LOD Prospect Interview: INF Juan Kelly – Blue Jays
Blue Jays prospect shares with LOD about his journey so far in the game.
On January 10, 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Dominican Republic native Juan Kelly as a non-drafted free agent.
“When I signed with the Blue Jays, I felt that finally my hard work was not wasted. It was an exciting day being there with my dad and Javier, who has a baseball program in the Dominican Republic and helped me to get signed,” Kelly shared with me about his reaction to becoming a pro ball player.
After playing two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Kelly arrived in the states in 2014 and played a full season with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. “Playing for two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, I feel like I grew a lot with experience and maturity and I knew I was ready to come to the states and continue to grow and mature in the game,” says Kelly.
In the GCL, Kelly batted .287 with 10 doubles, four triples, 21 RBIs and walks in 54 games. In 2015, he split time between the Vancouver Canadians (Low A Ball) and the Lansing Lugnuts (Class-A Full Season) where combined he batted .249, with 11 doubles, four home runs, 23 RBI’s and 27 walks in 53 games.
But the 2016 season would be the year where Kelly would show the Blue Jays organization that their investment in him was well worth it, as he batted .274, while showcasing his power stroke with 35 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, 67 RBIs and 57 walks in 131 games. He was also selected to the Midwest All Star game.
“The 2016 season was great for me since it was my first full season with the Lugnuts and I was able to showcase all my abilities. I thank God everything went well,” said Kelly as he recounted his breakout year.
This past season, Kelly continued his surge as he hit .272, with 29 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 68 RBIs and 51 walks in 130 games with Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays.
“What has helped me be consistent in the different leagues, is that I know baseball is the same no matter where you play, but I also understand that the pitchers are better as you move up and being selective during my at bats will help in my success. I also feel that gaining knowledge is important and one other way is to talk to my teammates that have already moved up within the organization and talk to them about what to expect and how to approach the game at the higher levels,” says Kelly.
The 23-year-old helped lead Dunedin to a 72-66 record and a 2017 playoff berth. The Blue Jays sneaked into the playoffs as the Wild Card team behind the Tampa Yankees who won the Florida State League North Division crown in both halves. The Jays lost to the Yankees in Game 1, 8-6, but rebounded with a doubleheader victory the next day to take the Title. Normally the South and the North winners would face off for the league title, but because of an impending Hurricane Irma, the FSL decided to award both the Blue Jays and Palm Beach Cardinals as Co-Champions.
The sky is the limit for Kelly and with a league title under his belt, he continues on his journey to reach his ultimate goal; the Major Leagues. “You never finish learning in this game and as I work on getting more power during my at bats, I know that my hard work will help me to reach my dreams,” an elated Kelly shared with me as he looked forward to his promising future.
Thank you to Juan Kelly for taking the time out of his busy off-season schedule to spend some time talking with Legends on Deck about his promising baseball career. We wish him well as he continues working on his goals and dreams of one day reaching the Major Leagues.
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