He’s suddenly the best player at 34.
There are quite a few players who have been able to export from the KBO to the major leagues and continue their successful careers. Among them, Merrill Kelly (35, Arizona Diamondbacks) is definitely at the top of the list. In its latest rankings of the best players by age as of March 3, MLB.com categorized Kelly as the best 34-year-old player.
Born in October 1988, Kelly is technically still 34 years old. He’s still going strong this season, with a 10-6 record and 3.31 ERA in 24 games. He was sidelined with a calf injury between late June and late July, which took him out of the National League wins race. He struggled against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 30, giving up seven runs on 12 hits in five innings with one walk and three strikeouts. However, he went 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in six starts in August.
Kelly went 48-32 with a 3.86 ERA in 119 games for the SK Wyverns of the KBO from 2015 to 2018. He was a member of SK’s last Korean Series championship in 2018. He then signed a two-year, $5.5 million, two-year, $9.5 million, and two-year, $18 million contract with Arizona. In total, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract.
However, Kelly is in the midst of his prime, having been recognized for his abilities by being named to Team USA for this year’s World Baseball Classic. Along with ace Zach Gallon, he is the de facto leader of the team’s starting pitching staff. He has the lowest ERA and batting average (.227) on the team and the second most innings pitched (141.1). He also has the second-best WHIP (1.20).
He now has 46 wins (41) in 121 career major league games. If he continues this pace into the 2024 season, he’ll have a good chance of hitting the mid-range of the 2024-2025 free agent market. At this point, a $33 million contract seems like a steal. 토토사이트
As MLB.com notes, “Players in this age group gradually get weaker. This is the age when pitchers get hurt the most. In many ways, it’s the most nerve-wracking time for a baseball player.” Now in his mid-30s, Kelly has yet to miss an extended period of time due to injury.