Not long ago, I defended the Seattle Mariners’ handling of top prospect Jarred Kelenic. At the time, I suggested no one outside the organization truly knew whether Kelenic was MLB ready. Now, just six games and 29 plate appearance into his AAA career, the Mariners have reportedly decided the 21-year-old is ready for major-league action.
OF Jarred Kelenic, the No. 3 prospect in baseball, is expected to be called up by the Mariners on Thursday, sources familiar with the situation tell ESPN.
While things can obviously change, the plan is to promote Kelenic for the first game of Seattle’s home series vs. Cleveland.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 11, 2021
Naturally, Mariners fans are buzzing. Who can blame them? Multiple prospect evaluation outlets, including Prospect Insider, rate Kelenic as one of baseball’s best young players. And let’s face it, the club’s sputtering offense needs help. Perhaps the left-handed hitter can provide the oomph the lineup needs.
But there’s more.
Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times has breaking news. The Mariners’ top pitching prospect – Logan Gilbert – will also make his MLB debut the same night as Kelenic. The arrival of both players is certain to delight the team’s fan base.
Logan Gilbert will start on Thursday night vs. Cleveland to open the homestand.
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 12, 2021
As exciting as it’ll be to see Kelenic and Gilbert in the majors, the timing of Kelenic’s promotion seems odd to me. Why didn’t the Mariners promote their top prospect at the start of the MLB season? Gilbert’s delay makes sense to me. After all, he didn’t pitch competitively last year and the team has been conservatively managing the workload of all starting pitchers. But why hold back Kelenic?
Yes, I’m aware of service time manipulation and how former CEO Kevin Mather implied in January the Mariners were unduly influencing the debut dates of their top prospects, including Kelenic. I’m also familiar with the USA Today story chronicling Kelenic’s grievances with the team and GM Jerry Dipoto. Still, these PR disasters didn’t compel management to include the Wisconsin native on the Opening Day roster. So, what changed after just six AAA games against the same team?
Obviously, only the team knows how it arrived at the decision to promote Kelenic this week. That said, I do fancy myself as a JeDi whisperer. So, I’ll take a shot at predicting how Dipoto and his surrogates spin the timing of Kelenic’s promotion to the media and fans.
The answer to the “why now” question will be overly simple. The Mariners will suggest the totality of Kelenic’s MLB and MiLB Spring Training playing time and his brief stay in Tacoma provided the level of preparation a supremely talented player like Kelenic needs to be MLB ready. Plus, team officials will note the offense really needs the help.
How did I arrive at this prediction? With great ease, actually. Dipoto subtly laid the groundwork for this message during the most recent episode of The Wheelhouse podcast hosted by broadcasters Aaron Goldsmith and Gary Hill Jr.
Dipoto told listeners the organization’s top prospects played a 10-game “bridge” schedule facing other organization’s top young players in a co-op league until MiLB camp began. The goal was to get Kelenic, Cal Raleigh, Julio Rodriguez and other top minor-leaguers 30-40 extra plate appearances rather than being idle until the start of camp. The sixth-year GM noted hitters accrued 100-125 plate appearances in April before the start of the regular season.
Using JeDi math, Kelenic has close to 180 plate appearances this year, including Spring Training and AAA games. That’s probably enough for Dipoto and his staff to rationalize that the young outfielder’s performance in Arizona and Tacoma has told them he’s ready for prime time.
As far as helping the offense, JeDi dropped a hint when talking to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant last week. While referring to a potential Kelenic promotion, Dipoto stated, “It’s also in some part that it might add a spark to our offense if we give him that opportunity.”
Will my prediction of how the Mariners will spin the Kelenic news? We’ll know within the next 24 hours. But does it actually matter why the organization is promoting Kelenic now?
Not to me.
Truthfully, we may never know the real story behind the team’s timeline for Kelenic and every other player in the its farm system and I’m okay with that. Yes, it’s interesting and cool to learn how prospects become big-leaguers. But it’s the Mariners’ business to run. It’s our choice whether to support that business.
Personally, I’m elated with the news of Kelenic’s and Gilbert’s imminent arrival. Debate all you want about the timing of their promotions. I prefer to focus on the fact that the next phase of the Mariners’ rebuild has begun.
It’s about time.
My Oh My…
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