For the last year or two, the undisputed champion of the prospect world has been Wander Franco. It didn’t matter if that was for real-life rankings or fantasy rankings either. After Franco burst onto the scene in 2018/2019 and took over the top spot from Vladimir Guerrero Jr, he’s had a stranglehold on it and hasn’t looked back. But as we enter 2021, he has a challenger to his throne. This challenger has been a prospect I’ve been pumping up since the 2018 draft, much to Mets fans’ dismay. That’s right, of course I’m talking about Jarred Kelenic. I figured now was as good a time as any to compare the two stud prospects to see who comes out on top for fantasy purposes as the #1 dynasty prospect.
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Wander Franco vs Jarred Kelenic
Tale of the Tape
Professional Career To Date
Both of these stud prospects began their professional careers in 2018 and have nearly the same amount of plate appearances after their two seasons in the minors. Jarred Kelenic was promoted a bit more aggressively though and received 92 plate appearances in the Double-A Texas League to close out the 2019 season. Statistically, Kelenic has performed better in the power and speed departments while Franco edges him in the Triple-slash categories and in plate approach.
Wander Franco: 80 | Jarred Kelenic: 60
It doesn’t really matter who you pair up against Wander Franco in the hit tool department, he’s going to dominate. Franco is the only prospect I’ve ever slapped an 80-grade hit tool on. Some others in the past have gotten 70-grades from me, such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Nick Madrigal, but Franco is the best pure hitting prospect I’ve ever seen. And when you add in the fact that he’s a switch-hitter, that claim appears even more impressive than it already was.
— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) October 15, 2019
From both sides of the plate, Franco has electric bat speed thanks to the quickest hands in the land and a direct path to the ball. There are no platoon split issues here as you tend to see from young switch-hitters, although, he’s a bit more potent from the left-side. Wander’s ability to make contact in all parts of the zone is impressive and his approach is top-notch. Getting Franco to chase outside the zone is a tall task and is very evident when you see his 7.0% career strikeout rate. With these contact skills, I’d almost be shocked if he didn’t win at least one batting title before he hangs up his cleats.
As for Kelenic, he might not have an 80-grade hit tool, but he’s still a plus hitter with the chance to hit between .280 and .310 annually. Kelenic has the prettiest swing in baseball, period. Yes, even over Robinson Cano. You honestly can’t tell me that you can watch the below video and not get a tad excited.
— Jarred Kelenic (@JKelenic_1019) January 19, 2021
As with Franco, Kelenic can use the entire field to his advantage and rarely looks overmatched at the plate. He might not have the same microscopic strikeout rate as Franco, but Kelenic does a good job at keeping his strikeouts in check and has posted a solid 21.4% mark so far.
Both Franco and Kelenic have also shown the ability to work the count and draw walks at a high clip as well, both sitting a tick above 10% for their professional careers. Both can be an asset in the AVG and OBP departments, but the edge here goes to Wander the Magnificient.
Wander Franco: 55/60 | Jarred Kelenic: 60
This is when the dual starts trending over toward Kelenic’s corner. Wander got his punches in early, but now it’s Kelenic’s turn to retaliate with some jabs and some body shots. With Wander, the raw power grades around plus, but the approach so far has been an issue and has limited his in-game power.
As Wander has climbed the organizational ladder, his ground ball rate has risen while his flyball rate has taken a nosedive. On top of that, I’ve heard reports that his exit velocities weren’t overly impressive. Franco’s ability to barrel pitches up is impressive, but he’s still rather raw when it comes to power and is behind Kelenic in this department.
Kelenic might not be the biggest guy around at a listed 6’1/190, but this is an incredibly strong frame with a swing built for driving the ball. As I mentioned above, Kelenic’s swing is a thing of beauty with smooth mechanics, plus bat speed, and good rotation as well which creates plenty of torque. He’s consistently shown that he can drive the ball with authority to all fields, including at the Mariners alternate site in 2020 when he was taking anyone and everyone deep. Will he be a 40-homer masher? No. But Kelenic can definitely settle in around 30 annually.
Jarred Kelenic 💪
The #Mariners' No. 1 prospect showed off some power with this blast out to right.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 13, 2020
With the additional power that Kelenic brings, along with a higher likelihood that he hits in the middle of the order, that means he’s likely going to produce a tad more in the run production department than Franco does. Not by much, but when you’re comparing two prospects like this, every little bit counts.
Wander Franco: 55 | Jarred Kelenic: 55/60
If these two had a footrace, I’m not sure I could sit here and tell you one or the other would definitively win. I’d probably bet my own money on Kelenic, but this is close. Why Kelenic gets the edge in the speed grade and long-term stolen base projection is that he’s proven to be a much more efficient base stealer. So far, Kelenic has converted on 81.3% of his 43 attempts while Franco sits at 56.4% in his 39 attempts. The slightly better pure speed plus the higher efficiency leads me to think Kelenic will chip in a handful or more steals annually.
Wander Franco: .320/.390/.525, 25 HR, 15+ SB, 200+ R/RBI
Jarred Kelenic: .300/.370/.550, 30 HR, 25 SB, 220+ R/RBI
Basically, I’m in the mindset that both Wander Franco and Jarred Kelenic are going to be first-round fantasy talents in the next few years. That AVG floor for Franco makes him incredibly safe, but is the extra 20-30 points in AVG enough to give him the edge over Kelenic? For me, it doesn’t. Kelenic has the edge in the power and speed departments and should bring 5+ more homers, 5-10 more steals, and a bit more run production to the table. Both could be in the first round of fantasy drafts as soon as 2023 or so, but that more studly 5-cat production gives Kelenic the edge here.
Media Credit: LIDOM, MLB Pipeline, Jarred Kelenic, Minor Graphs by Prospects Live,
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