With the first two rounds of the MLB Draft in the books, let’s take an in depth look at the Mets day one haul. The Mets entered Monday night’s draft with the 6th overall pick and the 48th overall pick, placing them in prime position to inject some top tier talent into a system that severely lacks it. But before we talk about Jarred Kelenic and Simeon Woods-Richardson, let me say that both have yet to turn 20 years old and to draw any meaningful conclusions would be a worthless exercise. What we can do instead is offer our present thoughts on the players they currently are and how they stack up against other players that were on the board. I also want to mention that I haven’t seen either player live, but I have scouted both on video. That being said, let’s get to it.
Round 1, 6th Overall: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West HS
Where there’s smoke, there’s (usually) fire. Kelenic to the Mets at six was the big predraft rumor dating back to last week and I had heard it enough that I was convinced midday yesterday he was the pick. Kelenic will turn 19 in July, making him roughly a year older than the usual prep player, but he’s simply not your prototypical prep player. Usually when scouts and writers are discussing prep guys, you hear about how raw they are, in addition to the limitless potential and risk they possess. Simeon Woods-Richardson has been described this way (and we’ll get to that in a little bit) as he’s yet to turn 18 and has a long developmental road ahead. It’s not often you’ll hear “high-floor” and “prep player” in the same sentence, but because of an advanced hit tool, that’s Jarred Kelenic.
Kelenic is 6’1” 196 pounds and he’s close to, if not already, maxed out physically. While there isn’t a ton of room for projection, I have some concern about Kelenic’s ability to stay in center field as he ages. He’s deceptively athletic for his size, but Kelenic is likely to add at least some weight to his current frame and that may be enough to move him off center. The Mets are going to leave him in center as long as they can, but I can see a Michael Conforto situation occurring when Kelenic reaches the majors. Conforto’s not a true center fielder, but he has an average arm and can fake it well enough in a corner that I think Kelenic can do the same (and possibly half a grade better) if he adds to his frame as I expect. Fortunately for the Mets, one of Kelenic’s standout tools is his arm and it’s plenty good enough if he has to move to right field in the future.
His tools all project as average or above across the board, but that’s not why he was drafted sixth overall. He’s going to be carried by his hit tool, and he’s got above average raw power to boot. Kelenic has terrific bat speed combined with a selective approach and it projects as plus hit at peak. I don’t foresee any major changes in his stance, as it’s already relatively clean and free flowing. Kelenic uses a slight leg kick and while he already somewhat loads his hands, I think the Mets will have to work with him a little bit to unlock more of the above average raw power. Although he’s from a cold weather state, he performed against tough showcase competition last summer and scouts are confident he’ll hit his way through the minors.
While he does have a commitment to Louisville, the Mets assuredly did their homework on Kelenic and you should fully expect him to sign. Slot value for the sixth overall pick is $5,525,200 but I’d expect Kelenic to get right around $5 million: he lacks significant leverage and the Mets want to spread their bonus pool out amongst more players. The Mets almost always send high round prep players to the Gulf Coast League; they did it the last time they drafted a prep hitter in the first round (Dom Smith in 2013) and I expect that’s where Kelenic will be assigned if he signs with the Mets. That being said, a promotion to Kingsport or Brooklyn before the end of the season shouldn’t be ruled out either.
Now that we’ve covered all the positives, let’s talk about some of the potential downside here with Kelenic. As a hit tool-first prep center fielder, there’s significant risk here if Kelenic doesn’t, you know, hit. The book isn’t closed on Mickey Moniak, but he’s a good example of a player with a similar profile that hasn’t hit in the minors and has seen his prospect shine wear off considerably. The Phillies made Moniak the first overall pick in the 2016 draft but he struggled to a .236/.284/.341 triple-slash in his first full season of pro ball last season. They chose to promote him to High-A Clearwater this year, where he’s hitting .245/.264/.309 to begin the season. Kelenic and Moniak are quite different physically and they succeed in different ways, but there are some similarities here. Both struggled with breaking ball recognition coming out of school and Moniak’s inability to improve his eye has contributed to his downfall thus far. It’s not unreasonable to think that Kelenic could face similar problems with major league quality spin in the minors. The nightmare scenario would be Kelenic failing to hit while continuing to add to the frame, ultimately necessitating a move off center. If Kelenic doesn’t hit and moves off center, what is he? A defensive right fielder who can’t meet the high offensive bar? A middling second division left fielder? Does that sound like the sixth overall pick?
