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Draft profile: Jarred Kelenic

With their first selection in the 2018 draft, the Mets selected Jarred Kelenic, an outfielder from Wisconsin.

Name: Jarred Kelenic
Born: Waukesha, Wisconsin
Age: 18 (07/16/99)
Height/Weight: 6’1”/200 lbs.
Position: OF
Bats/Throws: L/L
School: Waukesha West High School (Waukesha, Wisconsin)

Living in a cold-weather state and being a baseball player comes with its own set of problems. Cold weather and snow early in the year stop players from being able to get on the field, and when they are able to do so, they generally find themselves a bit behind their fellow amateurs in warmer weather states. For many years, it was a baseball truism that the quality of baseball and the players playing it in such places were inferior to that of the baseball and the players playing it in warmer climates. In recent years, in order to counter that, indoor facilities began popping up.

Jarred Kelenic took advantage of such a facility. At the age of 14, he began working out at Hitters Baseball Academy, a private academy in Caledonia, Wisconsin, roughly a half-hour from his native Waukesha. When RJ Fergus, owner of the academy first met the youngster, he knew Kelenic was going to be something special. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and it doesn’t take much to tell the special ones from the non-special ones,” he said.

Because Waukesha West plays a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association summer schedule, Kelenic does not play baseball at his high school. Instead, he plays on Hitters Baseball Academy’s travel team, national showcase teams, and was invited to be on the 18U National Team in 2016 and 2017. As a result, he has been playing in front of scouts and talent evaluators for years and has received plenty of national exposure. The track record for hitters from Wisconsin generally has been poor, but Kelenic’s track record on the showcase circuit, and on the 18U National Team speak for themselves. In 2016, he started all 8 games for the 18U National Team and hit .407/.500/.741 in 27 at-bats, slugging 1 homer, stealing 4 bases in 4 attempts, and walking 4 times to 1 strike out. In 2017, he started all 9 games for the team and hit .257/.372/.486 in 35 at-bats, slugging 2 homers, stealing 3 bases in 3 attempts, and walking 7 times to 7 strikeouts. His performance on the gold medal winning 2016 team won him the Most Valuable Player award.

Thanks to his athletic gifts and hard work ethic, Kelenic became viewed as not only one of the top high school baseball prospects in the country, but one of the top prospects in baseball, validating Fergus’ premonition. With his selection by the Mets at number six, he became the first Wisconsinite to be selected in the top 10 picks of the MLB Draft.

A left-handed hitter, Kelenic has outstanding bat speed, regularly hitting balls with exit velocities in the mid-90s. From an open, spread stance at the plate, he has a low tension, level swing. When he is able to fully extend and whip the barrel head through the zone, the ball explodes off of his bat with plenty of spin and carry, making him a power threat when he really turns on a pitch. Thanks to his strong barrel awareness and loose wrists, he uses the entire field. Like most players his age, Kelenic does need to work on recognizing breaking pitches and recognizing balls that he can drive from balls that he might not necessarily be able to, but the outfielder is a diligent worker and most scouts and evaluators believe that he will improve on this skill in due time.

In the outfield, Kelenic is a defensive force in center. At 6’1”, 200-pounds, he is well proportioned and highly athletic. Thanks to his above-average speed, good reads of the ball off the bat, and good routes, he has the ability to play center field. His arm is strong and accurate, with a quick release. Scouts and evaluators are split as to whether or not he will be able to stay in center field as he ages. Those that are more pessimistic about his defense will say that his speed will back up as he ages and adds muscle mass, detracting from his range, while those with more bullish outlooks say that his exceptional reads and strong instincts will counteract any loss of speed. If he is unable to play center, his arm and bat profile well there.

Kelenic is an intense competitor. He credits his grandfather, Bob Leibhan, for turning him into such an intense competitor. “He was somebody who taught me how to compete in anything that we did,” Kelenic said. “When I played basketball and baseball and football with him, he never let me win, and that was the right way to handle it. Because now that I’m here, I’m not going to let you win.” His quiet intensity and tremendous work ethic are what made the youngster what he is today. “He’s turned himself into what he is today through hard work…Nobody’s going to out-work him”, coach Fergus said.

Kelenic has a commitment to Louisville.