Last Friday, Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic injured his left leg during a Spring Training game against the White Sox. He hurt it while running down to first base. The MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain of the adductor muscle in his knee. At the moment, we are told it is a three-six week recovery.
The bad news for the Mariners and Jarred Kelenic
Things were looking really good this month for Jarred Kelenic. Not only was he playing well, the ongoing controversy about service-time manipulation made it look more and more likely that we would see Kelenic on Opening Day. Now, this injury will push him back and there is very little chance he will be ready for the Mariners opener.
On a simplistic level, injuries are worrisome especially for young prospects. M’s fans have bad memories of former top prospects getting injured (e.g Danny Hultzen). As far as my research, Kelenic doesn’t have a long history of injuries or a bad record of them. In 2019, he missed some time after injuring his right wrist and left ankle but those aren’t nearly the same level as a labrum tear, ACL, MCL, etc.
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The good news for the Mariners and Jarred Kelenic
It is weird that I find more good news rather than bad news in this situation. One of the positives out of this unprecedented event is that it isn’t a major injury. The injury could have been much worse in the grand scheme of things. Since it is just a Grade 2 strain, there is some tearing but it is not a rupture (Grade 3).
The other good thing that comes out of this is it ends the “when should we call up Kelenic” question. For Jarred, he would much rather be on the Opening Day roster instead of waiting to be called up later in the season. But from Seattle’s perspective, a mid-season call-up could save the Mariners money.
Additionally, the injury eases the tension and urgency that Jarred has been expressing. He clearly thinks he is ready for the big leagues, and I don’t blame him. But the Mariners have rushed prospects in the past, and we know how those projects turned out.
The Mariners cannot repeat the past and should take this injury very carefully and extend the rehabilitation process as long as possible so Jarred can get enough at-bats in the minors.
Jarred has only had 663 at-bats and played in 173 games in the minor leagues. That is nearly the equivalent of just one MLB season.
The infamous Mike Zunino is an example of a rushed top prospect. Zunino made his MLB debut in 2013, just a year after being drafted in 2012. He only had 161 at-bats before putting on a Mariners uniform.
Dustin Ackley is another example of a failed project. After being the second overall pick in 2009, Ackley made his debut in 2011 after just 574 at-bats and 154 minor league games.
The Mariners cannot make another mistake so they should be very careful with Kelenic and use this injury to their advantage.
Lastly, Kelenic’s setback provides opportunities for others. The Seattle outfield pool is deep with young talent. But, now that Kelenic won’t be on the Opening Day roster, it allows guys like Jake Fraley to seize the moment. Fraley has been quite disappointing with the Mariners thus far, but he has hit well in the minor leagues when healthy.
It also allows Taylor Trammell to step up and he has been impressive in Spring Training thus far. He might even end up on the Opening Day roster now that Kelenic is out.
We hope Jarred Kelenic can make a speedy recovery but at the same time, we want to ensure he gets to 110% health before stepping onto the field again.