Dipoto on Kelenic: Mariners ‘couldn’t be more optimistic’ about changes

Mar 2, 2023, 11:27 AM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic at bat against the San Diego Padres on Feb. 24, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

This spring training is yet another where former top Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic is in the spotlight.

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In 2020 and 2021, it was all about when Kelenic would make his MLB debut. Last year, it was if Kelenic could build off a strong final month of the 2021 season to cap off an otherwise rocky rookie campaign.

Now, Kelenic heads into 2023 with a new swing and in a different situation where he’s likely to platoon in left field with veteran outfielder AJ Pollock after he mostly struggled in MLB action in 2022.

Kelenic has certainly turned heads so far, blasting three home runs in 11 spring training at-bats, including going back-to-back with Julio Rodríguez on Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs.

Watch: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic hit back-to-back HRs

While Mariners fans may be cautiously optimistic that Kelenic will finally establish himself at the big league level this season, M’s president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto took that confidence level a step further during his weekly interview with Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

“Could not be any more optimistic about the changes that he’s made,” he said during The Jerry Dipoto Show, which airs live every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. “And some of this is not just the results that he’s achieving in the game, it’s not just how good he’s looked on the fields in practice from the moment we got here. It’s what we know of his offseason and the things that he’s done to focus on what we’re seeing, which is some level of swing change, some level of approach change, some level of just adapting to major league pitching. It’s just taking him a little while longer than it takes others.”

Brock Huard asked Dipoto if the swing change was to become shorter or more direct to the baseball, so Dipoto broke down Kelenic’s swing.

“He’s always had a pretty short or direct swing. Jarred’s swing, if you were to look at it from the moment we acquired him, it’s a pretty flat swing, which is not uncommon with good hitters who use the field to hit,” he said. “Through the years, you would define flat swings as if you looked at batting champs or the guys that are at the top of the batting average leaders, it’s very common.”

Kelenic’s swing has “a little more tilt” and is “shorter on the front end,” Dipoto said.

“On the front end, there’s a little more uptick as he comes through the zone, and then he’s shorter on the extension on the backside, which I think gives him more barrel control through the strike zone,” he said. “I will say this: I don’t think he’s hit a ball under 100 mph since the since the spring began. He’s roasting the league. It’s 105 to 113 mph exit velocity almost every time he swings the bat, which is pretty good.”

In addition to struggles on the field, a lot has been made of Kelenic’s maturity throughout the years.

As a prospect and early on in his MLB career, Kelenic was seen at times as brash, and Mike Salk said some likely saw him as a “meathead” for his intensity and quotes like “smell ya later” after hitting a home run.

Dipoto discussed Kelenic’s maturation over the last few years.

“The idea that he was ever a meathead is probably an assumption. He’s actually very smart, he’s very prepared, he’s an intense player on the field and in the way he works off of the field,” Dipoto said. “The fact that he was brash, particularly when he first arrived here, that’s where you can read a little of that into.”

From then to now, Kelenic has grown tremendously, Dipoto said.

“If you follow him around this spring, there’s a definite maturation that has happened over the course (of time), and I’d even go back to midsummer of last year,” he said. “From midsummer last year to where we sit today, he has matured so much. You’re never going to find anyone who was more intent with their work habits, who came to the ballpark with a plan, who had goals to what he wanted to achieve. Now he’s combined that with he’s grown up quite a bit. I think he’s learned better how to deal with the ups and downs. Baseball, it’s a long season, and if you get too down with the downs, it’s very hard to recover. So he’s doing a great job.”

Listen to the full interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player below.

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Dipoto on Kelenic: Mariners ‘couldn’t be more optimistic’ about changes