Friday, June 29, 2012

Random Prospect of the Day - Matthew Kennelly

Back to the offensive random prospects, helped out by a Random.org number generator, and I land on yet another backup catcher type.  For what it's worth, the focus with this column is to not have a love affair with super prospects, but shine light on maybe some guys most Braves fans have never heard of.  They might be journeyman, long-shots, or never-will-be's, but the majority of players who make up the system are guys you won't ever be on any Top 20 prospect list.  For previous versions of this column, click here and here.

What a handsome devil!  My wife would just love you.  Granted, you are a catcher and I'm not sure my wife has ever seen a catcher she didn't love.  Still, congrats on not being ugly.  The guy to the left is Matthew Kennelly, a Braves farmhand since he was 16.  What makes his story a little unique from the typical one is that Kennelly was signed out of Australia, where he was a member of the 2006 team that played for the World Junior Championship. 

Kennelly finally made his stateside debut after he turned 18, appearing in 39 games for the Gulf Coast League's squad in rookie ball.  The results were not very pretty as Kennelly hit just .215 with a .578 OPS.  Kennelly continued on, joining Danville the following season (2008) and appearing in 44 games for the D-Braves sandwiched around a late July trip up to Rome where he played in ten games before coming back.  With Danville, Kennelly hit .246 and showed zero plate patience with 8 walks to 37 K's.  His 13 extra-base hits included four homers, but the Braves probably had hoped for more than a .650 OPS.  In 10 games between late July and early August with Rome, Kennelly went 16 for 35 (.457) with 5 2B's.  Between the two stops, he gunned down 57% of would-be basestealers, dominating that part of the game.

Kennelly would bounce between Rome and Myrtle Beach the following season, playing in 46 games with Rome and just one more game with the Pelicans.  His 2009 stats didn't give the Braves much to be excited about, though his walk rate improved dramatically.  He obliterated his previous high of ten walks with 27, but OPS'd under .600 between the two stops.  His numbers for the Pelicans were even worse as he OPS'd .499 when he played there.  After looking like a Mini-Pudge Rodriguez with his arm the previous season, his follow-up campaign wasn't nearly as good as he threw out just 20%.  He was on the provisional roster for Team Australia's 2009 World Baseball Classic team, but wasn't selected to join his mates (hehe).

He spent 2010 as a the primary starter at catcher for Myrtle Beach, spending the entire minor league season there and getting into 76 games during the Pelicans' final year with the Braves.  He improved his walk rate slightly and set a new high with seven homers, but again only hit .226 while throwing out just 28% of would-be basestealers. After the season, he returned home and played in the Australian Baseball League, hitting .306 for Perth, where he played alongside his brother Tim, who is a utility player in the Phillies organization. 

If you aren't going to produce offensively, become a catcher because regardless, you are getting promotions.  Kennelly went to Mississippi to open 2011, though he would quickly be needed for an injury replacement in Gwinnett and played in two games there before returning to Mississippi to complete the season.  Kennelly played in 74 games and had his best year stateside since 2008.  He hit .262 with a .675 OPS.  He also went 2 for 7 with Gwinnett in his brief time there.  Again, he played for Perth in the ABL after the season and hit six homers in just 45 games with an OPS topping .800 so the value of these numbers aren't high.

This season, he has hit to the tune of .210 for Mississippi while backing up Christian Bethancourt.  He's in the process of walking more than he has struck out (15 to 14), though he has once again displayed zero power.  He also played in his first games away from behind the back of the dish, getting a game at first and two at DH (how bad is your offense when Kennelly is DHing?). 

Overall, Kennelly remains an organizational guy who lacks the potential that made Braeden Schlehuber a high draft choice or the potential that has made Bethancourt such a high reward talent.  Kennelly might head to Gwinnett next year to caddy Bethancourt or might back up Schlehuber at Mississippi.  Or he might just be released.  Likely to be included as a World Baseball Classic possible participant for the 2013 version of the event, Kennelly is a long-shot to ever sniff a major league roster.

Though, hey, J.C. Boscan has been in the majors each of the last two seasons. 

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