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Two high school picks headline Mets’ 2018 draft class

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As the Mets’ season continues to spiral into chaos, there was reason for optimism this week.

With the No. 6 pick in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft, the Mets selected high schooler Jarred Kelenic out of Wisconsin, hoping he can rise through the system and eventually become a star player the club desperately needs.

“He was the best player on the board and we felt really strong about him,” Mets vice president of amateur scouting Tommy Tanous said after the pick. “It didn’t have a lot to do with high school or college at that point.”

The Mets have generally steered clear from high school players at the top of the draft, but believe Kelenic has the potential and make-up to thrive. The lefty-swinging outfielder helped USA Baseball’s under-18 team win gold medals each of the past two years in the 2016 Pan American Games and the 2017 Baseball World Cup.

Kelenic, though, elected not to play high school ball, instead choosing to play in a travel league, where he excelled.

Leading up to the draft, scouts have said Kelenic is one of the top high school hitters in the class of 2018 and is an above-average defender in the outfield.

“One of the things we were looking for picking this high was a position player that has two-way value,” Tanous said. “We feel that Jarred is a young man that possesses tools to give him a well-rounded game. We think he’s going to hit, play defense and add value on the bases. That was something that was attractive to us.”

With their second pick of the draft, the Mets again went with a high school prospect, this time a pitcher. New York selected Simeon Woods-Richardson with the No. 48 pick. Woods-Richardson is just 17, but has a big arm and a fastball that touches 97 miles per hour.

The Mets hope their top of the 2018 draft class can make a good first impression like last year’s first round pick, David Peterson.

Selected 20th overall in 2017, Peterson has emerged as the Mets’ No. 2 overall prospect, per MLB.com. He has thrived on the mound in Low-A Columbia this season, pitching to a 1.93 ERA with 47 strikeouts against 11 walks in his first 51.1 innings pitched. Those numbers show Peterson, 22, has the ability to move quickly through the system. If he continues throwing well, he could earn a promotion to High-A this season and potentially start the 2019 campaign in Double-A. If that’s the case, he could be a big league option in late 2019 or early 2020.

The Mets have struggled to develop their draft picks into stars. Michael Conforto, the team’s first round selection in 2014, earned a trip to the All-Star Game during last year’s breakout season. Steven Matz — drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft — has emerged as a solid, but injury-prone starter for the Mets, who turned Jacob deGrom — drafted in the ninth round of the 2010 draft — into one of the best pitchers in the game.

Most of their other key players — Amed Rosario, Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, Zack Wheeler, etc. — were not acquired through the draft.

But there is hope in Queens that the organization has turned a corner and is well on its way to developing a new generation of stars.

Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewelb@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4539.

Updated 10:37 am, June 12, 2018
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