Shawn Kelley (RHP)
Another righty, Shawn Kelley is another former National who has occupied the closer role in an interim capacity multiple times over the course of his career. Since leaving the Padres and the NL West after the 2015 season, Kelley mostly has provided plenty of value for his employers.
In his 133 innings over the last three seasons, Kelley notched 11 saves with 155 strikeouts while walking just 33 batters (11 each season) and had an ERA under 3.00 in two of three seasons.
After a career-low in 2017, Kelley rebounded mightily last season for the Nationals and late in the season for the A’s. He finished with a 2.94 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning (9.18 K/9). Kelley never has held onto the spotlight, or the closer’s role, whenever it has fallen to him, but he is a pitcher whose best seasons may not be behind him.
While his velocity has precipitously fallen over the last three seasons, the 34-year-old seemed to adjust to his lower fastball speed, throwing more sliders than he had since his solid 2015 season. Kelley really just has two pitches, a fastball that he throws just over 50% of the time, and the slider, which he throws just under 50% of the time according to Fangraphs.
The slider has been Kelley’s best pitch for most of his career. His Twitter bio is even “When in doubt throw a slider”. According to Fangraphs, Kelley’s slider had a 5.2 pitch value last season, by far its best value since his 2015 mark with the Padres.
Going deeper into the numbers, Kelley has found the most success when he has stayed off the plate, or more specifically when he can keep pitches from leaking into the heart of the plate. While this is an intuitive idea, it is not generally quantified, or very publicly quantified. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello brought up Kelley’s success in terms of this metric back in 2016, when had the lowest ERA within a calendar year period.
According to Bill Petti Kelley finished 2018 with a 1.2 Edge/Heart ratio, meaning for every pitch thrown down the middle, he threw 1.2 pitches on the edge. This ratio ties Kelly with Walker Buehler and Adam Ottavino, so it’s fairly solid.
Now that Kelley has overcome his down 2017 with a comeback 2018 campaign, Kelley could be just far enough off the radar so that his price will stay low enough to make it worth it for the Dodgers to give him a shot. His last deal, a 3-year $15 million contract, is far above what his asking price could be this offseason, as he will probably sign for less than $3 million based on similar relievers and their 2018-2019 contracts.