School: Waukesha West HS (Wisconsin)
Height/Weight: 6-1, 196 lbs
Previously Drafted: N/A
“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.” – MLB Pipeline
“Kelenic [is] 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.” – Baseball America ($$)
Scouting Grades (Via MLB Pipeline):
Prospect Overview and Future Outlook:
Go back 18 months and the early rub on the 2018 draft class included a Clemson phenom named Seth Beer and then a bevy of athletic prep bats. Fast forward to the two week out mark and college bats are on the rise, Seth Beer looks like a compensation round pick, and that slew of premium high school position players is a footnote in what’s being painted as a “depth draft.”
There’s one high school position player however who has broken out of footnote territory and managed to stay in the top ten conversation. That would be outfielder Jarred Kelenic, a Wisconsin product who exudes the type of raw talent and make-up that puts him a step above his peers.
Being from Wisconsin is notable because it’s outside of traditional baseball nodes along the West Coast, Texas, and Florida – all regions known to print out talent from both the high school and collegiate level. Wisconsin is a cold-weather state with less opportunity for year-round baseball. But Kelenic is certainly a year-round athlete, known to play circuit ball beyond his high school season and make the indoor gym and weight room his baseball field when snowflakes replace the white chalk on the diamond.
Baseball America says as much in their profile, stating that Kelenic “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.” The takeaway here is that Kelenic, 6-1 with a firm ~200 pound build, has been exposed to high-level conditioning not always seen at the high school level.
But he still will have an uphill battle coming from a state that has seen just one first-rounder in three decades. That designation falls to shortstop Gavin Lux from the 2016 class, a player the White Sox did substantial due diligence on. So Nick Hostetler and Co aren’t afraid to look a little north of Illinois for baseball talent. And they won’t have to look all that deep to see it in Jarred. The Louisville commit features a stable of average-to-plus tools across the board. While he doesn’t feature one eye-popping skill far and above the rest, he’s similar to Blake Rutherford in that he’s considered both polished for his level and boosted by a strong hit tool.
MLB Pipeline grades him out at 60 in that category as he’s the owner of a pure and clean stroke from the left-side. The bat speed is plus, with Perfect Game rating it in the 95th-percentile at the 2017 National Showcase. The sheer speed of his swing and astute barrel control led to an average exit velocity of 96 MPH at the same showcase.
He’s got a spread stance with a light stride and very little pre-swing noise. Watching Kelenic hit is both therapeutic and jarring (we’ll get to some videos later in this article). It’s an intriguing combination; his fluid movement, barrel calmly gliding through the zone, and then an unexpected explosion at the point of contact.
It’s not an empty hit tool as his loud contact has translated into both home run power and pop that consistently finds the alleyways. He already has a firm build, so there isn’t a ton of muscle projection here but he isn’t entirely maxed out either. It’s possible Kelenic bulks up a little more, refines the pitches he attacks, and sees the game power push toward plus. The raw power is arguably already above average.
Even if he loses a step to add power, Kelenic still features a plus run tool, one that actually flirted with plus-plus territory (6.57 in 60-yard) during a Perfect Game showcase.
The foot speed stabilizes his profile and is what makes him a potential option in center field as well. He has sharp instincts and the prowess to stay in center, but he could very easily profile in right field as well – where his pinpoint arm that revs up to the mid-90s would play quite nicely. He should have enough power to function in that role if need be.
The net net is that Kelenic adds a spark plug to an already strong tool box, where his edge sounds awfully similar to recent Chicago outfielder Adam Eaton, who brought max effort and a gritty dimension to his game on a nightly basis.
There’s a gray area with Kelenic as he went a sort of unorthodox route, opting to not play with his high school and instead participate in the Rawlings Summer League, Chicago Scouts Association in the fall, and with travel teams in the spring.
But lack of looks with a conventional high school club isn’t a huge detriment, as Kelenic faced unequivocally better talent in the travel circuit and had his share of standout performances with the USA National 18U Team in 2016, winning both MVP and a gold medal.
Last summer, he hit .257/.372/.486 with 2 home runs and 3 stolen bases in nine games in his second go of it with Team USA.
All of this came with a wood bat, where he’s been able to maintain his compact swing and exit velocity.
So whereas some high school players dominate their local slate of games but struggle with wood in circuit ball, Kelenic has excelled where it matters and when the most credible scouting pools are watching. So it’s off-base to think his draft stock would be diluted by not facing local talent during his high school career, especially in a region like Wisconsin.
With the White Sox picking at number four, Kelenic would qualify as somewhat of a reach but still wouldn’t be an outlandish selection by any means.
MLB Pipeline tabs him as the number ten prospect in the class, Baseball America has him ranked 12th and ESPN’s Keith Law rates him as the 7th best player in his Draft Top 100.
That puts Kelenic just on the periphery of Top 5 range and with college bats attracting the most pre-draft helium, he stands as the only realistic prep bat to have a shot at going that early.
Whether the White Sox pass on a college bat for him is another story. The White Sox scouting brain trust is already familiar with Kelenic as he actually played for their Area Code team.
Nick Hostetler has hammered home the point about filling in the lower levels of the minors to start to add some insulation to a critical mass about to graduate its first few waves of prospects. Going college-heavy in recent drafts means Chicago is starting to see a logjam, particularly in the outfield at some of its affiliates. Kelenic would immediately become Chicago’s most interesting teenage bat and likely start in Rookie Ball and then Low-A, away from where the bulk of the system’s current premier talent lies.
But drafting solely on the grounds of fitting a player into the overall farm puzzle is never a sound strategy, so if Chicago takes Kelenic it’s because they buy the tools and make-up to the point that his ceiling looks more interesting than a safer play like Nick Madrigal or Alec Bohm. There’s certainly an argument that Kelenic is more athletic and well rounded than those two – although with a little more risk.
Most mock drafts don’t see the fit though.
MLB’s Jim Callis has Kelenic falling to the Blue Jays at 12, with Chicago taking a college arm in Brady Singer. However, Callis does list Kelenic as on Chicago’s radar along with the likes of Madrigal and Swaggerty. Baseball America has the White Sox all over college bats and taking the cream of the crop from a hit-tool standpoint in Nick Madrigal with Kelenic falling to the Pirates at number ten.
ESPN’s Keith Law hasn’t heard much Kelenic buzz within the top ten threshold and has him falling to fifteenth overall to Texas while he has Chicago snagging college catcher Joey Bart.
Overall, the industry consensus is that the White Sox are zeroing on college bats and while Kelenic rates on the exterior of their pick range, most prognosticators peg him to be somewhat undervalued on draft day.
Despite the growing college narrative, Kelenic does seem to check a lot of boxes for the South Siders as an athletic, left-handed prep bat with the tools and make-up that render him a nice starter kit for any player development department. There was even a little smoke here when scouting director Nick Hostetler told David Wildman of The Loop Sports that the team was hoping the weather started to break to get some good looks at one more guy who might fit at four. Squint your eyes a little and that sure sounds like Kelenic.
It’s possible the White Sox could take the Wisconsin outfielder at number four, sign him to an under-slot deal, and then spread some of the excess pool money across the next two rounds. If they’re not in love with any specific college bat, it’s certainly a strategy worth pursuing.
Either way, Kelenic will be there for the White Sox if they’re so inclined. Now enjoy some video…
Jarred Kelenic arm and cage work from Prospect Pipeline:
Kelenic making a feisty running catch at none other than The Rate during the Double Duty Classic:
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