Scott Servais: Gilbert giving Mariners ‘a lift,’ Kelenic ‘in a really good spot’ mentally
Two likely franchise cornerstones made their MLB debuts for the Mariners in May, and while their paths since that day have been very different, both are currently with the big league club and figure to be key pieces for Seattle through the rest of the season.
Those two rookies are of course outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert. Both highly-regarded prospects made their debuts on May 13, and, as noted, the two players have had very different levels of success.
After three shorter starts to begin his MLB career, Gilbert has been one of the best pitchers on the Mariners’ roster of late, and is surging into contention for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. In 11 starts, Gilbert is 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA and 62 strikeouts to 12 walks in 54 innings. He’s also allowing less than one walk and/or hit per inning.
Kelenic, meanwhile, hit just .096 in 92 plate appearances and was sent to Triple-A while riding an 0 for 39 streak. He returned to MLB last Friday after another good stint in the minors and he has a hit in each of his three games since returning to the Mariners.
Gilbert, as noted, has had a fantastic start to his MLB career for the Mariners.
The big 6-foot-6 right hander stands out for his size and impressive four-pitch arsenal, but how the mental side of his game has been what’s impressed Servais.
“It’s just his demeanor. And you see the consistency and how he carries himself, he looks very calm and very confident,” Servais said. “I know inside it may be churning a little more different than how it appears on the outside, but he gives off a really good vibe. And I guess it’s easy to do that when you throw 97 mph and you’re having a good run like he’s having. He’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Servais said that Gilbert, like most players – especially rookies – has key areas where he can improve and grow, but so far, “he’s been fantastic for us.”
“He’s really given us a lift in our starting rotation and our whole club has felt it,” Servais said.
Gilbert, the 14th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, was a well-regarded prospect during his time in the minors, but Servais said he was sometimes surprised he wasn’t rated higher in some prospect ranking lists. But that also may have been a good thing.
“But another part of me was kind of glad he wasn’t,” Servais said. “Let him be our guy and we’ll kind of keep him undercover here until he gets to the big leagues, because I think all of us thought that he could explode at the big league level and just kind of take off, and that’s what we’re seeing before our eyes.”
Kelenic, like Gilbert, was a high draft pick in 2018 (sixth overall), but unlike Gilbert, Kelenic was drafted out of high school and he made his MLB debut at just 21 years old.
That first taste of MLB action didn’t go according to plan, but at least through his first three games back in the big leagues, Servais sees a “much different” version of Kelenic.
“I think everybody is excited about all Jarred Kelenic brings (to our team) not just this year, but for our future, and he has a chance to be an outstanding player in this league,” Servais said. “The first time around, it was a struggle. Jarred is very intense by nature, and oftentimes wearing your emotions on your sleeve … it’s not always the best thing. I think he’s done a really good job since he’s been back.”
Where Kelenic has improved, Servais said, is that he’s not “riding the wave of every at-bat” regardless of whether he got a hit or not.
“You can have good at-bats and not get hits. I think understanding what he can control and what he can’t control (are huge), and those are words that have come out of his mouth,” Servais said. “So I’m really encouraged by where he’s at. I like where he’s at in his headspace and also obviously where he’s at in the batter’s box.”
When the Mariners and Colorado Rockies face off on Tuesday, Kelenic will be hitting sixth in the order, whereas when he started his MLB career, Servais had the rookie batting leadoff. Servais said that there’s more factors that play into where a guy is placed in the order than just whether a player is hot or not.
“I think that’s where he fits best right now in our lineup,” Servais said. “J.P. Crawford has been fantastic for us at the top of our lineup and where Jarred’s at right now, it’s a much better fit for him and for our ballclub.”
Servais did note that Kelenic could be hitting all over the order depending on the opposing pitcher, who’s in and out of the Mariners’ lineup, and in order to keep the lineup more balanced in terms of righties and lefties.
Listen to this week’s Scott Servais Show at this link or in the player below.
Jake & Stacy