The New York Mets bucked the trend of three-straight years of selecting a pitcher in the first-round of the MLB Draft on Monday night, taking outfielder Jarred Kelenic out of Waukesha West High School in Wisconsin with the sixth-overall pick.
Kelenic becomes the first non-pitcher selected by the Mets in the first round of the draft since 2014 when New York nabbed Michael Conforto with the 10th pick.
The 18-year-old never played high school ball because the seasons were played during the summer. Instead, he played for travel teams and national clubs, including the U18 USA national team where he won MVP honors at the 2016 Pan American Games.
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A Louisville commit, Kelenic might have some filling out to do at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, but he already possesses above-average power at the plate, the composure that could yield high on-base percentages and a nice glove and arm to play a corner outfield spot in the majors.
It's those aspects that had Mets director of amateur scouting Tommy Tanous seeing a lot of Brandon Nimmo in the youngster.
"I would say the main characteristic they both hold is they control the strike zone extremely well," Tanous said (h/t SNY). "They know the zone. They know which pitches they're looking to hit. They, more importantly, know what pitches to take. I would say Jarred is a little stronger at the same age and has played at a little higher competition, but there are some similarities."
What's even more promising is that Kelenic has already shown a knack for going with pitches and sending the ball the other way, which is something that some young left-handed batters have problems with, especially when they encounter the dreaded shift. He keeps his shoulder in and head down, ensuring that a swing that isn't the most compact has a better chance of traveling through the zone with more efficiency, thus increasing the rate of solid contact.
If I were to give a professional comparison based on what I've seen from Kelenic, I would base his game most off of Darin Erstad but with a little more overall pop in his bat. The outfielder spent 11 of his 14 MLB seasons with the Angels and compiled a .286 average and .341 on-base percentage in the process. His 162-game average of 15 home runs might be a little low if Kelenic's power translates well into the majors, but the ability to hit to all fields while providing speed toward the top of the lineup is something the Mets should be looking for with their newest pick.