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Elephant Rumblings: Profiling a stealth bullpen pickup

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MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, Athletics Nation!

Earlier this offseason, the A’s quietly claimed relief pitcher Michael Kelly off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians. Kelly spent ten years in the minors before finally making his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2022. Since then, he’s posted a career MLB FIP of 3.52, but that is based on a blip of a sample, as Kelly has only logged 20⅔ innings in the bigs. It doesn’t inspire confidence that his previous employers have not deemed the 31-year-old fit for more opportunities than he’s been given so far.

But Jason Burke at SI.com made an interesting comparison of Kelly to successful Yankees reliever Clay Holmes, suggesting that with some tweaks to his pitch mix and slider, the Athletics’ new reliever could emerge to play a significant role in the A’s bullpen in 2024.

Holmes was an All-Star in 2022 and has posted ERAs under 3.00 for the past three seasons. Burke points out that 6-foot-5 Holmes and 6-foot-4 Kelly profile similarly in terms of pitch mix and velocity. Both throw sinkers, sliders, four-seamers, and sweepers, but Holmes relies primarily on a devastating sinker that he throws 69% of the time, while Kelly throws a lively sweeper more than half the time.

Holmes also has 7.2 more inches of vertical drop to his sinker than Kelly, who only throws his sinker 6% of the time. Burke opines that if Kelly “could get his sinker to approximate the one that Holmes throws, he could even become the team’s closer.”

Good luck in Spring Training, Michael Kelly!

Have a wonderful weekend and a Happy New Year, AN.

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Grow the hair or don’t bother, Brent!