Former first-round pick and top-three prospect Jarred Kelenic has been overly praised by some fans and extremely hated and left behind by others, but what can fans expect from him in 2023?
He was once described as having a ceiling of Carlos Beltran by SoDo Mojo. He has even been ranked a higher prospect in the Mariners system than Julio, so he clearly has the tools to be an MVP-caliber player in the league.
Despite this potential, over the past two seasons, he has built a reputation as an AAAA player, a player who is not quite good enough for major league pitching but one of the best hitters in the minor leagues.
There has been some good over the past two years, as he is a strong guy who can hit the ball hard. Baseball Savant had him in the 94th percentile in max exit velocity in 2022, up from the 74th percentile, and in the 88th percentile in arm strength last season. Also, his barrel% went from 9.9 to 13.6 from 21–22, max exit velo increased by 3.1 MPH, and launch angle went from 14.4 to 18.0
As well as that, despite battling injuries while coming up through the minors, he hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 dingers, and 20 steals in Double AA at the age of 20.
Back to his AAAA reputation, he has been quite the player in AAA over the past two seasons while simultaneously struggling in his action at major league level. He has had positive run value in fastballs and sinkers but has shown that he is lost on offspeed pitches with horizontal movement.
His past two seasons:
2021 AAA 10.5 BB%, 15.4 K%, .320/.392/.624 1.016 OPS, .323 BABIP, 143 WRC+
2022 AAA 8.9 BB%, 20.8 K%, .295/.365/.5567 .922 OPS, .339 BABIP, 123 WRC+
2021 MLB 9.5 BB%, 28.1 K%, .181/.265/.350 .615 OPS, .216 BABIP, 74 WRC+
2022 MLB 8.8 BB%, 33.7 K%, .141/.221/.313 .534 OPS, .167 BABIP, 55 WRC+
For next season, Fangraphs predicts a massive bounce back in Kelenic, believing he will jump to a 105 WRC+ and above-average production. I remain more pessimistic but more optimistic than baseball reference. I think this because despite his ground ball % going down from 42.9% to 36.9% and fly ball% going from 41.6 to 52.4%, however, his HR per fly ball went from 14.6% to 13.0%.
If he is even able to just find the middle ground of these two production levels up in Seattle, he will be an above-average hitter and with his stellar defense, he would be a key contributor to another postseason run. However, there is cause for concern as he did fall in production at both levels in 2022, despite his extra experience. If the Mariners can get something along the Fangraphs projections, it should make for a good step in the career of Jarred Kelenic.