He was supposed to be a star. The next iteration of Juan Soto or Ronald Acuña Jr. Instead, Jarred Kelenic found himself playing 54 games in Triple-A this year as another outfielder shined in his place in the Seattle Mariners lineup.
Back in 2018, Kelenic was the future of the Mets organization. He was the 6th overall pick in the 2018 draft and was considered one of the better hitting prospects to come out of high school in years. He hit .413/.451/.609 in his first 46 professional at-bats and immediately got promoted. The hype was off to the races.
However, by the middle of the 2018 season, Jared Kelenic’s name was in the papers for another reason as he and Justin Dunn were shipped off to Seattle for closer Edwin Diaz. Kelenic was the 3rd-ranked prospect in the Mets organization at the time and Dunn was the 4th, so the general response was that the Mets had made a catastrophic mistake.
When Kelenic went on to hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 home runs 68 RBI, 80 runs, and 20 stolen bases in the Mariners’ minor league system in 2019, the cries about the Mets getting swindled got even louder. Before his promotion to the big leagues in 2021, post-COVID season, Kelenic was viewed as a high floor and ceiling prospect. He carried “the immense swagger of a big leaguer. He looks and sounds every bit the part with his verbal confidence, which he backs with his stellar play.”
He had climbed to the number nine prospect in all of baseball and was picked to win the AL Rookie of the Year.
Then it all went sideways.
During 93 big league games last season, Jared Kelenic hit .181/.265/.350 with a 28.1% strikeout rate, which was a career-high by quite a bit. Despite clubbing 14 home runs in those 93 games, Kelenic could never quite get into a rhythm and was demoted back down to Triple-A where he finished the year hitting .320 with nine home runs and six stolen bases in 30 games.
As a result, there was optimism for Kelenic ahead of the 2022 season, but he struggled again. In 31 games to start the season, Kelenic hit .135/.212/.281 with an egregious 38.4% strikeout rate. He was, understandably, demoted again. However, while in Triple-A, he had to watch another outfielder shine in his place.
This season, Julio Rodriguez has been a revelation, hitting .271/.334/.482 with 18 home runs, 57 RBI, 55 runs, and 21 stolen bases in 96 games. As a result, he is the clear betting favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, Jared Kelenic tried to get himself back on track in Triple-A. He’s produced a strong batting average again, hitting .288/.353/.550 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs, and three stolen bases in 54 games. However, he also sports a 23.8% strikeout rate, which is much higher than the 15.4% mark he had in Triple-A last year. Given how he started this year in the majors, it’s fair to wonder if the strikeout rate will still hold him back.
Yet, after Julio Rodriguez was hit by a pitch in the wrist and placed on the IL, Jared Kelenic is getting another chance. He’s back in New York, the city that was once destined to be his, as the Mariners take on the Yankees in a three-game series starting on Monday. This time, the New York fans are barely paying him any attention, and Edwin Diaz, the man he was once famously traded for, is building Cy Young buzz in one of the most dominant seasons ever for a reliever.
At just 23 years old, there is still time for Jared Kelenic to re-write the story of his major league career and that fateful trade. Perhaps it starts on Monday. After all, they say the third time’s the charm.
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