The Lehigh Valley IronPigs underwent a bit of a facelift on Monday, with an addition to the offense as well as on the mound. After joining Philadelphia in April via trade with Toronto, Ty Kelly made a remarkable debut in Allentown, going 2-3 with a HR. Speaking of remarkable, any thunder generated by Kelly’s bat was surely stolen by Tom Eshelman. The big righty introduced himself to the AAA level with eight innings of shutout ball, allowing just 4 hits, 1 walk, and 6 K’s. At just 87 pitches, he could’ve notched the complete game, and wanted to, but Adam Morgan needed to get an inning in, so it was not to be.
The IronPigs won their third in a row, and second shutout in three games and improved to 17-13 on the season, pulling to within a half game of first place Buffalo. A long summer lies ahead, though, and with so much activity taking place at the major league level already, it’s anyone’s guess what this roster will look like come September. One thing, however, appears to be clear – both of these newcomers are poised to make their mark in the International League.
Ty Kelly (not ranked on my preseason Prospects1500 Phillies Top 50)
Kelly will be 29 this summer. He’s bounced around several organizations since being selected by Baltimore in the 13th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. He’s a super-utility player, having appeared at every position but catcher in the minors during 2016. He was an Organization All-Star for Seattle in 2013 and 2014, posting some of his best career numbers with the Tacoma Rainiers with a .263/.381/.412 line, 15 HR’s, 80 RBI’s, and 11 SB’s in 2014. His one career HR came off of Jameson Taillon in Pittsburgh last June. He was the starting third baseman for the surprising Team Israel in this year’s World Baseball Classic and was on the Opening Day roster for the 2017 New York Mets. He had just one at-bat as a pinch hitter there before being DFA’d twice in a two-week span, first by the Mets, then by the Blue Jays.
His role this season seems to be as added depth to the Lehigh Valley roster. Depending on injuries, he could see some time in Philadelphia, though his career numbers show considerably more success on the minor league level. As his debut in Allentown showed this week, his role will likely be providing pop at the bottom of a loaded lineup.
The 22 year-old righty is competing in just his second full season of professional ball. He was selected in the second round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft by the Houston Astros, going 46th overall. He arrived with the Phillies prior to the start of the 2016 season as part of the haul for Ken Giles, along with Vincent Velazquez and Mark Appel.
In my Prospects1500 preseason Phillies Top 50 rankings heading into 2017, I placed Eshelman at #17. As noted there, the young pitcher is a command machine. This was evidenced in his dominant debut with the IronPigs – throwing four or less pitches to 27 of the 29 batters he faced and at one point retiring 12 in a row. Eshelman worked in Reading last season with Lehigh Valley manager, Dusty Wathan, and the manager observed Monday an improved slider and curveball.
A few early call-ups to Philadelphia have stretched the IronPigs rotation fairly thin. Eshelman’s previous start in Reading was a seven inning one-hit showing that probably sealed his fate with this early call up. Should he be shipped out of Lehigh Valley at some point this season, I think a September trip to Philadelphia would be more likely than a bus back to Reading.
Article featured image of Tom Eshelman – courtesy MiLB.com/Donald Holohan
Jeff Rush is a small business owner and obsessed fantasy baseball fan living in Brooklyn, NY. He attended the earliest Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Baron’s games as a child and now spends his subway rides in NYC listening to Tacoma Rainiers broadcasts. He owns Trea Turner as a 15th round keeper in a forever league and is never letting him go.