Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals are considering signing Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich. In 2012, when he was 15 years old, Heimlich pleaded guilty to a felony charge of molesting his then-six-year-old niece. Viewed by many scouts as one of the most talented pitchers in college baseball, Heimlich went undrafted in the 2017 and 2018 drafts.
Heimlich has maintained his innocence despite pleading guilty. The victim’s mother said to The New York Times, “There is no way he didn’t do it,” describing her daughter’s details as “very specific.”
That a baseball team would be interested in Heimlich despite his past is not surprising. Teams look past all kinds of wretched off-field behavior as long as they get a player who can help them win. But the Royals’ interest, in particular, is perplexing since the team has gone out of its way to position itself as a moral bellwether. Last year, we learned that the Royals teach their players about the detrimental effects of drugs and alcohol, as well as pornography. GM Dayton Moore said, “[We’re] very transparent about things that happen in our game, not only with drugs and alcohol. We talk about pornography, and the effects of what that does to the minds of players and the distractions, and how that leads to abuse of — domestic abuse — to abuse of women. How it impacts relationships — we talk about a lot of things. And I don’t mind sharing with you.”
The Royals held an anti-porn seminar in March as well:
If you’re going to go around wagging your finger at people for perceived moral shortcomings, you had better walk the straight and narrow yourself. For the Royals to do this and then show interest in Heimlich calls into question their credibility both on a baseball level and on a social level.
We wrote a lot about Casey Kelly on this site circa 2010-12.
It was understandable. Kelly was a big-time draftee for the Red Sox and famously split time as a shortstop and a pitcher in the minors, with some people even wondering if he could do it full time. The Sox put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, as he became the top overall prospect in the Boston organization as a pitcher. He then made news when he was sent to San Diego — along with Anthony Rizzo — in the famous Adrian Gonzalez trade in December 2010.
He made his big league debut for the Padres in late August of 2012, holding a pretty darn good Atlanta Braves team scoreless for six innings, striking out four. He would pitch in five more games in the season’s final month to not very good results but missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 thanks to Tommy John surgery.
He wouldn’t make it back to the bigs until 2015 — pitching only three games after being converted to a reliever — before the Padres cut him loose, trading him to the Braves for Christian Bethancourt who, like a younger Kelly, the Padres thought could be a two-way player, catching and relieving. That didn’t work for him either, but I digress.
Kelly made a career-high ten appearances for a bad Braves team in 2016, was let go following the season and was out of the majors again in 2017 after the Cubs released him a couple of months after he failed to make the team out of spring training. He resurfaced with the Giants this past season for seven appearances. The Giants cut him loose last month.
Now Kelly’s journey takes him across the ocean. He announced on Instagram last night that he’s signed with the LG Twins in the Korean Baseball Organization. He seems pretty happy and eager about it in his little video there. I don’t blame him, as he’ll make $1 million for them, as opposed to staying here and almost certainly winding up in a Triple-A rotation making $60K or whatever it is veteran minor leaguers make.
This was probably way too many words to devote to a journeyman heading to play in Korea, but we so often forget top prospects once they fail to meet expectations. We also tend to forget all of the Tommy John casualties, focusing instead on the Tommy John successes. As such, I wanted to think a bit about Casey Kelly. I hope things work out well for him in the KBO and a baseball player who once seemed so promising can, after a delay, find success of his own.