Besides looking forward to loading up his plate with his mom’s sweet potato dish, Thanksgiving is also a time for Carson Kelly to look back and give thanks for his ride through 2016.
“It was definitely a tremendous year for me,” said Kelly. “Just starting in Double-A, spending some time there–the Futures Game, Triple-A, big league call-up, and then the Arizona Fall League. A ton of things to be thankful and all the hard work I put in, just a blessing to be able to get these opportunities.”
After hitting .287 in 64 games at Springfield (AA) and being named a Texas League All-Star, Kelly was promoted to Memphis (AAA) where he hit .292 in 113 at-bats. Then on September 5th, he made his big league debut with a double against Pittsburgh. Before the season was complete, Carson appeared in 10 games for the St. Louis Cardinals.
As he drove from Arizona to his home in Oregon, the realization of the above list really began to sink in.
“Going through my brain of everything–all the things I got to do this year, all the opportunities I got,” said Kelly. “You look back and see how far you’ve come and all the opportunities you get to experience. Very, very thankful. It’s exciting and I want to have a better ’17.”
The Cardinals top catching prospect, Kelly continued his productive season as he hit .286 and drove in 18 runs in the Arizona Fall League. He credits much of that success with watching and learning in the big leagues during September.
“Taking that information and putting it into the Arizona Fall League–I kind of treated it like how it was in the big leagues,” explained Kelly. “I had to change my mindset on it because ‘oh, you got the Arizona Fall League–another six weeks or so’. I changed my mindset. Taking the opportunity in September and everything that I had written down and remembered and applying that–immediately, rather than sitting at home and taking it into Spring Training, I think it kind of quick-started my development. It’s kind of a big confidence boost and a great six weeks to come into the off-season and take that momentum into Spring Training.”
Besides his own success in the AFL, Kelly was able to witness–both from the bench and behind that plate, that of pitcher Austin Gomber. The 6’5 lefty went 5-1 in his 7 starts and struck out 33 batters in his 33.1 innings pitched.
“His curveball–he’s got a really sharp breaker. I think that really played, but also establishing his fastball on both sides of the plate. That’s the biggest thing and that’s what we always work on is fastball command. Being able to work inside to righties, away to righties, everything. Being able to command both sides and that’s the biggest thing and that’s what he did. Then he would throw the breaking ball below the zone and swing over it or soft contact. That’s something he was really good at.”
“Now it’s just enjoy the off-season,” he said. “Recover, get ready for 2017, but right now there’s no specific goal. I’ve only been the off-season for a few days now so it’s time to reflect and see what I did in 2016 and then come up with a plan to make 2017 even better and what I can do to contribute and put myself in the best position.”
Part of that preparation will include his customary workout routine.
“I actually do a lot of pilates,” said Kelly, who began the practice when he converted to catcher a couple seasons ago. “That’s really helped me with my flexibility and just taking the blow of being a catcher for the whole season. I think the pilates is a big thing. The weight training, the pilates, massages–that little combo that I have out here in Oregon, that’s what I do. That’s how I get ready for 2017.”
photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports