The New York Mets have drafted prep outfielder Jarred Kelenic from Waukesha (Wis.) West High School with the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Kelenic was the only outfielder in the high school class to unanimously make the first team in Baseball America’s Preseason All-America vote, as decided on by major scouting directors. He is widely regarded as the top prep bat in the 2018 draft and had committed to play next season at Louisville.
Kelenic, 18, was born July 16, 1999 and is 6’1” and 196 pounds.
The last time the Mets had a pick in the Top 10 they selected outfielder Michael Conforto in 2014 from Oregon State.
Here’s what top evaluators had to say about the newest member of the Mets’ organization.
Kelenic was the only outfielder in the high school class to unanimously make the first team in Baseball America’s Preseason All-America vote, as decided on by major scouting directors. Kelenic achieved that honor as one of the best hitters in the class with a balanced and powerful swing, a track record in the middle of USA Baseball’s 18U National Team lineup and a strong arm, as well as athleticism, above-average speed and impressive route running. One of the most intense players in the class, Kelenic has a fiery demeanor on the field that gives pause for some evaluators, while others who know him have no issues and see his passionate personality as a positive indicator. He lives and breathes baseball and is regularly in his dad’s training facilities in Waukesha, Wis., and also worked out in the same facility as Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt.
One of the more polished hitters in the class, Kelenic has the frame and strength to continue to add more power as he gets into player development and could wind up with plus raw power down the road. As he ages, scouts are mixed on whether he stays in center field or moves to a corner, with his backers pointing to exceptional reads and defensive instincts, and detractors saying that his speed will back up as he gets stronger. He has more than enough arm for the outfield, regularly registering 96 mph readings from the grass and regarded as one of the most accurate arms in the class. The challenge with Kelenic is that he’s been difficult for teams to scout this spring in Wisconsin. He’s playing with a travel team rather than his high school and he’s also been seen indoors more frequently than outdoors. The track record for Wisconsin hitters is also poor, but Kelenic’s own track record with Team USA and on the showcase circuit, combined with his natural tools and makeup, could allow him to become the exception. He should be one of the first prep bats to get drafted this June.
Kelenic has the tools and track record to become the first Wisconsin product ever selected in the top 10 picks, and at the very least should become just the seventh Badger Stater ever plucked in the first round. He was the leading hitter on the U.S. national 18-and-under team as a rising junior in 2016 and helped the squad win a gold medal for the second straight summer in 2017. Committed to Louisville, he’ll be Draft-eligible as a 21-year-old sophomore in 2020 in the unlikely event he makes it to college rather than turning pro.
Compared to a more athletic version of Mark Kotsay, Kelenic stands out most for his hitting ability. He has tremendous feel for the barrel and repeatedly demonstrates a professional approach from the left side of the plate. With his solid raw power and speed, he can contribute offensively in a variety of ways.
Scouts aren’t sold that Kelenic can stay in center field all the way up to the big leagues, but his quickness and instincts give him a chance. If he has to move to a corner, he has more than enough arm strength to handle right field. His work ethic is as impressive as his physical gifts.
Because of the local weather, high school baseball in Wisconsin doesn’t get underway until late May, which would have made Kelenic impossible to scout were there not alternatives. Kelenic ended up on a youth travel team called Hitters Baseball which played lots of weekend games at any of three facilities near Kenosha and in Cedar Rapids. The concentration of opposing talent in these games was sufficient enough that teams thought Kelenic reinforced what they saw from him as an underclassman. He’s a selective hitter with all-fields doubles power and a chance to stay in center field.
Kelenic is almost 19 and already quite physically mature, each considered negatives by the scouting community, but he comes with a long track record most prep hitters do not. Opinions vary regarding Kelenic’s physical projection and how it might affect his power output and ultimate defensive home, but Kelenic’s bat is stable enough that he’s one of the higher-floor high school prospects. With few college hitters in the mid-first round mix, Kelenic could be considered a viable, slightly toolsier alternative to college hitting as early as pick #6.