The Mariners’ decision to re-assign Jarred Kelenic prior to opening day was expected, but still raises understandable questions.
The Mariners made several moves on Friday, to reduce their spring training roster to 33 players. There is little doubt the decision which most caught the attention of people, was re-assigning Jarred Kelenic to minor league camp.
After former CEO Kevin Mather’s comments about Kelenic at a Bellevue Rotary Club Breakfast function, fans and media alike wondered what would happen to the top-rated prospect. Mather said Seattle would keep the outfielder out of the Majors to begin the 2021 regular season, to gain an extra year of team control.
The Mariners seemed to catch a break, when Kelenic suffered a left adductor muscle strain. However, he ended up missing less time than originally projected.
In addition, the 21-year-old proved to be extremely effective with the bat despite his limited plate appearances during spring training. He had six hits, two homers, five RBI and seven runs in just 18 at bats.
Kelenic also showed excellent discipline, as evidenced by four walks and just one strikeout. As a result of his impressive play, he leads the Mariners with an OPS of 1.256 heading into the weekend.
In fairness to the Mariners, they do have some justification in re-assigning the 2018 first overall draft pick, as Spring training does not compare to the regular season. He has also not seen any time at the Triple-A level in his brief professional career and could still use some work on his play in the outfield.
Kelenic’s reaction to the news was always going to be interesting, partly because he has supreme confidence in his abilities. However, he seemed to be accepting and understanding of the decision to re-assign him, at least publicly.
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native did not play in Friday’s game with the San Diego Padres. However, he still spoke to the media following a 6-3 loss for the Mariners:
“Obviously it’s frustrating. I mean I’m a competitor and I want to help this team win as soon as possible, but I understand where they’re coming from. All I can do right now is focus on what I need to focus (on) and get there as soon as possible.”
Kelenic was asked if he thought his injury played a role in the decision. He showed maturity with his response:
“I don’t know if I can answer that, but what I can tell you is that I worked my tail off every single day I was here. I gave it 110 percent whether I was playing on the field or I wasn’t and that’s all I could really do; that’s all I could really control.”
It is reasonable to expect that Kelenic will be called up by the Mariners after the first month of the season. Until then — or whenever he makes his Major League debut — Taylor Trammel is projected to start in the outfield, alongside Kyle Lewis (pending his recovery from a knee injury) and Mitch Haniger.
Other top prospect also re-assigned
The Mariners also re-assigned Julio Rodriguez to minor league camp on Friday. Along with Kelenic, the outfielder is similarly considered a top-rated prospect for Seattle and baseball in general.
The decision to re-assign Rodriguez didn’t cause as much debate. However, it’s still worth noting his productivity during Cactus League play.
The 20-year-old has appeared in 17 games and averaged .333 in 30 at bats, with two homers, four RBI, six runs, six walks and three stolen bases. Entering Saturday’s action, he is third on the Mariners with an OPS of 1.044.
Mariners’ other roster moves
Along with Kelenic and Rodriguez, Seattle also re-assigned right-handed pitchers Brady Lail and Paul Sewald to minor league camp. In addition, pitchers Ljay Newsome and Aaron Fletcher were optioned to alternate training sites, along with outfielder Braden Bishop.
With all these moves, the Mariners’ Major League camp now consists of 31 roster players, one non-roster invitee and one player on the 60-day injury list. By position, the roster breaks down as follows:
- Pitchers (17+1+1)
- Catchers (2+0)
- Infielders (5+0)
- Outfielders (4+0)
- Infielder/Outfielders (3+0)
The one remaining non-roster invitee is pitcher Drew Steckenrider. Andres Munoz is the player on the 60-day injury list, after undergoing Tommy John surgery due to a right elbow injury.
As we previously wrote, Munoz is unlikely to contribute much in 2021 after suffering a setback in his recovery. However, he has the potential to be a top level reliever and could be an option as the future closer in Seattle.
The Mariners still need to make seven move moves, in order to get their active roster down to 26 players for opening day. The provisional plan is for manager Scott Servais to finalize the roster this weekend.
Taking all of the available information into account, what is your opinion on the Mariners re-assigning Kelenic? Do you agree or disagree with the decision? Let us know in the comments section below.