The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the 2021 draft with a very specific strategy in mind, and were able to execute that strategy perfectly. After going with Henry Davis with the first overall pick, they went with high school players with their next four selections.
While the first three were widely known, the last was a relatively unknown, but it wasn’t for poor performance. Right-handed pitcher Owen Kellington became the highest drafted Vermont high school player when the Pirates took him in the fourth round.
Coming out of Vermont, not much was known about the righty, as MLB Pipeline didn’t have him in their top 250, and Baseball America had him ranked 388th.
That was mainly about a lack of exposure, as Kellington posted numbers that you couldn’t even repeat in a video game. In 49 innings, Kellington posted an 0.22 ERA and struck out 133 batters, or 91% of his recorded outs.
We saw the numbers, but there wasn’t much else information out on him, due to the competition not being the best in Vermont, scouts didn’t travel often that way.
Kellington does feature a fastball and curveball, which pair really well together and you can easily see why he was able to mow through so many hitters.
“High spin, high vert fastball from a low release, and a nasty breaking ball,” Director of Coaching and Development John Baker told Pirates Prospects. “He does have a unique fastball. It plays very well with that breaking ball. As far as two-pitch combination, he’s one of the more advanced players at that level.”
First professional appearance pic.twitter.com/3wMmPRtNY3
— Owen Kellington (@KellingtonOwen) June 8, 2022
Pretty good praise for a mostly unknown out of a region without the best of competition. Kellington was the last of the Pirates draft picks to sign, with the organization knowing his upside all along, he actually got an over-slot deal.
He didn’t play after signing, nor any of the prep pitchers they drafted, since the high school season had ended months before and they didn’t want to put any unwarranted strain on their arms.
As for what’s still in store for 2022, Kellington made his professional debut on June 7 in the Florida Complex League. He pitched two innings, allowed three hits, two runs, a walk, while striking out three. Despite just now getting his feet wet, it doesn’t seem like a move up is out of the question.
“The hope is to get Owen to an affiliate, and just continue to polish all of his stuff.” said Baker. If he were to join Bradenton this year, he would join Anthony Solometo, who has gotten off to a great start there. Bubba Chandler could also join those two at some point.
Until then, Kellington will continue to hone his craft in the FCL, and in a draft class that features someone who is going to try and make it as a two-way player, Kellington is quickly emerging as one of the more intriguing of the draft picks in 2021.
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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.