By Todd Johnson
When spring training begins, I’m sure there’s going to be a buzz around the back fields about just what Fernando Kelli can do. The young 19-year-old outfielder had one of the best offensive seasons by any Cubs hitting prospect in 2017. He hit .320 with an on-base percentage of .437 while stealing 58 bases. Granted, it was the Dominican Summer League, but 58 bases is 58 bases.
The problem with profiling Kelli is there is not that much written on him. I could sit here and scout the stat line for you but that’s not gonna tell us who he is. The only person to catch a glimpse of Kelli in the US was the late John Arguello for 2080 Baseball. John wrote:
“…Another switch-hitting, speedy center fielder the Cubs signed in this 2015 IFA class. He shows good range in the outfield, and his slight build (6-feet tall and 180 pounds) indicates his game will built around getting on base and taking advantage of his plus speed. He needs to add some strength, and his bat isn’t as far along as his base running and defense at present”.
That is it.
Fangraphs has very little other than stats, the same for Baseball Reference, and MLB.com.
Bats – Switch
Throws – Right
Signed in 2015 as an international free agent out of Venezuela
58 Stolen bases in one season of rookie ball has really grabbed a lot of people’s attention along with his outstanding batting average and on-base percentage. At just 19 years of age, I don’t think there’s a lot of hype surrounding him, but it’s more like, “What can this kid do?” versus any kind of expectation about performance.
Unless his hit tool is extraordinary, he should probably begin this year in extended spring training (EXST). Then, depending on how he does in EXST, it could determine whether the 19-year-old outfielder goes all the way up to South Bend in mid-to-late May, or if he has to wait for Eugene or Mesa in the middle of June. I am speculating Eugene but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in South Bend.
In a system somewhat devoid of any high-end hitting prospects, Kelli’s 2017 season is more about promise than it is about future performance. It’s hard in this day and age, with all the technology and information on the Internet, for a player to just sneak up on a fanbase. Heading in the spring training, I am very curious as to what he can do as a hitter and defender. I’m pretty sure that once he gets on base, he can run. 58 stolen bases tell us that.
It’s pretty cool that he is a bit of a mystery and I’m looking forward to seeing how he answers a lot of questions this spring.