Blake Kelso is off to a great start to his season on a very talented first place Single-A Hagerstown Suns ball club.
The talented third baseman has been leading off for manager Brian Daubach, and with good reason. Kelso is batting .358 through 38 games with 10 doubles, a homer and 22 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .411 and he has 12 walks and stolen six bases.
Those numbers reflect consistency that Kelso showed with the Vermont Lake Monsters in the NY/Penn League last season. Kelso hit .309 in 61 games with 10 doubles, one triple, one homer and 21 RBIs in 2010.
Suns right fielder, and Nationals No. 1 prospect, Bryce Harper says Kelso is doing what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do: Force the opposing starter to show all his pitches each at-bat.
“Kelso sees a lot of pitches,” Harper said. “He can swing the bat really well. He knows the strike zone. He hits the ball the other way. He can hit the ball to all fields really well.”
Kelso, 22, a University of Houston product had his 16-game hit streak snapped Wednesday, but still has cranked out 15 hits since May 8.
Kelso says one reason for his hot hitting has been knowing what pitch to look for that first at-bat of the game.
“Timing has lot to do with it, but also pitch selection,” Kelso said. “I am not chasing the pitchers’ pitch. I am getting my pitch and not missing it.”
Kelso says Suns hitting coach Marlon Anderson wants the players to have an approach when they go up to the plate.
“(He told us to not) go up there really mindless,” Kelso said. “See the ball up. If you get a ball up, drive it. (Marlon) says don’t try to do too much with it either, think up the middle. If (the pitcher) throws inside, react to it. If he throws it outside, stay back and hit it the other way.”
Daubach says Kelso has done a good job as the table setter aboard a lethal offense.
“You look at the top of the lineup, Kelso is on all the time,” Daubach said. “Now we got (Adrian) Sanchez going, then you got Harper and David (Freitas). It is a pretty tough top of the order.”
“If I don’t get on, Sanchez is picking me up and getting on,” Kelso said. “And if I get on, he gets me over to second base and sets me up for Harper and Freitas. We are just getting hits at the right time and putting runs up early in the game to get us going.”
With the top of the order setting the tone, the Suns are giving their starters a chance to get going and it has led to an impressive first two months, guiding them to the top of the South Atlantic League Northern division (27-12).