Brock & Salk: What the debut of Jarred Kelenic signifies for the Mariners
In case you haven’t heard, the Mariners are expected to call up top prospect Jarred Kelenic for the upcoming homestand, which begins Thursday, May 13, against the Cleveland Indians.
As was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan and later confirmed by 710 ESPN Seattle Mariners insider Shannon Drayer, Kelenic is expected to be in the Mariners’ lineup on Thursday, which will be after he’s played in only six games in Triple-A Tacoma this year.
Drayer’s Story: Timing of Kelenic’s debut fits well for both him and Mariners
Kelenic, 21, is a talented young outfielder who is seen as a consensus top-five prospect in all of baseball and on most prospect lists is Seattle’s highest-rated prospect.
The Mariners acquired Kelenic between the 2018 and 2019 seasons when general manager Jerry Dipoto and his staff began the “reimagining” of their roster by trading or letting go of older, more expensive players for high-level prospects and younger, cheaper and more controllable talent.
Kelenic, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of high school, was the key return for Seattle in a trade with the New York Mets that sent two All-Stars and cash to the East Coast for Kelenic, then-prospect pitcher Justin Dunn and three veterans who each had just one year left on their deals.
When the Mariners acquired Kelenic along with other prospects, he was a top-100 prospect, but he was someone typically begged anywhere between No. 40 to No. 70 or 80 on those lists. Now, he’s MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect and has torn up the minor leagues every step of the way since the Mariners acquired him ahead of 2019.
The Mariners have had other notable prospects debut or receive major playing time since the reimagining/rebuild began, such as former Seattle first-round picks Kyle Lewis and Evan White and first-round picks who the Mariners acquired via trade like Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, but none of those players had as much hype around their debut as Kelenic has with his.
Salk admitted a few times that he would have preferred to see Kelenic get more time in the minors and also not come up at a time when the Mariners’ lineup is struggling, but he thinks Kelenic coming up to the majors is a massive deal for the organization as a whole as it attempts to turn the corner towards playoff and World Series contention.
“Jarred Kelenic is, in so many ways, the future of this organization. He is the biggest part of this of this whole thing,” he said. “… (Kelenic’s debut) isn’t the only thing that turns the Mariners into a contender eventually, but it might be the biggest single moment. Jarred Kelenic being called up to the big leagues to me signifies the beginning of ‘Phase 2’ of this whole operation.”
Salk said he couldn’t “clearly define” what the different phases of Seattle’s organizational overhaul are, but in a nutshell, “Phase 2” is “starting to get guys who are going to be part of the future into your lineup and playing every day.”
“And Kelenic is really going to be … the first (player) that signifies the changes that you made,” he said. “And then the third part will be once you start adding your final pieces, spending money in free agency and actually going after a championship.”
For Huard, he sees Kelenic’s debut as very similar to the debuts of some of MLB’s top young stars.
“This is the Fernando Tatís Jr. to the Padres, (Ronald) Acuña to the Braves, Vlad (Guerrero) Jr. to the Blue Jays,” Huard said.
Tatís, Acuña and Guerrero were all top prospects whose debuts coincided with their rebuilding team trending up in playoff contention. Now, all three players are key members of perennial playoff teams. Huard sees Kelenic’s debut matching up with the debuts of those three in terms of importance.
“This was the shot in the arm for all of those organizations (after) they all tore it down in a very similar way to the Mariners to tear it down to the studs and build this thing back up,” Huard said. “… Each of those organizations had a young phenom, a young superstar, a young star that everybody pointed to and said, ‘That’s the next (Ken Griffey Jr). That’s the next (Alex Rodriguez). That is the face of your organization and that guy has a star power unique to anything you have seen in a long, long time.'”
Tatís and Acuña are two of the top-five position players in baseball and Guerrero appears to be turning the corner towards superstardom, and all three bring something much-needed to their respective teams and have done so since their debuts.
“Let’s hope he’s that same juice for Jerry and (manager Scott Servais) and the Seattle Mariners beginning Thursday night,” he said.
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