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Is a KBO starter a possibility for 2019?

Could the Milwaukee Brewers add to their pitching staff with a starter who has spent the past three years playing in Korea? A starter who found success in Asia could return to the U.S. in 2019, and he may fit in Milwaukee.

Merrill Kelly was a 27-year old journeyman who last pitched in the U.S. in 2014. Kelly posted a sub-3.00 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A affiliate. He didn’t get a chance to pitch in the Majors, but he could in December. He might fit with the Milwaukee Brewers.

How did Kelly perform in Korea?

Kelly spent the last four years with the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization. He made 119 starts and one relief appearance, and managed a 3.86 ERA in 729 1/3 innings. Kelly struck out 641, walked 206, and was tagged for 65 homers.

Last year, he posted a 4.09 ERA in 158 1/3 innings. He struck out 161, walked 47, and gave up 18 homers.

Keep in mind the KBO is a notorious hitter’s league. Any pitcher who managed a sub-5.00 ERA is considered a success in Korea’s smaller parks.

How did Kelly perform in the Minors?

It’s a little surprising that Kelly didn’t get a look with the Rays in 2014. Kelly spent the entire 2014 season with the Durham Bulls in Triple-A. He put up a 2.94 ERA in 114 innings with 108 strikeouts and 37 walks.

What’s the next move for Kelly?

Kelly isn’t eligible to sign until December 1st. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote that Kelly could net a Major League contract.

Is there any link to the Brewers?

At the moment, there isn’t a link to Kelly and the Milwaukee Brewers yet. GM David Stearns is known for his ‘outside-the-box’ thinking, and he’s already taken a risk on another former KBO star in Eric Thames. Stearns could look to Kelly as another versatile arm for his pitching staff. Kelly has worked mainly as a starter, but could also find a role in the Brewers bullpen.

Next: Jonathan Schoop on his way out of Milwaukee?

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Keep an eye out for movement on Kelly once he’s eligible to sign. Most players returning from Asia tend to sign quickly, and Kelly could easily have a new home by this time next week. He could be an interesting option for the Milwaukee Brewers to round out their pitching staff.

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