Jarred Kelenic and Sandy Alderson’s draft history

If you follow amateur baseball at all, you know more about the players selected in the draft than me. The best I can do is tell you that a guy who hit a triple and a homer for the Copperheads was taken by the Giants – in the 15th round. But hopefully what I’m lacking in knowledge of these particular players at this particular moment in time can be made up for with a willingness to listen to experts along with some historical perspective.

There was some back-and-forth discussion on the draft between me and Chris F in the comments section of the Monday open thread. Here’s a comment from Chris:

Im disappointed in the Alderson/Tannous draft. Flat out, its not clear to me these guys know anything about personnel and talent assessment.

Im happy for Kelenic and hope for nothing but the best for his arrival in 2023. Was all that losing and getting the 6th pick for a guy mocked outside the top 10 worth it? With all the College and short-time-to-the-bigs talent available, it surprises me to take *another* flyer on a lefty outfielder that never even did more that travel teams and showcases. I hope it turns out to be a surprise for some new FO.

Tommy Tanous is a scouting veteran, who joined the Mets in 2011. Previously, he worked as a national cross checker for the Blue Jays for seven seasons. Prior to that he was a scout for the Rangers and Brewers. After a season as a scout, he was elevated to Director of Amateur Scouting following the 2011 season. After the 2016 season, Tanous was promoted to VP of Scouting.

Here’s how many draft picks of the Mets have made the majors the first five years under Alderson/Tanous. There hasn’t been enough time for draft picks more recent than that to advance through the system. The numbers in parentheses are, in order, the same for the Phillies, Braves, Nationals and Marlins:

2011 – 15 (9) (8) (7) (5)
2012 – 10 (4) (3) (3) (5)
2013 – 3 (4) (3) (1) (5)
2014 – 1 (2) (1) (2) (2)
2015 – 1 (1) (2) (2) (0)

Here are the totals – Mets 30, Phillies 20, Braves 17, Nationals 15, Marlins 17

The Mets are drafting better than their division rivals in terms of guys good enough to climb through the system and make the majors. But what about star power? Here are all of the guys drafted by teams that went on to accumulate at least 3.0 bWAR in this time period:

Nationals – Anthony Rendon (#6 overall pick) 17.3
Braves – Alex Wood (2nd round), 10.5
Phillies – Ken Giles (7th round pick) 5.2; Kyle Freeland (35th round) 5.7; Aaron Nola (#7 overall pick) 9.2
Mets – Michael Conforto (#10 overall) 6.9; Michael Fulmer (#44 overall) 9.0; Seth Lugo (34th round) 3.9
Marlins – Jose Fernandez (#14 overall) 14.0, Kendall Graveman (36th round) 5.4

Again, it’s hard to see these division rivals making the Mets look ridiculous. Plus, the Mets are likely to add Brandon Nimmo to this list by the end of the year, as he currently sits with a 2.6 bWAR. Additionally, we’re counting Freeland and Graveman here, even though they did not sign with the NL East club that drafted them. I mean, the Mets drafted Roger Clemens back in 1981 too; do they get credit for that?

As for the specific case of Jarred Kelenic, the more I read about him, the more I like him. Like Chris, my initial reaction was disappointment that they didn’t take a college guy like Travis Swaggerty, who went 10th overall to the Pirates. But 2080 Baseball had Kelenic as number two overall on their board, saying this:

A true five-tool talent, Kelenic boasts plus speed, plus arm strength (98 mph from the outfield) and impact potential at the plate, including exit velos of up to 104 mph this spring

And here’s what Keith Law said about him: “The Mets took the first prep player of the 2018 draft in high-ceiling Wisconsin outfielder Jarred Kelenic (1), who clearly established himself as the best high school position player in the class and had been in consideration at pick No. 1. Kelenic has All-Star center-fielder upside with power, speed and a plus-plus arm, and his swing is certainly geared toward driving the ball to all fields.”

One of the criticisms of the 21st Century Mets is that they are too reliant on the HR offense and one-dimensional sluggers. Here’s a guy who’s noted for speed and a plus-plus arm and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Seems like the athletic player that we have all asked the Mets to target.

When you have a top 10 pick in the draft, you’ve got to hit on that selection. You want to do what the Nats did with Rendon or the Phillies with Nola or the Mets with Conforto. Will Kelenic be that type of pick? None of us can say for sure one way or the other. But you have to like your odds with “the best high school position player in the class,” and “a true five-tool talent.”

Go ahead and bash Sandy Alderson for signing old guys or believing too much in injured pitchers or being curt with his answers. But it seems misguided to claim he doesn’t know what he’s doing in the amateur draft. Maybe the best thing to knock him for with the draft is not believing more in the guys that he and his minions selected. Most of us would rather see Dominic Smith or Peter Alonso at first base than Adrian Gonzalez and Gavin Cecchini than Jose Reyes as backup infielder.

