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Juan Kelly Putting Power on Display

Kelly leads Lansing in extra base hits

Juan Kelly Putting Power on Display

August 1, 2016

Juan Kelly leads Lansing in extra base hits. (Kyle Castle)

Juan Kelly leads Lansing in extra base hits. (Kyle Castle)


After getting a brief taste of playing in Lansing last summer prospect Juan Kelly returned to the Midwest League with a new image for 2016. Focusing on driving the ball more this season, Kelly has seen a spike in his production at the plate and the better numbers are catching the eye of many who follow the players in the Blue Jays system.

But what has contributed to the increased production in the batter’s box?

It’s mainly an increased effort on Kelly’s part to develop his game to fit his new role on the team. Performing primarily as a backup catcher and a reserve first baseman last year. The organization decided to move the up-and-coming star to the corner infield spots full time in spring training.

“Playing first presented me with a better opportunity to play,” said Kelly. “This year I’m mostly playing first with the occasional day at third. It’s not a problem. I’m good with either position.”

Obviously these positions demand a lot of production on a baseball team. With a major emphasis on corner infielders being able to hit the long ball and drive in runs at a decent clip, Kelly knew it was important to turn his focus to mastering these skills.

“I’m working on hitting with more power this year,” stated Kelly. “I’m continuously working on my swing during games. I’m making adjustments to hit more home runs. Now that I’m playing first base I need to hit for more power and I’m working on it every day.”

His determination is showing as he currently leads his team in most statistical categories. Currently leading the Lugnuts’ in hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs; Kelly is well on his way to potentially winning his second Webster Award in three seasons.

Sporting an impressive .270/.333/.463 slash line with 98 hits, 28 doubles, six triples, and 10 home runs and there’s no question why Kelly was chosen to take part in the Midwest League All-Star Game on June 21st.

Kelly was the starting first baseman for the East team that day. Going 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run scored was a great way to kick off his first all-star experience.

But Kelly is more than just a great hitter he’s also a solid defender that sometimes gets overlooked for his play in the field. Currently sporting a .993 fielding percentage at first base, Kelly has taken part in 51 doubles plays and has assisted on another 47 in 562 2/3 innings.

Logging an additional 218 1/3 innings at third base, Kelly has done well at the challenging position. Committing just two errors and maintaining a .969 fielding percentage is a promising sign that the 22-year old infielder is gaining ground in both areas of the game.

Playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic with Tigres del Licey was another opportunity that really pushed Kelly’s career forward. While the prospect only got into one contest with Licey. The opportunity of working with more experienced players really helped the young infielder figure some things out before returning to affiliated baseball.

“Playing winter ball in the Dominican is a very good experience,” explained Kelly. “When you’re there, you’re playing with some big leaguers so when you come back here to play with your normal team it translates well. It’s a really good experience all-around.”

Whether it was the exposure of playing with big leaguers, or just the mindset of stepping up to the challenge of being a corner infielder every day. It’s apparent that Kelly is on the right path to finding increased playing time on higher level teams in the near future.

But until that day comes, fans of the Toronto Blue Jays will love watching Juan Kelly intimidate opposing pitchers, and stymie opposing hitters as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts.