Mariners GM Dipoto: Why Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert are ready now
The big day for the Mariners is here as top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert will make their debuts against the Cleveland Indians Thursday evening.
The two 2018 first-round picks are two of the highest-rated prospects in baseball, with Kelenic ranking as MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect while Gilbert ranks 28th.
Now, those two will be in Mariners uniforms and playing meaningful games for the very first time.
The man who drafted Gilbert and traded for Kelenic, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, is obviously very excited about the debut of those two players. He spoke in detail about Kelenic and Gilbert on The Jerry Dipoto Show with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant.
Dipoto said that about two weeks ago, the team decided that Kelenic and Gilbert would likely be up around this point. But it was easier to plan Kelenic’s debut than Gilbert’s.
“We were set on trying to find a way at least start Jarred’s career at home,” Dipoto said. “With Logan the pitcher, it’s a little more difficult to pick the specific date and time. But in his case this wound up being the sixth day for him after his outing last Friday in Tacoma, so it worked out as perfectly really as it could.”
Not only has it worked out “perfectly,” but Dipoto thinks this could be the start of something great for the two prospects as well as the organization.
“For the two of them to join today and add a little bit of energy to the environment and more specifically kick off their MLB careers (is great) because we think both of them are going to be here for many years contributing to what he hope is the turnaround we’ve been looking forward to a couple years ago,” he said.
Both Kelenic and Gilbert played in Triple-A Tacoma this year after staying in Arizona once MLB spring training ended as the minor league season was delayed until May. Getting those two to Tacoma, though, was “fortunate.”
Dipoto said that because Arkansas has better weather this time of year than Washington state, the organization debated having Kelenic and Gilbert start the minor league season with the team’s Double-A affiliate. The issue with that, though, is that teams currently can’t promote players from Double-A to MLB, so the Mariners ultimately assigned Kelenic and Gilbert to Triple-A Tacoma, where they shined in limited action.
It’s been widely discussed that had there been a regular 162-game season last year, Gilbert almost certainly would have made his MLB debut, and Kelenic may have as well.
With Gilbert, Dipoto said the plan since late 2020 was to build up an innings count for him by giving him a slow ramp-up period in 2021. This is so the Mariners can better manage his innings through the end of the season rather than shutting him down late in the year.
“We’re hoping to get him out there 110 to 120 innings,” Dipoto said. “… We don’t want to be hard fixed (on that limit) but that’s the goal. Right about middle of May was going to be the point where a series of five- to six-inning starts were going to land us in that zone. So this was always the plan with Logan.”
With Kelenic, the Mariners gave Kelenic as many plate appearances as possible between minor league games in Arizona, intrasquad games and then in his six Triple-A games.
“He wound up achieving (around) 140 plate appearances,” Dipoto said. “… And everywhere he went … it was loud. I want to say the low mark was about 1.000 OPS, which he had in the big league camp.”
What Kelenic has done is prove he deserves to be on the MLB roster, Dipoto said.
“This kid is ready. He’s shown us in every way,” he said. “We challenged him with a lot of assignments against left-handed pitching … and he killed that too. He was terrific and he deserves the opportunity. He’s worked very hard, as has Logan. And (for them) to (debut) together like this at the start of a homestand we thought was the right thing to do organizationally rather than debuting them on the road where it was less exciting.”
Some may question the value of Kelenic playing in only six Triple-A games before is callup, but Dipoto said that what looks like six games in Tacoma “actually (is) a month-and-a-half because of all the games Kelenic played in down in Arizona as well.
And as far Kelenic’s hitting against left-handed pitching, he answered that call immediately in his first Triple-A game.
“I laughed out loud when in his first at-bat against the lefty in Tacoma he hit a home run,” Dipoto said. “It’s appropriate to the individual. He accepts every challenge. He has a definite swagger to him when he walks into a ballpark and we think that’s going to really help us develop whatever personality this group of players is going to have as we evolve towards a contender.”
And despite being a rookie and getting his first taste of MLB action, it appears Kelenic will be the new catalyst for Seattle’s lineup.
“In Tacoma we hit him leadoff. Throughout the spring … we hit him leadoff. We were doing it to maximize the number of plate appearances he got,” Dipoto said. “… In this group of players that we currently have, we feel like Jarred has the on-base skills, he has the discipline in his approach (to hit leadoff) and he’s a fire starter and he gets things going. I think you’ll see him more often than not hitting at the top of the lineup, and that gives us a better balance, and we really want to see the offense get kickstarted.”
You can listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.