Oh, man. Jarred Kelenic. I'm going to avoid getting too much into the conversation about his place on the team, whether you should be in his corner or not, and why I think you're being ridiculous if you aren't... wait, not getting into it. Today, let's try and focus solely on his STEAMER projections, and how they provide a bit of hope and optimism about the 2023 season.
2023 will be Kelenic's age-23 season, and I think there are a few big things to watch for outside of the standard stats. BABIP, but more importantly, K rate, BB rate, Hard hit %, and exit velo.
A guy is going to have a low BABIP, and likely a rough career, when he doesn't hit the ball hard. It's different when you have an insanely good eye and are a slap-type hitter. That's not Kelenic, and there aren't a ton of those guys around anymore, even though we might see a slight return to that with the base sizes increasing.
Kelenic HAS to start hitting the ball harder. I truly believe that. I'm a massive believer in him still, but an average exit velo of 86.0 mph would've been 236th out of 253 qualified hitters last season if Kelenic qualified. The hard-hit % (35%) was better, but 195th is still awful. Getting up to the league average for these two at 88.4 mph and 35.8% would increase his slash line by a big-time amount. There's a glimmer of hope in here still, as his hard-hit rate is a lot higher than his average exit velo, so we know he can still hit it hard when he gets to the ball.
Let's look at his career rates, what STEAMER projects, and try and break down what we could really see from Kelenic.
Career - 147 G, 558 PA, 21 HR, 11 SB, 61 R, 60 RBI, .168/.251/.338, .201 BABIP, 9.3% BB, 29.9% K, 37.9% Hard Hit, 87.1 MPH exit velo
STEAMER - 109 G, 434 PA, 18 HR, 9 SB, 48 R, 53 RBI, .224/.295/.415, .262 BABIP, 8.4% BB, 25% K, 2.9 off, -5.5 def, 1.2 fWAR.
Honestly, that isn't that bad. He did show a big uptick in defense last season, so I think we are once again going to see an average to above-average defender. He had a 2.7 def according to Fangraphs, and I think that's much more realistic than the -5.5 they project. That would also push him closer to a 2.0 fWAR also.
Good defense in a corner spot. Decent speed and good pop. Kelenic has all the tools, and there is a reason that he was ranked so highly in prospect worlds as he was coming up. The kid can be special if he can put it all together. A common statement, but one that holds true regardless.
The last thing to keep an eye on... Breaking Balls. Kelenic was atrocious in 2022, with a .056 BA against them, with just three hits in 54 AB, and 29 Ks. If he can get that up into the 150-180 range, I think we are going to see a darn good season from him. I don't think we need to see a massive drop in K rate, but if he can get back to around 28-29%, and keep that walk rate around 9.5-10%, Kelenic is going to be a piece in the lineup instead of a hole.
STEAMER thinks we see a decent season from him, and that the trend starts climbing once again. I'll be in his corner once again, and my bold statement is that he has a higher fWAR than JP Crawford this season.