Blake Kelso is the first person manager Brian Daubach thinks about when he is filling out the Hagerstown Suns starting lineup.
“Leadoff is where he belongs,” said Daubach. “He’s the spark plug. He starts it all.”
As much as the Suns have used the likes of Bryce Harper as their early season trademark, it’s Kelso who’s really given the Washington Nationals’ top prospect opportunities to add to his RBI total.
Kelso’s leadoff talents aren’t exactly the prototypical style of the modern era of baseball. He hasn’t shown blazing speed on the bases — he only has three steals — but he causes other problems for opposing pitching.
It’s because he always seems to be on base.
Kelso has been on base 40 percent of the time, which gives pitchers a reason to be concerned and change their approach to batters. Any mistake is much more costly.
Kelso spent the early part of the season bouncing around the order until he was established as the leadoff man.
“It was different (not batting leadoff),” Kelso said. “I prefer batting leadoff. That’s where I’ve always hit. I just try to get on any way I can.”
Through Friday, the Suns are 12-5 since Kelso took over the leadoff spot on April 26. Overall, he has been penciled in as the No. 1 hitter for 22 games, going 33-for-91 (.374) with 22 runs, six doubles, a triple, a grand slam and 10 RBIs. Kelso is hitting .362 for the season with a homer and 21 RBIs.
“Kelso is a catalyst at the top,” Daubach said. “When he gets on, things get going.”
Hockey players have playoff beards. Some Hagerstown Suns are sporting success mustaches.
Harper, Kelso and Jason Martinson have “grown” some lip hair as kind of a superstition fraternity to coincide with their hitting streaks.
“Got to do anything you can to keep it going,” Harper said with a smile after going 4-for-5 with five RBIs, including a grand slam, on Wednesday against Delmarva.
Harper doesn’t have the fullest ’stache, but he doesn’t need it with the way he’s hitting. Harper was riding a 17-game hitting streak and had been on base in 22 straight games headed into Saturday’s game at Lakewood. The left-handed hitter is 31-for-66 (.470) during the streak with eight doubles, five homers, 14 RBIs and nine runs scored in the stretch.
Kelso is riding a 13-game run heading into Saturday, going 21-for-55 (.382) with four doubles, a triple, a homer, eight RBIs and 15 runs scored since April 30.
Martinson lost a modest five-game streak on Wednesday, going 7-for-16 (.438) with a double, a homer, three RBIs and four runs scored since May 6.
What’s in a name?
Three of the top five hitters have the first name of Bryce, including Hagerstown’s Harper, who is second with a .390 average.
Greenville’s Bryce Brentz leads the SAL at .392, while Asheville’s Bryce Massanari is fifth at .367.
Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be contacted at 301-791-7358 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.