20 comments for “Jarred Kelenic and Sandy Alderson’s draft history

  1. Eraff
    June 7, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Excellent and eye opening take.

    • June 7, 2018 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks Eraff!

    • TexasGusCC
      June 7, 2018 at 11:45 pm

      I agree Eraff.

  2. Chris F
    June 7, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    So this is also a comparative story. I still dont like this pick…not one bit. If you say the best college players went 1-5 then fine, I would far rather have picked either Libratore or Stewart ahead of a lefty hitting outfielder, the likes of which come around all the time. Prep hitters to me are a total wild card. Remember Dom Smith, the best prep hitter in the field we were told. Not so much. We took Nimmo ahead of Jose Fernandez, who was on the table. The 2012 draft looks much worse with the selection of Cecchini, with Wacha, Strohman, and Seager available. In the success category you list for WAR, Conforto was a college hitter and the other 2 are pitchers. Nimmo is still in the works. I would far rather them have picked a prep pitcher on draft day, and today.

    Here is Stewart’s scouting report: With a projectable 6-foot-6 frame, there was always the thought that there might be more in Stewart’s tank in the future. Evidently, the future is now. He has been as lights out as any prep arm in the country, coming out of the gate up to 98 mph and touching 96-97 mph in just about every start and easily sits 92-94 mph. He has one of the best breaking balls in the class, a power curve that is now a mid-80s hammer. While his changeup is behind right now, and he occasionally slows his arm down, he has feel for it and it should be a solid pitch in the future.

    The FB and CB are 65 on scouting

  3. Chris F
    June 7, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    And here is a blurb on Libratore:
    What is there not to like about Liberatore? He has performed as well as any high schooler can hope to perform prior to graduating and has done so against the best prep competition in the world. Beyond the fact that his stuff on the mound is better than most left-handed pitchers three years his senior — he keeps his fastball in the mid-90s and complements it with a curveball, a changeup and an advanced slider — scouts think that Liberatore’s frame can support 15 to 20 more pounds, which they hope will lead to a jump in velocity and durability.

    Liberatore also has a penchant for performing in big spots; he started Team USA’s gold-medal game last summer and turned in six shutout innings en route to the win.

    The main down side? His competition was against high schoolers.

    So lets not imagine that there weren’t excellent, and higher ranked players above Kelenick. He’s a Met now and part of the family. I’ll cheer for him like he’s David Wright.

    • June 7, 2018 at 8:04 pm

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not liking this pick.

      The MLB draft is an inexact science and I don’t care whose list you take, if you look back in 10 years it will look crazy. Someone that every club passed on in the first round will end up with a better career than the vast majority of the picks taken ahead of him. That’s just the nature of the beast. Mike Piazza was a 62nd-round pick and now he’s in the Hall of Fame.

      The Mets don’t need Kelenick to be the absolute best guy available when they picked, although that sure would be nice. They need him to become a star. If Kelenick ends up with a 20 WAR career and Liberatore ends up with a 25 WAR career – that’s still a good outcome.

      For me, it comes down to how much confidence you have in the people making the pick. You seem to have little to none and that’s my major disagreement with you. Alderson hit on the highest pick he’s had with the Mets. His biggest misses came in the first two years of the slotting system when he looked for people to go significantly below slot. It really hurt with Cecchini and the jury is still out if it will bite him with the Smith pick.

      But I think he’s learned from that.

      There are rumors that Kelenick will sign below slot. If he’s $200K below slot, that’s one thing. If he’s $1.5 million below – then I’ll be disappointed.

      Edit – I didn’t do a good job of saying what I meant in the opening sentence. I guess a better way to say it is that I don’t think there’s anything wrong thinking they should have taken someone else. But I do think it’s wrong to trash the pick.

      • Chris F
        June 7, 2018 at 8:55 pm

        I am not trashing the person. By all measures, Kelenic is an outstanding prep ball player, and I wish him nothing but total success in a Mets uniform.

        I do not like the profile of the pick. We have a team composed of lefty hitters that struggle. Im not in favor of adding to that. I think prep hitters, except for a the rare few are complete wildcards and “5-tool player” means almost nothing. I dont like putting an outfielder in the system as a top pick when pressing other positions are empty.

        So my preferred pick would have been 3B, 2B, C, or P.

        • June 7, 2018 at 9:16 pm

          I understand that and apologize if I gave you the impression that you were making this personal.

          But you make your board and take the top guy when it’s your turn to pick, regardless of what is sitting at the top at the time. I disagree that you take the best college righty hitting 2B/3B/C or P. By the time Kelenic makes the majors, Bruce will be gone and it’s possible they’ll have a righty hitting 1B, too. Shoot, Conforto could be gone, too.

