We still don’t know when, or if, the Seattle Mariners and the rest of MLB will return. But if they do, how will it impact top prospect Jarred Kelenic?
Major League Baseball’s return is still up in the air. The latest proposal is for a 108 game schedule with a temporary realignment of leagues. Basically, the Cactus League and Grapefruit League would serve as the two conferences and each team would play their home games in their own spring training facilities. So if this plan comes to fruition, the Mariners will be playing 108 games in Arizona without fans.
But as things stand right now, it seems next to impossible that minor league baseball will be played this year, putting teams in a difficult spot. Do they just trust that their prospects will get sufficient work done on their own? Or do they try to get them into these 108 games to keep them playing in actual games?
For some prospects like Logan Gilbert, who is ready to compete in the big leagues, the question isn’t as relevant. But for Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic, that is a big question. Kelenic torched both A and A+ ball in his first full professional season and more than held his own as a 20-year-old in AA Arkansas. He was invited to big league camp as a result.
Kelenic got off to a hot start in spring camp and looked the part of a big leaguer before he went into a slump. But it didn’t stop people from asking whether or not Kelenic could actually make the big league roster on Opening Day.
Now, anybody with half an ounce of realism knew this wasn’t the case. Kelenic has yet to eclipse 100 PAs at AA and has never appeared in AAA. There was no reason to rush him to the big leagues, especially for a team that was expected to be bad.
But now with the prospects of losing an entire MILB seasons worth of games, the question has cropped up again. This time around, the question has a bit more merit. What Seattle has to decide is what is better; having Kelenic continue to work out and improve his game with limited live PAs, or to get him time in the big leagues so he gets the game action?
Ultimately, the idea of burning a full-season of service time on a shortened season in which Seattle is unlikely to compete seems foolish. And ultimately, struggling hard against MLB pitching may stunt his growth more so than the intensive workouts Kelenic already subjects himself to.
It is worth noting that the Mariners never sent Kelenic to minor league camp and he is technically still on the MLB spring training roster. Kelenic is relatively close to the big leagues and would likely have been a strong candidate for promotion to Seattle sometime in July or August if this was a normal season. But without those 3 months of PAs against live pitching, Seattle is in a tough spot.
At the end of the day, Seattle will have to decide if they think Kelenic is ready to perform against big-league pitching and if they are willing to risk an entire year of service time to find out. By keeping him off the 40-man roster, they’ll preserve 6 years of service time and allow Kelenic to come up early next season. In this case, it may just be better to be a few months too late than a few months too early.