Though he’s not a household name by any means, I’m sure there’s going to be a buzz around the back fields about Fernando Kelli. The young 19-year-old outfielder had one of the best offensive seasons by any Cubs hitting prospect in 2017, hitting .320 with a .437 OBP while stealing 58 bases. Granted, it was the Dominican Summer League, but 58 stolen bases is 58 stolen bases.
The problem with profiling Kelli is there is not that much out there on him just yet. I could sit here and scout the stat line for you, but that’s not gonna tell us who he is. To this point, the only person to catch much more than a glimpse of Kelli in the US was the late John Arguello, who wrote the following for 2080 Baseball.
“…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, same for Baseball Reference and MLB.com.
19 years old
Bats/throws – S/R
Signed in 2015 as an international free agent (Venezuela)
Racking up 58 steals in one season of rookie ball has a way of capturing lot of attention, then you add in the outstanding average and on-base percentage. It’s not so much that there’s hype around Kelli, but it’s more like, “What can this kid do?”
Unless his hit tool is extraordinary, he should probably begin this year in extended spring training. How he does there could determine whether he goes all the way up to South Bend in 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. I am very curious as to what this young man can do as a hitter and defender now that he’s Stateside. One thing I know he can do is run.
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.