Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic aims to be ‘best guy’ at 1st big league camp
The Mariners’ “youth movement” is in full effect for 2020, as many of the team’s top prospects will be fixtures in the lineup and on the mound throughout the season.
Kelenic, 20, was drafted sixth overall in 2018 by the New York Mets and traded to the Mariners in a late 2018 deal that sent Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz to New York. Kelenic tore up minor league pitching in the Mariners’ system in 2019, his first full season of professional baseball. After starting the year at Single-A West Virginia, Kelenic received promotions to both High-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas. Between the three levels, he hit .291, had an on-base percentage of .364, hit 23 home runs, drove in 68 runs and stole 20 bases.
Just 20 years old, Kelenic was one of many minor leaguers invited to the Mariners’ big league camp in spring training.
On Wednesday, Kelenic talked with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy about the opportunity to be at camp with the Mariners and his mindset for the future. Here’s a look at what he had to say.
After an offseason split between spending time with family and his girlfriend, working out and improving his ability to hit off-speed pitches, Kelenic is one of the most notable non-40-man roster invitees to Seattle’s big league spring training camp.
Even though he’ll be one of the youngest players there, Kelenic is confident he will shine in front of the team’s coaches and best players.
“My expectations are to try to be the best guy in camp,” he said. “My expectations have always been higher than everyone else’s and I think being one of the younger guys with kind of a spotlight on me, there’s going to be some pressure.But when you have your expectations higher than everyone else’s there’s no such thing as pressure because when you have your expectations so high, you’re already fulfilling everybody else’s. You’ve just got to meet yours.”
Those that have followed Kelenic know that he is hardly lacking in confidence.
At the Mariners’ spring training press conference last month, Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said Kelenic’s best trait may in fact be his confidence.
“That might be the most exciting single tool we have in our system,” McKay said of Kelenic’s confidence. “It is his self-confidence in his belief in himself, and just like all skills, that’s the skill that we’re trying to nurture and protect and grow because I do think it’s a carrying tool that separates him at every level. … His ability to think differently than the people he’s competing against is the skill that I think is going to play very well for him throughout his career. And so that carries everything.”
Kelenic told Tom, Jake and Stacy that confidence level comes from his parents, but he feels he’s earned the right to be as confident as he is.
“I put in the work. I truly feel like I work harder than anybody out there and that gives me the confidence to when I go out on the field, just let my hard work pay off, and that’s the easy part,” he said. “It’s something I really take pride in in how hard I work because I enjoy it. I enjoy getting after it in the weight room. I enjoy trying to be the best I can be at anything.”
Not only is Kelenic the 11th-ranked prospect in all of baseball, but the team has one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.
Seattle’s second-ranked prospect is another outfielder, Julio Rodriguez, who is just 19 and MLB Pipeline’s No. 25 prospect. In the future, Mariners fans will likely see Kelenic and Rodriguez patrolling the outfield together. Not only are they two of the best prospects in all of baseball, the two are extremely close.
“Julio’s my guy,” Kelenic said. “I think everybody can see that through social media, but really, social media doesn’t do (the friendship) justice.”
Kelenic said the two recently met for lunch and ended up just talking about life for over two hours.
“Julio, definitely in this organization, he’s my ride or die,” Kelenic said. “He’s really been with me every step of the way since I came to the Mariners.”
After a late promotion, Kelenic was part of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers playoff squad that featured players like Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield and Evan White, who are among the team’s best prospects and expected to have roles in the big leagues in 2020. Kelenic said those guys, among many other young players, have made it a welcoming environment for him and others right away.
“I think something that’s really unique about this group is we’re a young group of guys in an MLB clubhouse and it’s really becoming like a family environment right away,” he said.
Kelenic also talked about wanting to stick in center field, his love of “chick flicks,” the below video of him hitting a Frisbee with a baseball off of a tee, which he said took just eight attempts and more.
— Jarred Kelenic (@JKelenic_1019) January 20, 2020
Listen to Kelenic’s interview with Tom, Jake and Stacy in the player below.
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