Top 50 Jays Prospect, Jays Journal Edition: #24 Kellen Sweeney

The first position player drafted in the 2010 amateur draft is next at #24….

#24: Kellen Michael Sweeney

Infielder / 19 years old / 6’1″ 190 lbs

Born: September 14th 1991, in Cedar Rapids Iowa

Bats Left   Throws Right

High School Team: Jefferson HS

College: NA – had been committed to the University of San Diego before signing with the Jays

Drafted: in the 2nd rd of the ’10 draft, 69th overall

Signed: for $600,000 (represented by Larry Reynolds of Reynolds Sports)

Jersey Number: 86 for the GCL Blue Jays

Quick Facts: 

Stats for the GCL Blue Jays:

AVG G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
GCL 0.270 16 45 12 3 1 1 7 15 12 0 1 0.45 0.44 0.89

Key Stats from 2010:

  • His line jumped to .324/.468/.541 against RHP (he was 0 for 8 vs LHP, although he still walked 5 times while striking out only 4 times against LHP)
  • He hit .357/.571/.786 with runners in scoring position
  • Within his last 10 games, he hit .290/.405/.516
  • Most impressive are his 15 walks to his 12 strike outs

Interviews/Videos:

  • Video from his MLB Draft report video here.
  • A Youtube Video of Kellen can be found here.

Extra Information and previous experience:

Kellen got to watch his brother go through the entire minor league process. Whether he learned a lot from his experience or not is another issue altogether, but at least he knows what to expect and that the road to success won’t be easy. He’ll be able to lean on his brother for advice, if and when he needs it. With the ups and downs he’s sure to endure through that process, some level of support from someone who’s been through it – and isn’t in the same clubhouse – goes a long way to helping him out. As Kellen himself stated:

“My brother was a big help throughout, he told me what to expect,” Sweeney said. Adding,“My brother said to sign, get out and play,”

It’s an indication of just how much he depends on his brother’s advice.

I have to admit that when the Jays were drafting all of those (great) arms in the 2010 draft, I was one of those who kept screaming for them to select a bat. At least 1 within their first 4 picks. But, having read up on guys like Sweeney, Christopher Hawkins(profiled at #25 by Jared) and others we will touch on later in the Top 50, I have to admit that Alex Anthopoulos and Andrew Tinnish did a masterful job of getting their hands on positional players that are likely to make it to The Show.

Prior to signing, Kellen took some time off at his agent’s advice, but couldn’t stay away from his team (the J-Hawks) while they played in the playoffs, so he suited up with them for that despite being unsigned at the time. He joined the GCL Blue Jays as soon as he signed and proved exactly why the Jays made him their top position player selection in the 2010 draft.

Why is Kellen Sweeney a fairly good bet to become an MLB player one day?

Unlike other 2010 draft position players taken, Sweeney’s likeliness of making it to The Show is questioned by very few. His advanced approach at the plate, patience, and hand-eye coordination make him a rarity coming out of HS – a hitter who is almost assured of a spot on an MLB club in some capacity because his approach at the plate is so mature that it would be considered above-average even if he was coming out of College. He hits the ball to all fields with ease, has a plan every time he walks up to the plate, and can quicken his bat speed to hit inside stuff. And just to top it all off, he’s well ahead of where his brother was in progression at the same age, which bodes well for his chances to succeed. Baseball America’s Nathan Rode also added in his profile of Kellen that he has “better offensive potential“.

While he spent some time at 3B in the GCL in 2010, along with Christopher Hawkins, he has the tools and ability to play the OF or 2B. The latter is my favorite position for him (only if his arm strength doesn’t return all the way from TJ surgery which was required after he pitched in a HS game), because it would allow him to profile as a potential 2B with above-average power if he develops as expected. I’ve listed him as an infielder for now, but he also would profile well in the OF.

Whatever position he plays, Kellen is athletic enough and has good enough hands to handle 2B or the hot corner. His speed is rated as being slightly above-average, although he didn’t show any speed on the base-paths in 2010 – a puzzling fact.

The biggest question at this point is just how much power will Sweeney have? Will he be able to hit 25+ HRs per season, or will he be more within the 15-20 HR range? His power so far has been described by some as “solid-average“, while others like Jim Callis of Baseball America have called it “good power potential“. Well, Sweeney hit 5 extra base hits in 45 ABs in his short 2010 GCL stint, an 11% XBH rate. It’s such a small sample size that it’s hard to determine how much power he’ll hit with in 2011 and beyond from that data only, but with the amount of patience and hand-eye coordination he’s shown at the plate, the only thing that will stop him from hitting for power is a lack of swinging.

Jays fans should really be excited about having Kellen in the system. His versatility, steady bat, and potential as a close to sure-fire MLB player make him someone to look forward to having in Toronto. The ceiling may not be as high as a Dustin Ackley type player in Kellen’s case, but his bat has enough above-average potential to play just as importantly in a future Jays lineup.

While he lacks the speed to lead off, his expectantly well above-average OBP, mainly due to his keen eye, patience, and high walk rates as a result, make him a very good bet to become a #2 hole hitter in the lineup if he does make it to The Show. He profiles as the perfect compliment to an Anthony Gose type lead off hitter and it’s a potential table-setting combination that could become a very potent reality in the Jays future.

Expected 2011 Team: Vancouver Canadians or the new APP Bluefield affiliate, with the potential to finish off the season playing for the Lansing Lugnuts

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Above-Average Power for his position 2B in MLB

I’ve heard some Jays fans grumble that Kellen Sweeney will be a second coming of the disappointment that has been Kevin Ahrens, mainly due to their hitting abilities, similar sizes, and position played right out of HS. However, Kellen’s hitting eye and patience are well-above the abilities Kevin had at the same age and should move much more quickly as a result.

- MG

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Tags: Anthony Gose Christopher Hawkins Dustin Ackley Kellen Sweeney

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