MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo: What makes Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic special, ready for MLB
Thursday will be quite the day for the Mariners and their future as two of the team’s top prospects are making their MLB debuts in the very same game.
Not only will outfielder Jarred Kelenic be in the starting lineup for the very first time, but right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert will be on the mound in his first MLB game as well.
Both Kelenic and Gilbert are top prospects and according to MLB Pipeline they are two of the top-28 prospects in all of professional baseball. Kelenic ranks No. 4 on the site while Gilbert is No. 28. Kelenic is also the Mariners’ top-ranked prospect while Gilbert is the team’s No. 4 prospect.
Someone who has a say in MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings and knows all about top prospects is Jonathan Mayo, who covers the MLB Draft and prospects for MLB.com and MLB Pipeline.
He joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Wednesday to discuss Kelenic’s callup and also shared his thoughts on Gilbert. Something worth noting, though, is that the report that Gilbert would be making his MLB debut on Thursday did not come out until after Mayo’s segment aired on 710 ESPN Seattle.
When looking at Kelenic, despite only playing in six Triple-A games this year, Mayo thinks it makes a lot of sense that he was called up this week.
“Based on what he has done, it was clear (he was ready),” he said. “I think last year he could have competed (at the MLB level), but there really wasn’t the need to call him up and he wasn’t playing in real games, so it was hard to know for sure. And then how he performed this spring and then in the Triple-A season, it was clear that he doesn’t really have anything left to prove at that level and it was time to challenge him and see what he could do at the big-league level.”
Kelenic, 21, is a left-handed hitter who has a phenomenal approach and an advanced feel at the plate, Mayo said.
“He works counts and when he gets a pitch to hit, he doesn’t miss it very often,” he said. “Sometimes a guy can be really good at working counts and drawing walks, but then he gets too passive. He is not like that. If he sees a fastball that catches a lot of the plate early, he knows what to do with it.”
Just how impressive is Kelenic at the plate?
“He works the counts, he gets good pitches to hit and when given the opportunity, he tends to get the barrel of the bat on the baseball more often than not,” Mayo said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen a prospect recently who is so consistently making hard contact.”
And an area where Kelenic has really improved is with his power. He hit 23 home runs in the minors in 2019 and hit two in his Triple-A debut. Mayo has seen a lot of progress from Kelenic in that regard.
“One of the biggest things that was a step forward for him was learning how to turn on and pull inside fastballs so he can hit those out to his pull side,” he said. “His power is the thing that’s probably come the most quickly and that often tends to take longer. He’s shown more power in his brief time in the minors than I think people expected (of him) coming out of high school.”
Something that we’ve seen with prospects all around baseball, including with the Mariners, is that they hit a slump and deal with adversity, especially at the MLB level. Kelenic has been very steady in the minors, so his first slump of sorts will likely come at the big league level. Mayo says that’s to be expected, but that Kelenic shouldn’t have too much of an issue getting things right if that happens.
“He’s such a good hitter, he’s such an advanced hitter and he’s so confident that I think that’s going to help kind of limit the amount of time he has where he might be really struggling,” Mayo said.
And even if Kelenic is in a cold stretch at the plate, he can still make an impact for the Mariners.
“He’s good at so many different things that even if he’s not swinging the bat all that well, he can do things with his legs, he’s become a much better defender, he’s got a good arm, so he can help the team win eve if he’s slumping a little bit at the plate,” Mayo said. “But I think that he has the tools that will kind of help him to mitigate any slump.”
As mentioned, most of Mayo’s interview with Jake and Stacy was centered around Kelenic as the report that Gilbert will make his MLB debut didn’t come out until later in the day.
But Mayo was asked about the big right-hander and had plenty of good things to say.
“I think he would have been in the big leagues last year if not for (COVID-19 causing the minor league) shutdown,” Mayo said. “He’s just nasty. We’re talking a 6-foot-6 frame (with) four above-average plus pitches. He’s got a fastball that’s up in the upper-90s.”
Mayo said that Gilbert, like Kelenic, is an extremely hard worker and a leader.
“He’s kind of set the bar as far as preparing among all minor league pitchers,” Mayo said. “A really, really high bar. No one is going to outwork this guy. And he’s got ridiculous stuff with that 6-foot-6 frame to boot.”
Check out the full interview, which includes more of Mayo’s thoughts on Kelenic and Gilbert and also outfielder Julio Rodríguez, at this link or in the player below.
Jake & Stacy