The polarizing Jim Leyland announced his retirement a little over a year ago. Many fans thought that with Leyland heading out of town, fan anti-hero, and perceived favorite son, Don Kelly would follow him out the door. Alas, the new regime headed by Brad Ausmus and old regime helmed by Dave Dombrowski looked at their bench and realized there was no one better. The player returned on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
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If we were not giving players letter grades, we could easily give Kelly a grade of “Meh.” He is just kinda around. Fan hatred aside, he’s not the worst bench option in baseball, but he’s not the worst. You get what you get form Kelly: versatility, below average bat, average defensive skills and that’s about it. No flash, no glamour. He won’t often win a ball game but he won’t lose it either.
Kelly’s 2014 stats were about as you’d expect, which earns him a solid C grade. Appearing in 95 games, Donnie Baseball hit .245 with 7 RBIs and an OPS of .620. He didn’t hit a homer for the first time since a smattering of games in Detroit back in 2009. While these numbers would be embarrassing for an every day player, let’s remember who we are dealing with here: a role/bench player.
Defensively, Kelly played six positions (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, CF, RF) and also served as a DH for one game. Fans seem to dislike Kelly, but when Rajai Davis was felled by injury late in the season, stretching into the postseason, fans were hopeful of a Don Kelly-citing in center field due to the liability of an Ezequiel Carrera-manned center field.
Once again, we’ll have to wait to see if Kelly wiggles his way onto the 2015 roster. Dombrowski has made it one of his top goals to improve the bench, however I just have a feeling Kelly will still be a part of it.
He’s not yet done trolling Tigers’ fans.