Jarred Kelenic has emerged in spring, success may be sustainable

Jarred Kelenic
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Jarred Kelenic has been highly regarded since before he was drafted in 2018. The New York Mets selected him in the first round of the MLB Draft. He was later traded in exchange for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Others were involved in the deal too.

It was a little under two seasons ago on May 13, 2021, that Kelenic made his expected MLB debut. When he slotted in as the Mariners starting left fielder against the Cleveland Guardians. During his time in the minors, Kelenic has crushed highly regarded prospects and MLB veterans who are stuffed on pitching staffs. Though, he hasn’t had the success that he, nor the Mariners organization have wanted to see over the last couple of seasons. In 2021, he was sent back down to Triple-A amid a 0-39 stretch. Though, he did make it back to the MLB later that season.

Despite baseball returning in 2021 for a full spring training and a normal 162-game season, Kelenic was at the center of the Mariners’ news, with the infamous comments of Kevin Mather. The comments that stated the Mariners manipulated Kelenic’s service time in 2020 and using the promotion as a penalty for him not signing a contract extension.

During the 2022 season, Kelenic made the MLB roster out of spring training and only played 30 games before being optioned once again. When he came back up, he was hitting better but he finished with a .141 batting average. Which is second to John Vukovich for the lowest in MLB history for batters with more than 550 plate appearances.

Refined Approach

Instead of going home to Wisconsin immediately following the end of the 2022 season, Jarred Kelenic spent some time on his approach at the plate.

The translation from his success in the Minor Leagues to the Major League level. Though, he has started this spring off with a torrid start. The third-year veteran is slashing .412/.412/1.118 with four home runs and five RBIs. Kelenic has made a switch from being stiff in the batter’s box to a more relaxed approach.

Two reasons why it’ll lead to success:

  • Relaxed – If you haven’t watched Jarred Kelenic this spring, he has looked more relaxed not only at the plate but also in the field. He also appears to be in a more positive mindset and feels more comfortable.
  • Focused – Kelenic seems to be more focused on hitting the ball up the middle, which if he can continue to do will allow him to hit more consistently and be more squared up. He’d also be able to push and pull the ball better when needed.

“When I came back up in September, I’d had lot of time to just kind of sit and talk with myself, honestly,” he said “But my biggest thing was when I showed up, I was gonna do whatever I needed to to help the team win one game at a time.”

– Via Seattle Times

With one collective goal in mind in Seattle, Kelenic wanted to be on the same page.

“The end goal is to get to the World Series,” he said. “That’s kind of where my head’s at.”

The approach has been much different than Spring Training in the past.

“It did seem like every spring training there has been some sort of Jarred drama one way or the other,” Mariners manager Scott Servais joked. “I think he’s probably just ready to come in and go do his job.”

Kelenic didn’t allow any distractions this offseason, he spent some time between Arizona and Southern California, working with some hitting coaches to define that new approach at the plate rather than going home to Wisconsin.

“He hits the ball as hard as anybody,” Servais said. “Control the strike zone, take your walks and they aren’t going to throw you 3-2 fastballs every time. It’s taken a little while. And of course, just slowing himself down. He gets so hyper.”

Jarred Kelenic has not seen the success he has wanted. In 558 career MLB plate appearances, Kelenic has posted a .168/.251/.338 slash line with 18 doubles, 21 homers, 60 RBI, 52 walks and 167 strikeouts. A 30% strikeout rate just doesn’t work. Per Statcast data, he’s swung and missed at roughly 40% of the breaking balls he faced.

“I needed to get better,” he said. “I’m pretty black and white. And it wasn’t working. I had to make an adjustment and work with great coaches this offseason.”

In case you haven’t noticed, here is what’s different about Kelenic’s new approach: He stands more relaxed, while keeping the bat flat on his shoulder. His hands are parallel and his elbow is loose. When the pitch comes, he has a slight leg kick and drops the hands to a natural hitting position.

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