Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto: Jarred Kelenic’s debut coming ‘sooner than later,’ may add ‘spark’ to lineup

May 6, 2021, 11:06 AM | Updated: 11:52 am
Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic...
A recent report says the Mariners will promote top OF prospect Jarred Kelenic in May. (Getty)

The Mariners may have the day off on Thursday, but a lot of eyes were fixated on the team in the morning thanks to a report from an MLB insider involving Seattle’s top prospect.

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According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Mariners are expected to call up outfielder Jarred Kelenic, the team’s top prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect in baseball, by the end of May.

Naturally that is big news as it pertains to the Mariners, but will Kelenic actually be in a Mariners uniform by the end of the month? General manager Jerry Dipoto discussed that and more shortly after the report was released during the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant.

“We’re getting closer and closer,” Dipoto said of Kelenic’s eventual debut. “I will say it’s some part because he’s making progress, it’s some part because it’s time to take a look at him, and that’s coming sooner than later.”

Kelenic, 21, slashed .291/.364/.540 with 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 117 games between Single-A, High-A and Double-A in 2019. The talented left-handed hitting outfielder is someone who analysts believe has five-tool ability and could become a perennial All-Star at the MLB level.

Kelenic has been under a microscope of sorts this year for a few reasons.

The Mariners’ left field position was wide open entering spring training, and Kelenic competed for that spot with Jake Fraley and fellow prospect Taylor Trammell. Fraley and Trammell both made the opening day roster after Kelenic and starting center fielder Kyle Lewis suffered knee injuries in spring training. Kelenic’s injury proved to be minor and he returned to action after sitting for roughly two weeks, effectively ending his chances of making the MLB roster out of camp.

Kelenic’s name was also in headlines at the beginning of spring training after former Mariners team president Kevin Mather implied to a local rotary club that Seattle was delaying Kelenic’s call-up in order to gain an extra year of club control since Kelenic didn’t sign a long-term deal in 2020. Mather also implied that Kelenic would have debuted in 2020 if he had signed an extension with th Mariners. Kelenic has said that’s true while Dipoto has said that had Kelenic signed the deal, there was a “clear understanding” he still would be in the minors.

Looking ahead now with Kelenic’s debut apparently near, Dipoto said he could provide the Mariners with a much-needed shot of energy at the plate.

“It’s also in some part that it might add a spark to our offense if we give him that opportunity,” Dipoto said.

As far as confirming whether Kelenic will debut before the calendar turns over to June, though, Dipoto is “not ready to go there yet.”

“We want to see him start the season in Triple-A,” Dipoto said.

Kelenic is with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, who begin the season Thursday evening.

“We have not (picked) a date (to call up Kelenic). We’re going to tap into Jarred and give him an opportunity, but we are getting closer and closer,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto had some fun with Morosi’s report, joking that “he knows a little bit more than I know” when it comes to Seattle’s roster, but he circled back to a point he’s made a few times early in the season as it pertains to the MLB roster.

“We are getting to the point in that 30- to 40-game window I’ve discussed that we’re going to make some decisions about our roster, and among them is what we do going forward with Jarred Kelenic,” Dipoto said.

During the first few weeks of the season, Dipoto has said that he wants to give the team’s current roster 30 to 40 games to see what it can do before considering any major shakeups and call-ups. Wednesday’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles was game No. 32 for Seattle.

Approach good, results bad

Part of why adding Kelenic to the lineup would be nice for the Mariners is that the team has really struggled at the plate in 2021.

The Mariners have MLB’s worst team batting average at .201 and are 29th in on-base percentage (.280) and 27th in slugging percentage (.359).

For Dipoto, he has liked what he’s seen from an approach standpoint despite the poor results.

“We very much try to focus on process and our process has been good,” he said. “We’ve made good swing decisions, we’ve generally been swinging at the right pitches, we’re just having a difficult time doing much with them right now.”

And unfortunately for the Mariners, these offensive struggles, which were highlighted by a tough homestand at the plate that was capped off by a no-hit loss to the Orioles on Wednesday, are nothing new.

“This has been going on for about a month. It’s not like it’s a series-long issue with the Orioles,” Dipoto said of the lineup’s struggles.

Dipoto did note that offense in MLB is down as a whole through the first part of the season, but the Mariners are struggling more than others.

“For us it’s down more than most,” he said. “We’re better than this and hopefully we’ll come out of it soon because I think the process is pretty good.”

What Dipoto doesn’t want to see, though, is players start to “chase numbers.” Instead, he wants to see his hitters stick to their respective approaches.

“You have to take it day by day and at-bat by at-bat,” he said. “We have enough guys that are hitting (in the .100s) and that’s the case league-wide, so you’re not going to go up there (and get seven hits in three at-bats). You have to take it at-bat by at-bat and focus on the things you can do.”

You can listen to the full edition of The Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto: Jarred Kelenic’s debut coming ‘sooner than later,’ may add ‘spark’ to lineup