Kelly was drafted three times:
– In 2007 by the Orioles in the 37th round, out of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.
– In 2009 by the Indians in the 22nd round, out of Yavapai Junior College in Arizona.
– In 2010 by the Rays in the 8th round, out of Arizona State. This time he signed for a bonus of $125,000, via scout Jayson Durocher.
Merrill's dad, Tom Kelly, was the GM of the Chicago Ritz-Carlton and others within the Four Seasons Hotel corporation over 35 years before taking early retirement.
Merrill's brother, Reid, played five Minor League seasons in the Astros (2006-2009) and White Sox (2010) organizations.
Merrill is a strong competitor. And he enjoyed pitching in Korea. “It’s an interesting ballgame, it’s a completely different animal from what we see in the states," said Kelly. "The balls are a little smaller, the parks for the most part are a little smaller. The fans over there are crazy, they’re baseball crazy. They cheer from pitch 1 to pitch 250 of the game. It doesn’t matter if their home team is up by 10 or losing by 10, they’re in it from the start until the last out in the 9th. It can be intimidating when you first get over there, but the longer I was over there I learned to love it and the atmosphere was actually really cool."
Merrill had never pitched in the Major Leagues, but he posted decent numbers in the Rays' minor league system from 2010-2014 before becoming a durable four-year starter for the SK Wyverns in the hitter-friendly Korea Baseball Organization.
In 2019, the 30-year-old righthander should have a spot in the Arizona rotation to open the season, assuming all goes well in 2019 spring training.
Kelly’s ascent to the Major Leagues is unprecedented. Never before has a player with zero Major League experience played in Korea and returned directly to MLB. In 2016, reliever Tony Barnette came back from Japan to make his big-league debut at 32 with the Texas Rangers. And Eric Thames—who, like Kelly, is represented by Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon—parlayed an MVP season in Korea into a second shot in the Majors with a guaranteed three years and $15 million in Milwaukee.
Often players who find their Major League prospects stunted or even nonexistent will turn to jobs in Asia, where they can experience success and riches that go well beyond what the best Triple-A players can earn. Journeyman Dennis Sarfate became the most dominant closer in Japan and received a three-year extension worth more than $18 million, adding to the well over $10 million he already had made. Two of Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon’s other clients, Randy Messenger and Kris Johnson, each signed $10 million deals, a hefty haul in Nippon Professional Baseball. Kelly was well on his way to that.
Once he won a championship with SK Wyverns and their manager, former Royals skipper Trey Hillman, Kelly wanted to see what the major league market would bear. The answer was: plenty. The World Series champion Boston Red Sox were interested. So were the up-and-coming San Diego Padres. Kelly’s desire to return to his hometown—he was born and raised in the Phoenix area—and Arizona’s willingness to guarantee a second year sealed the homecoming.
Kelly could prove a solid bargain—perhaps not on the level of Miles Mikolas, who returned from Japan last year to dominate for the St. Louis Cardinals, but a back-of-the-rotation type that every team covets. And that’s fine with him. Every pitch Merrill Kelly throws in the big leagues, after all, he’s making history. (Jeff Passan—Yahoo Sports - 12/06/2018)
Merrill is an intelligent guy who speaks articulately. He is a cerebral pitcher. Kelly is confident, accomplished, and well prepared.
Dec. 1, 2018: Merrill and Bre Carl were married.
In 2019, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Kelly as the 15th-best prospect in the D'Backs organization.
MLB debut - March 30, 2019: It was a night of memorable debuts for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Merrill Kelly paused for a moment before making his first big league appearance at age 30.
"I took a minute before I threw the first pitch and took in the stadium, took in the surroundings, just so I can have that memory before I stepped on the rubber," the right-hander said. "Once I got going, once I stepped on the rubber, it was game time."
Kelly threw six strong innings for the victory and benefited from an offensive outburst started by Adam Jones' leadoff homer to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Diego Padres 10-3.
2015: Kelly signed with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization.
- December 6, 2018: The Diamondbacks signed Kelly to a two-year, $5.5 million contract. Merrill makes $2 million in 2019 and $3 million in 2020. The option for 2021 is worth $4.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The option for 2022 is worth $5.25 million, with no buyout.