Despite consecutive 90-win seasons and a playoff series win, the 2023 Mariners came into the year with many questions. What to do with Chris Flexen? Will budding superstar Julio Rodriguez suffer a sophomore slump? What will Tom Murphy look like after basically two years off the diamond? But the biggest question was always, "Is it finally Jarred Kelenic season?" Although early returns might be a resounding yes, thankfully, we have some solid data to back that assumption up.
Three Reasons for Optimism with Jarred Kelenic in 2023
Reason for Optimism #1: Jarred Kelenic Using the Entire Field
Kelenic is hitting the ball with authority to all fields. He scorched a single to left field in the Cleveland series and blistered three liners through the right side. However, looking at his spray chart from 2022 and 2023, you'll see a noticeable difference in his approach and results.
Why is this important? Because pitchers will continue to throw him sliders away until he shows an aptitude for using the entire field.
Reason for Optimism #2: Jarred Kelenic Barreling Everything Up
The 23-year-old outfielder leads the Mariners with a 61.1% hard-hit rate, tied for 11th in the MLB. He is also on pace for career highs in exit velocity (92.8) and barrel percentage (15). Remember, we are only a mere ELEVEN games into the season, but if you combine his nuclear performance in Peoria, there is a solid sample size (84 at-bats).
One of the most exciting stats thus far is the launch angle. Kelenic is trying to avoid hitting the 500-foot homer this year. So instead, he lets his natural bat speed and athleticism take over. But when he gets a meatball, he can still make pitchers pay.
Reason for Optimism #3: The New Rules Play into Kelenic's Favor
Jarred Kelenic will probably always be tightly wound. He's neither Julio Rodriguez nor Eugenio Suarez, who are wrapped in "Good Vibes." There were many media pundits who thought Kelenic’s struggles were solely based on the mental side of the game. We’ll never know the answer, but the new rules help players like him.
The shift ban has already resulted in a few hits to right field, but there is one rule that stands out. The ability to call a timeout during an at-bat to think through a sequence allows Kelenic to steady his mind before pivotal pitches. We’ve seen it in spring training where an at-bat could’ve gotten away from him, he called time out and then destroyed the next pitch off All-Star Closer, Devin Williams, a relief pitcher who didn’t give up a homer all year in 2022.
The season is early, but if the former first round pick can stick with his approach, continue to show growth, and use those new rules to his advantage it might finally be time to say it. 2023 is Jarred Kelenic Season!