An inauspicious beginning to his Appalachian League tenure did not inspire much concern for Jarred Kelenic. In fact, the third-ranked Mets prospect recognized many of his hitting woes had come from hard luck, rather than a lack of execution.
He was looking up at the Mendoza line after his first three-hit game for Rookie-level Kingsport on Aug. 11 against Danville, but since then, he's been playing up to realistic standards for a No. 6 overall Draft pick.
On Thursday, Kelenic bashed his fifth homer on the circuit, singled twice and scored three runs during his fourth consecutive multi-hit effort for the Mets in a 15-7 victory over the Pirates at Hunter Wright Stadium. The 19-year-old has hit safely in 11 of the past 12 games and is 9-for-15 (.600) with nine RBIs in the past four days.
"Right now, I'm just trying to keep things simple, but at the same time, continually do what I've been doing and that's hit the ball hard," Kelenic said. "They're just starting to find spots, which is great. ... I'm just trying to stick to the same plan, and that's just barrel balls and be on time."
Gameday box score
MLB.com's No. 66 overall prospect immediately caught fire after the Draft in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, batting .413/.451/.609 with five extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 12 games. He was quickly elevated to Kingsport on July 9, but compiled a .147/.326/.309 slash line with two homers, two triples, a double and 11 RBIs through 19 games in July.
Things turned around quickly in August for Kelenic, who is batting .326 this month to raise his Appy League average to .250. The left-handed hitter collected his first two knocks Thursday off Bristol starter Denny Roman to improve 10-for-27 (.370) against southpaws.
After Yoel Romero opened the game with a double to left field against Roman, Kelenic slapped a base hit through the left side and stole second before Mets No. 8 prospect Ronny Mauricio plated Romeo with a sacrifice fly to right. Kelenic said the first hit off Roman set the tone for a comfortable day at the plate.
"I started the day off hot, and ultimately, I took it as, 'I know where my barrel is at and my hands,' stuff like that," he said. "I was ready. I knew I was going to have a good day right then and there."
With two on and two out in the following inning, Kelenic caught hold of an 0-1 hanging curve from Roman and lifted it over the fence in right-center for his first professional long ball against a lefty.
"I knew he was going to come with a curveball," Kelenic said. "It was up and in, and I crushed it."
Things took a wild turn in the fifth as Kelenic was plunked to start the inning, leading to the ejections of Roman, Bristol manager Miguel Perez and Kingsport skipper Sean Ratliff. When the dust settled, Kelenic swiped second for his 11th stolen base on the circuit and continued to third after the throw down from catcher Zac Susi was deflected into the outfield. He later scored the tiebreaking run on a base hit to right by 16th-ranked Shervyen Newton.
Regardless of whether the hits have been falling, Kelenic has been able to parlay his natural speed into aggressiveness on the basepaths. He attributed the clutch stolen base to situational awareness, knowing he wanted to stay out of the double play while getting the tying run into scoring position.
"It's ultimately having confidence in myself to know that I can take the bag," he said. "In that situation where I got hit ... I'm going to take that bag. ... It comes down to getting your jumps and getting your good lead.
"It feels great to come down here, and if I can not only get a couple hits but can also steal some bases, to have that extra frosting on the cake, any way I can help the team out, I'm going to do it."
The Waukesha, Wisconsin, native opened the nine-run seventh by lining a single to right against right-hander John O'Reilly. He later scored on a three-run shot by No. 10 prospect Mark Vientos, his 11th in the league. Kelenic got another chance in the same inning, but struck out on three pitches against Bristol righty Vince Deyzel.
Mauricio, 17, has hits in three of his first nine at-bats with three RBIs since being promoted to Kingsport on Tuesday. Vientos chipped in a single during his second trip to the plate in the seventh to improve to .283 with 51 RBIs, third-best on the circuit. Newton, a natural shortstop who has played second and third since Mauricio's arrival, walked twice.
Kelenic said he's enjoyed his brief time with a touted group in Kingsport that also includes No. 23 Simeon Woods Richardson, a 17-year-old right-hander picked in the second round in June, and No. 27 Luis Santana, a 19-year-old second baseman from the Dominican Republic.
"Coming to the field is really fun," he said. "Just seeing some of the plays that these guys make, and you're in awe.
"When you can surround yourself with such great talent like that guys that we have, it ultimately makes you want to play better. ... It's definitely a blessing to be alongside these guys, battling day in and day out."