Feature Photo: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners
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Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners
A first-round pick in 2018 from the high school ranks, Kelenic was the rare top-of-the-draft type of prospect traded within a calendar year of turning pro. The Mets included him in the move that brought Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to Queens, sending Kelenic and other prospects to Seattle in exchange. The Mariners have been aggressive with the young outfielder, throwing him into the fire in a few Major League spring training games as a 19-year-old.
For a recent prep draftee from a cold-weather state, Kelenic’s barrel-feel is very advanced. He doesn’t have issue catching up to velocity and squares up good fastballs to all parts of the zone. There’s still some adjustment being made to pro-level breaking stuff, though we aren’t overly concerned about any long-term contact questions. Kelenic’s wiry-strong frame has surprising present batspeed and raw power, able to drive the ball in BP without selling out. He’s still learning which counts and pitch types to open up on in games, but the end result could be a nice blend of hit/power from a center-diamond defender. Defensively, Kelenic’s plus athleticism and instincts make him a standout defender in CF. His reads and routes are excellent, with the closing speed to finish plays both coming in and going back on balls. He draws rave reviews from scouts for an intense and competitive demeanor, the type of prospect that works hard to get the most out of his tools.
Kelenic is a few years off but already grades as one of the higher-upside outfield prospects in baseball. His ceiling as an above-average offensive contributor in CF places him among our Top 125 prospects entering 2019.
Jeter Downs, SS/2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Downs was one of two prospects the Dodgers received in an off-season mega-deal with the Reds. He’s a capable defender at either middle infield spot with intriguing offensive upside for a center-diamond player. There’s some chance he’s a 2B long-term, though the bat could still be enough to make Downs a regular in that scenario.
I saw him DH in a short look, taking patient at-bats and showing a compact swing across a fairly quiet overall day at the plate. His hands work quickly to the baseball with a slight uppercut, geared for a nice mix of contact and lift. That showed up in his statline last year in A-Ball, hitting for a fair average while racking up 13 homers and 20+ doubles. Downs has an enthusing contact profile for power, a high fly ball approach that has only put roughly 30-percent of balls in play on the ground as a pro.
Michael Gigliotti, OF, Kansas City Royals
Gigliotti’s premium athleticism and enthusing 2017 pro debut set expectations high for his full-season pro debut last year. Unfortunately, 2018 was mostly a lost season for the outfielder, who missed the majority of the season after tearing his ACL in early April. He’s a plus runner who looks the part in CF, able to cover plenty of ground with long, graceful strides. He shows a knack for barreling balls from a fluid left-handed stroke, and there’s reason to project on a bit more power coming on as he fills out a sinewy 6-foot-1 frame.
Gigliotti took some good cuts in this backfields look, albeit with a swing that might need to quiet down against higher-level arms. He’s athletic enough to make contact without getting his front side down particularly early, though there’s some excess pre-pitch movement that could hint at limited pitch recognition if strikeouts become an issue up the ladder. It’s tough to bin Gigliotti exactly right now given his distance from the big leagues and missed time last year. He’ll head back to Lexington to begin 2019, though it’s possible he’ll see High-A Wilmington if any of the Blue Rocks’ prospects in the outfield (Seuly Matias, Kyle Isbel, Blake Perkins) move to Double-A later in the year.
Justin Dunn, RHP, Seattle Mariners
The main pitching prospect involved in the blockbuster trade that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle to the Mets, I got a look at Dunn pitching in a Major League game. The 2016 first-rounder is coming off a season split between two levels, getting his first taste of Double-A competition. Dunn was sharp across four innings of work, striking out six and walking two while allowing an earned run.
A plus athlete, Dunn’s coordinated mechanical operation allows remaining projection on his control and command. The fastball sat 92-to-93 mph, touching 95 mph at best, showing the ability to reach back for a bit extra when needed. Dunn has advanced ability to mix grips on his fastball, showing hitters four-seam, two-seam, and cut-like variants. He hit spots low and armside best in this outing, still showing some ability to go across the plate and command his heater inside to lefties. He shows a good feel for his breaking balls, going between a true slider in the low-80s and a softer curveball as a wrinkle. Dunn lands his slider both inside and outside the zone with intent, getting swings over the top by causing same-side batters to chase it down and away. His changeup grades out behind the slider but still plays as an effective pitch. It’s a bit firm at 86-to-88 mph and could use more separation off his fastball, though its late show and armside dive hint that there’s room to develop more of a third offering.
I was impressed by Dunn’s ability to show a deep arsenal of pitches and keep numerous speeds around the zone. Regarded as a candidate to move to the ‘pen as an amateur, he has ironed out parts of his game and now seems like a fairly safe bet to remain a rotation piece. He’ll likely head back to Double-A to begin 2019, with some chance to surface in the big leagues later in the year. Dunn isn’t far from being able to step into a #4 or #5 start role, and ultimately could develop into a #3/#4 type as he adjusts to the highest level.
OTHERS OF NOTE
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