          • Chris F
            June 7, 2018 at 9:59 pm

            It clearly represents a difference in philosophy for sure. I dont think anyone could say that Kelenic was so vastly better than other selections that “top guy available” status was not someone else. It is my understanding they were after him for 3 years. I always want to see if a draft pick can be a short distance to the bigs. I do look at a draft person imapacting the big league club. I think it is vital to staff through the whole system and would be looking at that as well.

            • David Groveman
              June 8, 2018 at 8:40 am


              Normally I’m all about reviewing the draft picks but I am also against this pick and didn’t want to feed the negative cycle. I appreciate Brian covering it and finding a positive spin.

      • Chris F
        June 8, 2018 at 11:29 pm

        looks like somewhere near 500k$ under slot for Kelenic.

    • TexasGusCC
      June 8, 2018 at 1:44 am

      You’re not going to like this Chris, but it may explain why Liberatore dropped so much. From AA:

      “His fastball sits in the high-80s to mid-90s. Earlier in the spring, the left-hander was hitting 96 and 97 MPH on the radar gun, but as his season wore on it settled into the 89-94 range. The pitch has some run and sink to it thanks to his arm slot, and because of some recent changes to his mechanics, Libertore has excellent command of it.”

  4. Steevy
    June 7, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    I would call up Dom Smith and put him at first for the rest of the year.It is not unknown for a player to think he has reached the bigs for good to go back and struggle in the minors.Worst case they find out he can’t play.The team stinks anyway.It frees up a AAA spot for Alonso for the rest of the year.I have no problem with this draftpick,sounds like he was too good to pass up at that spot.

    • Mike Walczak
      June 7, 2018 at 11:25 pm

      If you are going to suck, let the kids play and get some experience. There is no value in continuing to let Gonzalez and Reyes play.

  5. TexasGusCC
    June 8, 2018 at 1:53 am

    These scouting reports were posted before the draft. On Swaggerty:

    “Swaggerty’s swing is loose and fluid, and with his bat speed and great extension, he gets raw plus power and has manifested average-to-above-average in-game power. Some scouts and evaluators worry that his power may not translate as a professional because he did not manage to go deep once in over 60 at-bats using a wood bat while playing with Team USA. He has a bit of swing and miss for a player with a leadoff profile, partially because he can get overly aggressive and partially because he has been fed a steady diet of junk since last season, but he still gets on-base at an above-average rate and has excellent plate discipline.

    Thanks to his above-average speed, Swaggerty is an above-average fielder. He profiles safely in center field thanks to his range and above-average-to-plus arm. He gets good reads off the bat, takes good routes, and is able to track down and snag balls that other center fielders might not be able to.”

    • June 8, 2018 at 9:24 am

      I forget where, but I read that Swaggerty re-did his swing in an effort to get more power and that’s why his numbers weren’t as good this year.

  6. Eraff
    June 8, 2018 at 7:34 am

    The High picks should be taken with the idea that a player has a shot at stardom… Ceiling is the First priority. Kelenic is 18, and that makes for more projection. He’s oozing with top shelf abilities.

    The big thing that bothers Me about all the scouting and draft “experts” is that it’s entirely an echo chamber, en masse. While it’s one thing to group and analyse MLB players with thousands of AB’s and statistics for Physical Traits and Production, it’s quite another to do that for prospects who are learning to play. I have no idea what the compilation of noise about any of these players represents—and I still believe that you need to see a player many times to understand what his is or may be—especially young players who are prospects…most especially, High School Players and Younger.

    I can see taking a tream to task for their farm system— “Where’s the development 7 years in?” is a good question. However, It seems arrogant to challenge pick by pick to a great extent.

    • June 8, 2018 at 9:22 am

      I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post.

      I disagree that the opinion of scouting experts is entirely an echo chamber. While there is some consensus on the top of the draft, you don’t have to look far to find major disagreements. Chris pointed out that one site had the Mets’ second-round pick at 160 overall while I found one that had him at #86.

      And you can never see a guy play enough times to make forecasting what he will be like in 3 or 5 or 7 years entirely accurate. That’s why I chuckle to myself whenever someone says they saw a guy play so that they have a feel for him. Or when they criticize prospect lists because they’ve never seen the guys play.

  7. Chris F
    June 8, 2018 at 1:50 pm


    Its behind a miniscule paywall but wow, Ken Rosenthal just posted a very solid article on the state of the Mets, particularly with regard to drafting. Its not rosy.

    Cant recommend The Athletic enough.


  8. Larrooo
    June 10, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    They went with a high ceiling ‘risky’ pick after what they regarded as the top tier college players were off the board. Have to swing for the fences at #6 and they did just that. In 5-10 years, we will know whether they connected on a himerun, struck out or sonething in between.

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