Do you know what’s crazy? The 2023 season is still only going to be Jarred Kelenic’s age-23 season. Any player born after July 1st gets that designation, and with Kelenic born on July 16th, he falls into that category. There are so many people out there that are calling him a bust already, yet he is still incredibly young. He’s younger than Emerson Hancock (couple months), Bryce Miller (11 months), and Taylor Dollard (5 months).
Those are three of the Mariners top 5-7 prospects, and Kelenic is younger than all of them. Yet, for some reason, it seems like way too many Mariners fans are already done with him, and have it cemented into their brains that he is worthless. I don’t get it, and I’m still strongly in his corner. I think he has a chance to be a great MLB player. He showed some strides towards getting there in 2022, but still has a way to go.
I’m giving Jarred Kelenic a C for his 2022 season grade
He showed a ton of promise and growth in AAA this year, hitting .296/.366/.557 with 18 HR and 32 2B in just 86 games. He also had a BB rate of 9.9% and a K rate of 23.2%. I know that’s not the major leagues, but it shows that he is hitting the ball well, and doing it often.
He definitely struggled on offense. He was also insanely unlucky. I mention BABIP a lot because I think it’s a good indicator of if we are going to see a player’s production go up or down in the next season. The League average was .291 this season, and Kelenic had a BABIP of just .167. I’m not going to say that means his average will jump 124 points next season, but we should see a run of good luck upcoming.
He does need to make better contact, or else we won’t see that BABIP go much above .240-.250. You cannot have an average exit velo of just 86 mph (league average is 88.1) and expect to see a ton of success. Especially when your hard hit rate is just 35%, 3.7% below league average.
I fully expect it to go up. We are talking about a young kid from Wisconsin. He is a bit behind in experience from limited reps growing up, as well as losing a ton of time during the COVID shutdowns. If anyone in baseball was hurt by losing ABs, it was Jarred Kelenic.
I think that is reflected in his defense as well. In 2021, he was bad in the outfield, with a dWAR of -1.6 in just 93 games. That’s Jesse Winker bad. 2022 was a much different story, as he was actually a positive defender. He amassed a dWAR of 0.3 in 54 games, which ends up at about 1.0 if he plays a full season. I’ll take that all day from a kid in his early 20s.
If he comes out and plays a full season, hitting .200 with bad contact, then I’ll admit there might be a problem. I think that having the future face of baseball in Julio Rodriguez makes it a bit tougher as well. If he can take a step back and stop comparing himself to Julio (I don’t know if he is, but it’s reasonable to think so) and instead focus on his own game, we could see some big steps from Jarred Kelenic in 2023.
The Mariners are looking to contend, and contend for a while. If Kelenic can start to reach some of the ceilings people were placing on him 18 months ago, the Mariners are going to be in a great spot. For now, I give Kelenic a passing grade in 2022. Because as a 22-year-old (his 2022 season age), that’s exactly what we should’ve expected from someone that young.