Kelly enjoying life in Southern League

Rays prospect goes 5-for-5, plates three, falls triple shy of cycle

Dalton Kelly hit .305 in 69 games in the Florida State League before he was promoted on Tuesday. (Buck Davidson/MiLB.com)

By Gerard Gilberto / MiLB.com | July 2, 2017 1:08 AM

When he learned of the trade that sent fellow Rays farmhand Braxton Lee to Miami, Dalton Kelly began to crunch the numbers. Only an hour after seeing the news, Michael Johns, his manager with Class A Advanced Charlotte, called Kelly into his office and let him know he was being promoted.

"I wasn't expecting it at all. The last couple seasons, I played the full season where I was at. So I was prepared to just be in Port Charlotte and win a championship down there," the 22-year-old said. "Double-A is just that level where you want to get to because you're just kind of a call away. I feel like that's a big step for a Minor Leaguer."

Since that conversation, Kelly has been one of the Minors' hottest hitters.


Gameday box score


The Rays prospect went 5-for-5 and fell a triple shy of a cycle in his fourth game at Double-A as Montgomery outslugged Pensacola, 9-8, on Saturday at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Kelly homered, doubled twice, drove in three runs and scored three times.

Prior to being elevated, the UC Santa Barbara product batted .305/.390/.411 with 20 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs in 69 games with Charlotte. In four games since the promotion, he has 10 hits -- five for extra bases -- in 17 at-bats with four RBIs.

"I've been pretty comfortable for the past couple months down in Port Charlotte," Kelly said. "I've just been trying to slow everything down and see the baseball and make sure the ball is up in the zone and letting it fly when it is. That's been working."

The 22-year-old made a bid for the cycle on June 22 against St. Lucie, falling a triple shy with four hits in five at-bats. Saturday night's performance marked his second five-hit game, with the first coming on April 19, 2016 with Class A Clinton in the Mariners organization.

"Hitters have a tendency to overthink, so I just search for a feeling. We all get to the point where you just have to break it down and get back to the basics," Kelly said. "I'm just really trying to see the ball out of the pitcher's hand and swing at good pitches." 

Video: Biscuits' Kelly cranks two-run blast

Kelly took his first three at-bats against Pensacola starter Jose Lopez, lining a single to right field in the second inning before getting erased on Mac James' run-scoring double play. He followed Joe McCarthy's two-out walk in the third with an RBI double to center and came up after another free pass to McCarthy in the fifth before slugging a homer over the fence in left-center.

"I was really just trying to punch the ball the other way and just try and get something going that inning," Kelly said. "He threw me just a little two-seamer down and away and I just stayed on it. I just hit it up and it caught a little gust of wind."

Video: Kelly's fifth hit for Montgomery

The 2015 38th-round pick came up in the seventh with the score knotted at 8-8 against reliever Carlos Gonzalez, aware the cycle was within reach.

"I was walking on deck and my manager told me I was going to steal first pitch and I told him, 'I'm going to hit a triple, so it's not going to matter,'" Kelly recalled.

But he also noticed where third baseman Nick Senzel was positioned, deep and shaded toward shortstop, and he couldn't resist the temptation to lay down a bunt to get things started.

"The game was tied at that point, so a win trumps trying to hit for a cycle," Kelly said. "I was just trying to get on base and it happened to work out."

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He scored the go-ahead run on Jamaes' sacrifice fly and got another crack at the cycle leading off the ninth against Zack Weiss. He hacked at the first offering and lifted a fly ball to the gap in left but could only pull into second for his second double.

"I hit it hard, I hit it in the gap and I was running hard out of the box," Kelly said. "I looked to see if the outfielder might have misplayed it or something, but all three of their outfielders have plus-plus arms. [Left fielder Tyler Goeddel] fielded it cleanly and got it in before I was even at second. But I was running hard out of the box, for sure."

Kelly scored again on another sacrifice fly by James.

The Biscuits also got solo homers from Riley Unroe and Grant Kay, while Reds No. 9 prospect Aristides Aquino homered and doubled and Gabriel Guerrero went 3-for-6 for Pensacola.

Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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