Phillies: Bryce Harper surprises Jared Kelley with top award

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper surprised top-ranked prospect Jared Kelley with the prestigious 2020 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year Award.

From being a starting quarterback in his sophomore year at Refugio High School in Texas, to two years later now considered the top-ranked high school pitching prospect in the 2020 Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Right-handed pitcher Jared Kelley, 18, has come a long way, and on Thursday, was named as the 2020 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year Award, the most prestigious award in high school sports. Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper surprised Kelley in a video chat with the good news.

Gatorade’s national award evaluates candidates on three pillars — athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character — and are selected as a representative of the best all-around high school student-athletes in the U.S. Notable baseball stars who previously won the award for baseball include Clayton Kershaw (2006), Zack Greinke (2002), Alex Rodriguez (1993) and Gary Sheffield (1986), among others. Kelley has donated time to local disaster relief, particularly helping rebuild his community after Hurricane Harvey in the summer of 2017.

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Kelley is considered regarded as his state’s best prep pitcher since Jameson Taillon, who was drafted second overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates exactly one decade ago. “He repeatedly dominated on the showcase circuit last summer,” writes “Few pitchers can create as much velocity with as little effort as Kelley, who can pump 93-96 mph fastballs and reach 98 with some running action.”

“He already owns an advanced changeup with fade and sink, and he’s willing to throw it in any count. His third-best pitch at the moment is a hard slurve in the low 80s that lacks consistency but should develop into at least a solid offering.”

Kelley is being projected as a frontline starter, with a “strong, physically mature frame,” who could reach the majors before he turns 21. “Ease of his delivery should allow him to log plenty of innings,” continues, who lists him as a No. 12-ranked prospect.

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The Phillies hold the 15th pick in this year’s draft, set for June 10-11, which was shortened to five rounds from its usual 40 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kelley, listed at 6-foot-3, and 215 pounds, has verbally committed to the University of Texas; his town, Refugio, just happens to be the birthplace of legendary Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. The hard-throwing pitcher has a long ways to go, but his numbers show promise he has a chance to live up to Ryan’s potential. In his 12 innings this year before the COVID-19 pandemic halted play, Kelley allowed no hits and struck out 34 batters out of his 36 overall outs recorded.

Last year, Kelley posted a 0.22 ERA, striking out 144 batters in just 65 innings and helped his team to a Class 2A Division I state title. He also shined in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field, Perfect Game All-American Classic, and Area Code Games, where scouts praised his performance as the best they had ever seen in the event’s history, writes Manny Randhawa. Kelley has a 32-3 career record and 0.43 ERA.

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In the video, Harper told Kelley that he hopes they become teammates, wishing that the right-hander does not play anywhere else.

While Kelly has proven he can pitch, scouts have been impressed with his ability to hit the ball hard at the plate as well. Had Kelley stuck with football, his coaches believe he would have been a sure-fire Division 1 athlete.

Instead, he stuck with baseball and is projected to be a top-15 draft pick in less than two weeks. And, just maybe the Phillies are the team that drafts him.