* Kellin Deglan (Langley, BC) has been playing first base with the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League this winter ... and filling the outfield grass with line drives. He's hitting .275 with five homers and 15 RBIs. Photo: Brett Crockford/SMP Images. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list …. Canadians in College 2016 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki LAVERTON, Australia – To say that Kellin Deglan is impressing in his time with the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces so far this Australian Baseball League season would be an understatement.
Three series and 12 games in, the Canadian catcher and first baseman is hitting .275/.315/.647 with five home runs, four doubles, eight runs scored, 15 runs driven in and 33 total bases. Over Melbourne’s most recent four-game set against the Sydney Blue Sox, the Texas Rangers prospect went 7-for-17 with five extra-base hits and eight RBIs, earning him the Delta Air Lines Player of the Week honours.
“He’s on fire,” Aces skipper Tommy Thompson said. “He’s getting good at-bats, he’s being more patient; [with] situational hitting he’s been tremendous. He’s been a clutch RBI guy even through the wins and losses and he’s one of our hottest hitters.”
During the regular season overseas, Deglan split time between the Hickory Crawdads in the class-A South Atlantic League and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the class-A Carolina League and hit .247/.314/.450 with 16 home runs, 24 doubles, two triples, 49 runs and 68 RBIs over 101 games.
The latter circuit was where Thompson – managing the Winston-Salem Dash, a Chicago White Sox affiliate – asked the former first-rounder if he would be interested in spending his winter in Australia. Hesitant at first, Deglan now feels as though he made the right decision.
“I’m loving it out here,” the native of Langley, BC said. “When Tommy came up to me at the end of the season and asked if I wanted to play I wasn’t sure at first, but I couldn’t be happier I came out here. Obviously I’m off to a good start so I’ll just try to keep it going and we’ll try to get some more wins as a team here.”
Melbourne started its season with home-and-home series against the Brisbane Bandits, where Deglan got a chance to reunite with former Canadian Junior National Team teammate and Tampa Bay Rays prospect Maxx Tissenbaum, who made the trip down under to hone his catching skills after a conversion from the infield. The two match up again for the last time this season for four games starting Friday.
“It was good to see Maxx,” Deglan said. “It was weird seeing him behind the plate but he looks like he’s doing a good job back there. He’s getting good playing time out here so he’s only going to get better back there. That’s what he needs if he’s going to convert to a catcher – he needs that repetition.
“It’s going to be good to see him again but once the games start … it’s game time. We’re 4-8 right now so we need to go in [to Brisbane] looking to win the series. I’m excited to get back out there.”
Deglan cherished his time with Tissenbaum and the national squad, and is still appreciative of what it helped him achieve and how it’s assisted him along the way.
“Playing for Team Canada has helped me a ton,” Deglan said. “You can’t practice being in those atmospheres and playing for your country in international baseball so once you’re there, that’s the pinnacle of the highest level and the most pressure. It makes playing in the minor leagues and even playing in the Australian Baseball League so much easier.
“Being from Canada obviously we’re not going to have as much time to play outdoors but [with] the program they’ve got, the Junior National Team, it really helps get guys playing in the fall; in the spring where maybe we can’t play back home because it’s too cold and we’ve got to be indoors. It’s a good thing they’ve got going there and I’m very grateful for it.”
Getting a chance to see firsthand the close community that is Australian baseball, the young catcher has found some similarities between playing down under and in his home and native land.
“In Canada, we’ve got a pretty tight-knit group,” Deglan said. “[Baseball Canada’s director of national teams] Greg Hamilton does a great job with the national team of keeping everybody close. And I feel like in Australia it’s kind of the same – they have a lot of pride playing for their country and it seems like they all stay in touch and they’re all friends even though they’re from all over the country, just like Canada.”
A full-time backstop in the Rangers organisation, the 22-year-old has spent the majority of his time at first base with the Aces, catching just one out of every four games. Focusing on his time at the plate, he hopes to continue more of what he’s been doing.
“I caught a ton this season so I knew I was going to be here for more at-bats,” he said. “I’m just trying to get more comfortable at the plate and barrel up the ball more consistently. So far I’ve done that. I feel good in the box and I’ve put together good at-bats so I’m just trying to keep it going and getting better every day.”
Deglan continues to improve at the plate, and he also looks more at home on the infield with every game.
“First base has actually been a pretty smooth transition,” he said. “I’m doing alright over there so far and I feel like I’m getting better every day. I’m getting the infielders to take it easy on me – they’re giving me some easy throws – and I’m just trying to make the routine plays over there.”
Added Thompson: “Learning a new positon [has been most impressive] and he’s hitting higher in the lineup. He’s hitting in the three-hole or four-hole which is more challenging than he’s [experienced] in the past. He’s hit left-handers extremely well, as good if not better than the right-handers, so that’s impressive to me.”
The lefty hitter has been effective in a small sample size against southpaws, going 3-for-8, and batting out of the cleanup spot he has posted a .333/.357/.778 slash line with three homers, three doubles, six runs and 10 RBIs over six games. Deglan is most proud of his production.
“This season [with the Rangers] I produced, had a lot of extra-base hits, and I drove in a lot of runs,” he said. “I feel like out here I’ve done the same thing. I’ve hit for a lot of extra-base hits and driven in a lot of runs so I take pride in that, hitting the ball hard and driving runs in.”
Fellow Rangers prospect, roommate and Deglan’s teammate overseas this season, Cody Buckel has been impressed with what he’s seen from the other half of his battery so far and is looking forward to more of the same.
“Being down here in Australia [there’s not as much] pressure, so we get to perform more relaxed and enjoy the game, and he’s making the best of that,” Buckel said. “He’s seeing the ball really well right now, he’s being really patient, he’s trying to get his pitch to hit, he’s coming up with big-situation hits, some big home runs in key situations, and he’s calling a great game behind the plate.”