Jarred Kelenic's red-hot bat is a wonderful sight for Mariners fans and the organization that acquired him this offseason. It's been even better for his hitting coach. "First and foremost, when a guy's going like that, I sit back and enjoy it," Eric Farris said.Who isn't enjoying what the Mariners No.
Jarred Kelenic's red-hot bat is a wonderful sight for Mariners fans and the organization that acquired him this offseason. It's been even better for his hitting coach.
"First and foremost, when a guy's going like that, I sit back and enjoy it," Eric Farris said.
Who isn't enjoying what the Mariners No. 2 prospect has been up to at the dish lately, other than opposing pitchers? On Saturday, he recorded his first career two-homer game and extended his hitting streak to 13 games as Class A West Virginia beat Asheville, 5-1, at Appalachian Power Park.
This explosion flared up from the doldrums of a 1-for-25 (0.80) start to the season, his first full campaign in the Minors. MLB.com's No. 53 overall prospect has the longest hitting streak in the South Atlantic League this year.
Gameday box score
The power surge began Friday. Kelenic entered the contest against the Tourists with one homer on the year but bopped a solo shot for No. 2. He doubled that total Saturday.
"The kid's a flat-out hitter, man," Farris said. "The last few days, he really solidified his approach and understanding who he is. For the most part, getting good pitches to hit and hitting pitcher's mistakes, not making it easy for those guys on the other side."
In the third inning, the sixth overall pick in last year's Draft established a 2-0 cushion against starter Nick Bush. The left-hander eventually evened the count, but Kelenic made him pay on the fifth pitch with a two-run jack to dead center field.
Of all the balls Kelenic has smoked over the last two weeks, this blast stood out to Farris.
"I like to say you can't sneak cheese by a rat," the hitting coach said. "That's kind of how it went down. When you can put the bat on the ball -- and you're at a disadvantage with two strikes -- and still have the right approach and hit a ball out to dead center, that's pretty special."
Four innings later, MLB.com's 10th-ranked outfield prospect set his personal best by taking lefty Colten Schmidt deep over the right-field wall. That's two long balls off two lefties with two strikes for the left-handed hitter.
With the slump well back in the rearview mirror, Farris said nothing mechanically led to Kelenic's early-season struggles.
"For him, it's just trust his ability," he said. "Those were the conversations we had when he was struggling a bit. It's not necessarily anything mechanical, it's just continue to trust your ability and the numbers will be there. Sure enough, they're starting to show up."
That's true. The Waukesha, Wisconsin, native ranks fifth in the SAL with a 1.000 OPS and 10th with a .329 batting average. Eleven extra-base hits have him tied for fourth, and he's third with 45 total bases and tied for third with 26 hits.
During his first offseason as a pro ballplayer, Kelenic learned the harsh business side of the game. After the Mets used their first-round pick on him, they sent him packing as the main prospect piece, along with third-ranked Justin Dunn, to acquire Robinson Canó and Edwin Diaz. He admitted the move caught him by surprise but said he's more than content in his new organization.
Through the first three-plus weeks of the season, the 19-year-old has left quite a first impression with Farris. His progression, for now, will rely on realizing that pitchers aren't going to give him good pitches to hit because of the threat he provides.
"He's a real hard worker," Farris said, "understands his swing very well. He puts his best foot forward daily. He's still a young hitter, but he's got all the tools in the world. Moving forward, it's just, continue to firm that approach up. And understand the way pitchers are trying to throw to him. He's a big force in any lineup that he's in, so he's got to understand that pitchers are going to be careful an you got to wait for those mistakes."
Obviously, the breakneck pace will slow and Kelenic will have to deal with the grind of the season.
"He's going to have more at-bats than he's ever had in his life this season," Farris said. "When your swing starts to break down a little bit because of fatigue and just overall energy after playing so many games, it's listen to your body, make adjustments, slow things down, get back to your base -- make sure you're doing simple things that make your swing work."
Rockies No. 4 prospectGrant Lavigne went 3-for-4 and scored a run for Asheville.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.