Jarred Kelenic made the most of his first couple weeks in professional baseball, but the numbers showed that honeymoon phase didn't last much longer.
The Mets' third-ranked prospect seemed to find some persistent hitting doldrums for much of his time with Rookie-level Kingsport, but he recognized some of his struggles came from hard luck and was confident the a breakout was coming.
"Believe it or not, the last like two weeks, I was hitting line drives right at people," Kelenic said. "I was hitting the ball hard, people were making catches on me that were crazy catches -- I was splitting the gaps and they were making diving catches."
On Saturday, Kelenic doubled, singled twice and scored a career-high three runs as the K-Mets defeated Danville, 14-6, at Dan Daniel Memorial Park. It was his first three-hit effort since his third professional game on June 27 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
"I try to just look at it as, 'I'm doing my job. At some point they're going to fall, I just need to keep doing it,'" he said. "That's really what I did and it's finally starting to turn on me."
Gameday box score
MLB.com's No. 67 overall prospect is batting .389 (7-for-18) over his last four games. He's been looking up at the Mendoza line since his 11th game in the Appalachian League on July 21, but Saturday night's performance brought him to .197, the closest he's been to the .200 threshold since then.
"There's only two things that you can really control in this leading up to the at-bat and that's being on time and swinging at strikes," he said. "I was doing that, I just couldn't control where the ball was going to go and couldn't control where they were standing ... so I kind of just tried to stick to the plan and keep doing my thing."
Kelenic said that he feels he's been seeing the ball very well all season, but some recent fine-tuning has helped him better recognize pitches and yield great success.
"With my rhythm and my load ... making things less complicated," Kelenic said. "Trying to do simple things to make it easier for me and not have a lot of moving parts."
With the recent success, Kelenic has a .265 average (13-for-49) through 11 games in August. Although it's a small sample, the lefty-swinging 19-year-old has worn out southpaws through 20 at-bats with Kingsport, batting .350/.480/.600 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs. Kelenic said that he goes into at-bats against left-handers with a focus on hitting the ball to the opposite field.
"Just so I don't fly open because it seems like it's coming from behind me, I got to let the ball travel," said Kelenic, who has recorded opposite-field hits in each of the past two games. "[The hit on Friday] made my night. It was one of my favorite hits going backside on a lefty because I know I stayed on the baseball and disn't fly open."
Kelenic registered his knocks on Saturday in his first three at-bats against Danville right hander Jose Montilla. The No. 6 overall selection in this year's Draft bounced a single through the right side in the first inning and blooped another base hit to center field with one out in the third, scoring on a double by Mets No. 10 prospect Mark Vientos.
The Wisconsin native fell behind Montilla, 0-2, and fought off another pitch before slapping a double to the opposite field leading off the fifth. Sixteenth-ranked Shervyen Newton followed with a base hit up the middle to plate Kelenic.
He grounded into a productive out in his next at-bat in the sixth and walked on five pitches in a five-run seventh. The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder jumped on the first pitch in his final trip to the plate in the ninth and sent a fly ball to the warning track that was run down by center fielder Carlos Baerga Jr.
"Obviously my expectations for myself are through the roof. If I can go out and get four hits a game, that would be my goal," Kelenic said. "Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. But really, I'm just trying to take it one day at a time because that's all you can do.
"At the end of the year, the numbers are going to be what they are and you learn from each and every pitch and move on."
Newton's double was part of a three-hit performance as he scored twice. Vientos improved his RBI total to 39, which ranks fourth in the Appy League.