Minor League Career
After being selected in the third round of the MLB first year player draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Kelly began his professional career with the Batavia Muckdogs, a Short-Season A ball team in the New York-Pennsylvania League.
The 21 year-old Kelly made his first professional appearance on July 5, 2009 against an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. He entered the game in the sixth inning retiring all three batters he faced, including one strike out.
On the season, Kelly appeared in 16 games with two starts and had a 2-3 record with a 4.75 ERA for the Muckdogs. That team finished in fourth place with a 37-39 record. Joe struck out 4 batters in a game on four different occasions, and registered one save in his first professional season. He also had a 2.73 SO/W ratio and allowed 0 homeruns in 30.1 innings pitched.
Minor League Teammates
Joe Kelly was drafted in the same class as future all-stars like Stephen Strasburg (no.1 overall) and Mike Trout, but his first season also saw him playing with future big league teammates Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, and soon-to-be best friend Shelby Miller.
Beginning his first full season as a professional in 2010, the Cardinals assigned Kelly to A-ball Quad Cities as he transitioned into more of a starting role.
Alternating starts and relief appearances early in the midwest league season, he took to starting full time by mid-season. Joe had a run of 12 consecutive starts from June 20-August 31. He was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for the week of 7/26-8/1 for an outing where he struck out 11 batters in 6.2 innings pitched.
By season’s end, Kelly had appeared in 26 games — making 18 starts — and had a 4.63 ERA in 103.1 innings pitched.
He ended the season rated as the 10th-best prospect in the Cardinals Organization by Baseball America.
Joe Kelly Pitches 3 Scoreless Innings for the Bandits
In 2011, Kelly was invited to big league spring training for the first time. In 5 games, he allowed 8 runs and was reassigned to minor league camp.
He began his season with the high-A Palm Beach Cardinals, tossing 5 shutout innings over the St. Lucie Mets.
In 3 starts between May 18-May 31, Joe allowed 3 earned runs in 22 innings pitched (1.23 ERA), twice taking no-hitters into the 8th inning of ball games. He was voted to the Florida State League South All-Star team.
On July 10, 2011, a 23 year old Joe Kelly reached AA for the first time and struggled against his new competition. By the end of the 2011 season, Joe had started to put it together, allowing only 6 runs in 17 innings pitched.
On the season, Kelly combined to 11-6 with 3.68 ERA in 23 games between A+ and AA in a career high 132 innings pitched.
Joe Kelly started the 2012 season back in the minor leagues, but he was assigned to AAA for the first time.
With the Memphis Redbirds, he started 12 games from April 7 through June 4. While he managed only a 2-5 record, he also registered a 2.86 ERA in 72.1 innings pitched.
On June 4, he made his final start against the Kansas City Royals AAA team tossing a season high 8 innings while allowing only one run. He had proven enough in AAA.
Called Up to the Major Leagues
On June 8 — one day before his 24th birthday — it was announced that Kelly would be called up to St. Louis to start in place of injured Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia.