We're kicking off a new series here at Sodo Mojo to bring you the top 15 Mariners heading into 2023. Earlier in the offseason (Pre-Spring Training), a good amount of our contributors voted on the current Mariners, ranking them as to how good they would be in 2023. There were a handful of surprises, with some players getting a wild variance in their votes. After throwing out the top and bottom vote from each player, we came up with a list, and it starts with arguably the most polarizing Mariners player, Jarred Kelenic.
Just 23, Kelenic has already seen criticism that most won't see by the time they're 27, much less in their entire career. With 500+ ABs already, some are calling the youngster a "bust" already, which seems ridiculous. Yes, he has struggled, you cannot deny that. But he is also improving. In 2022, that improvement came on defense. Part of it was splitting time between RF and CF, facing less pressure to perform as a stud defender manning the outfield. A -1.6 dWAR improved to a 0.3 dWAR, and there's no reason to think he would regress.
Jarred Kelenic is a polarizing player, and we rank him as the 15th best Mariners player for 2023.
Although it's early (March 7th at the time of writing), Jarred Kelenic has looked like a completely different person so far in Spring Training. He looks more relaxed and calmer at the plate, getting away from the tense-looking stance he previously would fall into. The swing looks "quieter", and the results have been good in a small sample size.
Through 6 games and 17 ABs, Kelenic is hitting .412/.412/1.118 with 4 HR and 3 1B. The homers look really nice, as he has gone DEEP to dead center off of All-Star reliever Devin Williams, as well as going oppo off of long-time MLB pitcher Roenas Elias, who also just so happens to be left-handed, the early bugaboo to Kelenic's struggles in the bigs.
It's not all roses, as he has yet to walk and has 5 Ks. Again, small sample, but the 5 K's actually isn't that bad. If he can hold a 29-30% K rate in 2023, it seems like that would be a win for the Mariners. He was at 33.7% last season, and the beginning of a downward trend would be nice to see, even if he is still well above the league average K rate of 22.8%.
I think that no matter what, come the end of 2023 Kelenic will not be ranked as the 15th best player on the Mariners. He is either going to struggle again and completely fall of the list or be good enough to be a legit LF platoon option with AJ Pollock, and finish somewhere around 8th. He's got power, he's got speed, and he can play defense. Even fans seem to have his back now, whether it's quietly always been that way, or ST really has changed the narrative.
I'm looking forward to another season of Kelenic, and I think it is going to be a good one. Stay tuned for the rest of our rankings, with one coming out each day throughout the series.