Joe Kelly was coming off of what was arguably the worst statistical season of his career in 2016 (5.18 ERA over 40 innings), but the veteran reliever twirled a dominant final month of the season which helped establish him as one of Boston's more reliable relief arms heading into 2018 campaign. After some offseason mechanical adjustments, Kelly saw his fastball velocity significantly increase to a blistering average of 99 mph. Unfortunately, this uptick in velocity didn't correlate to better strikeout numbers, as his strikeout rate actually fell nearly four percentage points to a very pedestrian 21.9 percent rate. His walk rate remained high (11.3 percent), but he was able to greatly suppress his home-run rate en route to a 2.79 ERA (3.49 FIP) over 58 innings of relief. Despite his improvements, Kelly's still a middle reliever with strikeout and command issues -- that isn't a very appealing combination in fantasy.
Kelly agreed to a one-year, $3.825 million deal with the Red Sox on Friday, avoiding arbitration, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports. This was the final offseason that he is an arbitration-eligible player, and the right-hander received a $1.025 million increase from last year. Kelly was able to have a bounce-back campaign in 2017, posting a 2.79 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a 52:27 K:BB in 58 innings of relief. He should be in the mix to work high-leverage situations this upcoming season, but still leaves something to be desired with his strikeout and command issues.
Kelly (4-1) struck out the side in the 10th inning to earn the victory in Boston's 1-0 win over Baltimore in 11 innings Tuesday. The Red Sox have no shortage of relievers putting up impressive numbers during the month of September. Add Kelly to that mix. He pitched three perfect innings in an extra-inning win over Tampa Bay last Friday and is looking like he'll be a key bullpen piece should the Red Sox qualify for the postseason.
Kelly retired all nine batters he faced in Friday's 13-6 extra-inning win over the Rays. Kelly carried the Red Sox from the 11th through the 13th innings in what may have been his finest performance of the season. While his ERA stands at 2.72, Kelly's 3.67 FIP speaks to a less effective reliever that hasn't been completely trusted in high-leverage spots. The makeup of Boston's setup men leading up to closer Craig Kimbrel has been a dance choreographed by manager John Farrell all season, so Kelly's effort Friday could alter the setup crew once again.
Kelly (hamstring) was reinstated from the DL on Saturday, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Kelly wound up being sidelined for three weeks, and he hasn't pitched in a major-league game since July 9. Throughout the course of the 2017 season, the right-hander has posted a sparkling 1.49 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 36.1 innings. Kelly figures to reside in high-leverage situations upon his return, although Addison Reed may be in line to work the eighth-inning setup role for Craig Kimbrel.
Kelly (hamstring) will be activated from the disabled list Saturday, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. While Kelly was originally expected to return Friday, the Red Sox will give him an extra day to rest up before reinstating him. Kelly is expected to factor back into the setup mix upon activation, but he could see his role slightly diminished due to the recent acquisition of Addison Reed.