Merrill Kelly, 35, the ace of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, used to play for SK (now SSG) in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). Because of this background, he knows both the KBO and Major League Baseball better than most.
When StarNews recently sat down with Kelly in the away team’s clubhouse at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we asked him, “From a scouting standpoint, what Korean player would you like to bring to the major leagues, specifically to Arizona?
“It’s a very difficult question,” Kelly said with a smile, then seemed to think about it again. “I have to take a look at our team situation before I know who I can scout, but the first player that comes to mind is Kim Kwang-hyun (35-SSG),” he said. “He’s already played in the major leagues, but if we can, we’d love to bring him back and play with him again,” he said of his former teammate.스포츠토토
“I was very impressed with his pitching during his time in the majors,” Kelly said, adding, “COVID-19 delayed his re-signing with the majors and he had to go back to Korea, but he’s a great pitcher who could go to any team in the majors right now and make an immediate impact.”
The second Korean was Choi Jeong (36-SSG). “We currently have Christian Walker (32), a big first baseman who can hit 30 home runs in a season, but if Choi joins the team, he has the big bat to produce as many home runs as Walker,” Kelly said. “Choi could be a great addition to our batting order.”
The final South Korean player Kelly would like to scout is Lee Jung-hoo (25-KIUM). “I know him from watching him when I was playing in Korea,” Kelly said, “and just like Kim Hae-sung (28, San Diego), he’s an outstanding player who can make an impact in the major leagues if he comes here.”
Born in Texas and raised in Arizona, Kelly was selected by Tampa Bay in the eighth round (251st overall) of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He was invited to Major League Baseball spring training in 2014 to compete for an opening day roster spot, but was unsuccessful and opted to head to South Korea at the age of 26.
In four seasons in the KBO (2015-2018), Kelly compiled a career record of 48-32 with a 3.86 ERA and helped SK win the 2018 Korean Series.
He signed with his current club, Arizona, in December 2018 to fulfil his dream of making his Major League debut, and last year became the protagonist of the KBO’s “reverse export myth” when he signed a two-year, $18 million contract extension. This season, he has already started 10 games, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.98 ERA. He is second on the team in both wins and ERA behind Zach Gallon (6-2, 2.97 ERA).