What MLB insider Verducci learned about Jarred Kelenic, Mariners

Feb 21, 2023, 11:54 AM

Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Jarred Kelenic hits a home run for the Mariners off Texas pitcher Jon Gray on Sept. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

With Mariners spring training kicking into full gear this week, one of their youngest players is once again in the spotlight.

In an article for published Monday, longtime MLB reporter Tom Verducci profiled Jarred Kelenic, taking particularly interest in adjustments Seattle’s 23-year-old outfielder has made to his swing not just this offseason but during the 2022 campaign, as well.

Read Tom Verducci’s article on Jarred Kelenic here

The piece caught the attention of Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk, who talked to Verducci during Tuesday’s edition of Brock and Salk to find out what he learned about Kelenic while reporting for the story, plus his view on the Mariners and the AL West in 2023.

Listen to the full conversation in the podcast below, and underneath that are transcripts of some of the more notable parts of the interview.

What Verducci learned about Kelenic

I learned he’s in a really good place mentally. It’s tough to get yourself established in the big leagues, no matter how talented you are, and he knows that as well as anybody and I think things snowballed on him. We haven’t played a game that counts yet (in 2023) so hold off on final judgments here, but it begins with being in a good mental space and it really sounds like he’s in that place. Encouraging things happened last September, it sounds like he had a good offseason in terms of attacking some of the things that the Mariners wanted him to make adjustments on, so that’s all positive. And I think also, it’s funny how sometimes when you fail and the expectations get lowered, it puts you in a better mental space. He doesn’t have to feel like he has to be ‘the’ guy right now because listen, it’s probably a part-time role in the best case scenario, at least to start. And you know, certainly the way Julio Rodríguez broke out last year, a lot of focus is going to be on Julio and now (Kelenic) can just go about his business. And I’m sure he wants to be more than a complementary player, but right now that’s what the expectation is. Just be a decent complementary player and you don’t have to be a superstar right away.

How age works in baseball

We’ve been spoiled in recent years because we’ve seen people like (Mike) Trout and (Bryce) Harper and Julio and Fernando Tatís and Ronald Acuña Jr. – there’s just so many guys who seemed to hit the ground running at 21, 22. They’re the pure exception, and growth in baseball is certainly not linear. I mean, there’s definitely a roller coaster effect to improvement, and it’s a good question about the age. I think it has a lot to do with repetitions. I think amateur baseball has changed a lot. Jarred certainly played a lot of high quality amateur baseball, but you can only get so many repetitions as a player to get yourself better so it takes time. You have to fail, as you said, to really succeed, and it’s hard to shorten that learning curve. And I think the game has done better in terms of shortening that learning curve because you can play high quality baseball a lot when you’re younger so you see better competition, but it’s a good point that even the best players tend to go through this learning curve or they’re going to have to put in two, three, four years in the minor leagues before they become established big leaguers.

Is Verducci buying the Mariners as a team that can a step in 2023?

I am. I like the way they play baseball, I like the fact that they’re a little more balanced this year. You always have to like their pitching, right? They’re sort of like the Rays, they’ve figured out a way to pitch where they love guys who throw from extreme arm angles, especially the lower angle, pitching high in the zone. They spin the ball really well, so I don’t worry about them pitching. The rotation is just rock solid, as good as whatever is out there. I thought they were short offensively last year. It’s amazing they won 90 (games), but again, they found a way to win a lot of these close games. So they have a little bit more margin of error to push that number above 90. It’s going to take a much better offense – I’m not talking about three or four best in the league-type offense, but a little better than middle of the pack offense. I think they have that this year. Teoscar (Hernández) is going to be a big addition to that middle of the lineup, proven run producer. That division, I think, if it’s not the toughest in baseball, it’s the most competitive I think because I think that four of those five teams can be capable of making the playoffs, including Texas. Texas to me is a legit postseason contender now so the way it shakes out is gonna be really interesting. But yes, I like the momentum Seattle has, above everything else, I love their starting pitching.

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What MLB insider Verducci learned about Jarred Kelenic, Mariners