SHANNON DRAYER

Dipoto Show Takeaways: Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammell and Mariners’ OF future

Feb 4, 2021, 12:32 PM
Mariners Taylor Trammell...
Taylor Trammell was the Mariners' prize of their trade with the Padres. (Getty)
(Getty)

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto sat down for his weekly chat with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Thursday morning, and while there was no breaking news to come from the conversation, Dipoto did drop a good amount of insight on some big questions facing the M’s as they prepare to start spring training.

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Let’s get to three items of interest I found worth noting from the show, which you can listen to at the bottom of this post.

The Weekly Jarred Kelenic Question

Of course there is the big question, the question on everyone’s mind that gets asked so often on The Jerry Dipoto Show that it probably should have a separate sponsor by now. Paul Gallant does the honors, framing the question a bit differently each week. Gallant acknowledged on Thursday that he was trying to find a way to ask it without annoying the GM and went in the direction of what Dipoto needed to see from Jarred Kelenic, who was recently ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect, to know that it was time to bring him up to the big leagues.

“The same things we would be looking for from any other player in any other year,” Dipoto answered. “I absolutely understand the question, there’s been a ton of hype around Jarred and justifiably so. Incredibly talented player who we think has the chance not just to be a good major league player but to be an outstanding major league player.

“The reality is, he’s had just over 700 pro plate appearances. The easy answer to your question, what we will be looking watching for, is just him playing on the field against age-appropriate competition. We’ve not really had a chance to see that in a meaningful way in over a year now.”

While acknowledging that the Mariners feel Kelenic is incredibly close to the big leagues, Dipoto emphasized the importance that they remain measured in how they handle such a different level of talent. He also pointed to an area of development that can get overlooked when just looking at the highlights or numbers.

“There is a right and a wrong way to develop players,” he said. “Jarred’s an incredibly confident player. The only way I can envision him falling short is if that confidence takes a hit through pushing him too quick, too soon. I don’t imagine that’s easy to understand – it could be a very short period, it could be one that takes a little bit longer, but we want to be prudent in how we make that decision because we are so much more concerned with the big picture development of Jarred in his career as well as the long-term outlook for the Seattle Mariners.”

All players fail at some point, that is a given. How they react to failure is what often determines their career path. Ideally the Mariners would like to see Kelenic go through a prolonged struggle in the minor leagues away from the spotlight and find a way to work through it. It’s not a requirement before they call him up – Kelenic may not see the competition required to best him in the minors – but they still clearly want to learn more.

Suppose Kelenic runs into a struggle similar to what we saw with Evan White in 2020. How would he react? The situation is different, two individuals with two different sets of expectations. Dipoto points to the confidence as crucial consideration in making these decisions with young players, and for Kelenic it is part of the plan.

“This is an important development for us for a lot of these young prospects,” he said. “We have seen what happens when teams exercise good judgment and the timing is right. We’ve also seen what happens when teams move too quickly and decide it’s time to come out of it because people are getting anxious. We have to calm the anxiety and exercise discipline and keep our eye on the prize that we set in the first place.”

Where does Taylor Trammell fit in the Mariners’ future plans?

With Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez expected to join Kyle Lewis in the Mariners’ future outfield, how does Taylor Trammell fit in? Trammell, who Seattle acquired in last year’s big trade with the Padres, is ranked as a top 100 prospect by some publications but has yet to put up big offensive numbers in the minors, and as a result hasn’t received the same amount of attention as the other three since joining Seattle’s organization.

“Taylor is a talented player,” Dipoto said. “We are starting to see him break through with a lot of what we consider our hitting philosophy that he shares. He’s been excited by trying to implement it into his game.”

When Trammell was acquired by the Mariners, their plan for him was to watch him play. He hadn’t been seen since spring training and they wanted to take the opportunity to get everyday looks at him at the team’s alternate site in Tacoma to learn more about what he was at the plate.

If you followed what was happening in the instructional league this fall, you saw an interesting progression. Following the limited statistics and unconventional box scores, Trammell struck out at an alarming rate early on. At about the midway point the strikeouts rapidly started to vanish. Was this a result of working on the philosophy that Dipoto talked about? Time will tell, but the reason why Trammell remains on prospect lists is the evaluators see the tools of a good hitter.

If that continues to emerge, then what? Dipoto believes there could be room on the Mariners’ future roster for four talented outfielders.

“Two left-handed hitters, two right-handed hitters, there’s nice balance,” he said. “Traditionally, especially with the Mariners, you have a DH and three outfielders. Our general thought going in is we want to build a model that allows us to use our entire roster to rotate the best and most athletic players we can throughout our team. So we do envision that there is opportunity for four outfielders to play regularly or for infielders who might appear redundant in the position they play.

“We feel we can create space for them to play especially when we have hitters that hit from the opposite side. I think there are ways to build a modern lineup that allow you to give the maximum number of at-bats to those players.”

This brings us to item No. 3.

Who’s the Mariners’ extra left-handed bat?

There will be battles for roster spots in spring training, and on the position player side of the roster, Dipoto mentioned two names we haven’t heard a lot about this winter – Shed Long and Jake Fraley, both of whom have yet to gain traction at the big league level.

While Dipoto has been searching on the free-agent market for a veteran left-handed bat who plays left field or second base, the door does not appear to be closed on his two young in-house candidates.

“We still hold Shed Long’s bat in high esteem and we think he made great strides defensively (in 2020),” said Dipoto. “He played through an injury and we have to see where he is.”

As for Fraley, who saw injury quickly following call-ups in both 2019 and 2020?

“We do want to find out a lot about Jake Fraley as we start the season and see where Jake is,” he said.

How this all shakes out remains to be seen but the versatility of Dylan Moore will give them options.

The Jerry Dipoto Show can be heard at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday morning on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. You can hear this week’s full interview in the second segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Follow Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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