As an older and advanced prep bat, Kelenic should move relatively quickly compared to his peers. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to be close to major league ready in three to four years. The speed of Kelenic’s development depends entirely on how he hits, so we’ll be keeping our eyes on the young and exciting outfielder.
Tyler Oringer’s Thoughts
Well, as Alex has mentioned, the Mets took the best prep hitter in the 2018 MLB Draft. As per MLB.com, a scout comped Kelenic as a more athletic Mark Kotsay. Though it is (very) early, the Wisconsin high schooler profiles as an-all-around player with both a high floor and ceiling – something you obviously want out of a top-ten pick.
With a swing that lends itself to all fields and a present ability for elite gap power, there is a very good chance that Kelenic finds a way to work his swing for more home runs. Also, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but his bat speed is what really is his most advanced and impressive tool within his whole profile. In terms of team needs in a laughably depleted outfield farm, the Mets have certainly made a safe and respectable pick at number six.
Prior to the draft, Desmond Lindsay was the best outfield prospect in the Mets system – now the organization and fans alike have a legitimate prospect and potential five-tool player to look forward to for years to come.
Round 2, 48th Overall: Simeon Woods-Richardson, Kempner HS
The Mets were heavily connected to a prep arm with their second round pick and Lenny Torres was a popular name floated as a possibility, but I can assure you that no one thought it would ultimately be Woods-Richardson. He’s a 6’4,” 210-pound right-hander out of Houston, Texas, who has yet to turn 18. I’ve seen a lot of video on him and have gotten reports from scouts and well, let’s just say it’s not all particularly favorable.
SWR has struggled holding his velocity and while he’s topped 96 mph with his fastball, he’s also been clocked in the high-80s. His velocity readings are extremely inconsistent and he has trouble sustaining velocity past the first couple of innings. It’s not an atypical problem for a prep arm as young as Woods-Richardson, but it’s concerning to say the least. In addition to a four-seamer that projects above-average, reports on his curve were as high as 55 and it could potentially be an above average offering at peak. From the video I’ve seen, SWR struggles to command his curve and hitters have squared it up pretty well. I like the change more presently, but he’s going to need the breaking ball to be average at minimum if he wants to remain a starter. His changeup has good velocity separation from his fastball and Woods-Richardson has better present command of it than his curve.
Turn on some video of Woods-Richardson and you’re going to see a violent delivery that screams relief risk. There are too many moving parts; his entire upper body is rotating toward first base before he even throws the ball. He’s practically falling toward the first base line by the time he throws a curveball and I think he’s going to really struggle with his command unless the Mets player development staff can help him. That’s an already tough ask and especially so for a team with a bad track record of developing pitchers with this profile.
I think there’s a ton of risk here with Woods-Richardson and not upside to justify it. I see a middling middle relief option who’ll never have the command to start, not exactly what you’re shooting for in the second round. He’s still incredibly young, which in theory gives him plenty of time to develop, but Woods-Richardson needs a ton of developmental work. Four to five years in the minors seems like the right range, but I’d lean towards five. The Mets are going to move him along slowly and are likely going to be careful with his innings as well. They shouldn’t be reliant on SWR to occupy a rotation spot in the future and I think it’s likely they took a future reliever, even if the curve improves.
Tyler Oringer’s Thoughts
Simeon Woods-Richardson doesn’t seem to garner the same excitement and preliminary value as their first-round selection. His fastball has wavered inconsistency with velocity, and his breaking balls are nothing too special, though his pitches do have room for development. Displaying a fairly high release and unique fall off the mound finish to his motion, he is a bit of a project but could be a decent option down the road.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports