is really, really good. So you have to find ways to make yourself stand out."
Kelly has certainly succeeded in standing out, which has provided him with the difficult decision he has now. The deadline for Draft picks to sign is July 13. Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz said Wednesday that the club has already started working on negotiating deals with its selections and expects news to break soon on some top picks.
Kelly got to know the Cardinals' No. 36 overall pick, Stephen Piscotty, well this year during his official visit to Stanford. Piscotty was one of Kelly's hosts on the trip. Kelly and Cardinals ninth-rounder Rowan Wick also became buddies while attending the same pre-Draft workouts.
While the potential of joining the professional ranks with some good guys he knows well already is highly tempting, which route Kelly eventually will choose is still very much in limbo.
"It's just a feel thing for me. I've been lucky enough to go travel around the world and play, so on that note, I feel that I'm ready," Kelly said. "But it's going to be a family decision, because I'm a big family guy. No matter what I'm going to go in, whether it be an Oregon Duck or a St. Louis Cardinal, I'm going to go in and give full effort all the time."
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.