A look at 3 standouts in Mariners camp

March 14th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After a week of filling in for Mariners beat reporter Daniel Kramer, Tuesday marked my last day, making it a good opportunity to note a few standout performers from this stretch of spring camp. Let’s start with the least surprising member of the group ...

Kelenic, the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline in 2021 and entering a pivotal year with Seattle, has only continued his torrid pace this spring.

The 23-year-old came into camp determined to establish consistency at the big league level. He has certainly managed to do so during Cactus League play, seemingly making an impact every time the Mariners have taken the field.

After a 1-for-3 showing with an RBI double in Tuesday afternoon’s 8-6 win over the split-squad Royals, Kelenic is sitting on a staggering .448/.484/1.000 slash line and a 1.484 OPS in 11 games. Manager Scott Servais has been particularly impressed by the left fielder’s ability to maintain his approach over time, remarking that he is “absolutely committed to what he’s doing.”

“Really happy where he’s at,” Servais said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit. This guy plays hard all the time. He runs the bases hard. He’s a very aggressive player. He’s a good defender. He checks all the boxes. And if the hit tool comes around, he’s got a chance to be dynamic.”

That is exactly how Kelenic has looked this spring, a byproduct of his retooled swing and trademark intensity. This is the player he has been expected to be, and if he can turn a striking spring into a special season, Seattle may very well boast one of the best lineups in the American League.

“He’s in control of his emotions better than [he’s] ever been. We can see that,” Servais said. “He’s assimilating, he’s engaging with his teammates. He’s not trying to do too much, he’s not trying to be somebody that he’s not. He’s just fitting in and being a good player.”

Hummel, who was acquired from the D-backs in November in a trade for 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, entered camp as a player who needed to have a strong spring in order to force himself into a conversation about making the 26-man Opening Day roster.

The 28-year-old catcher/outfielder has certainly done that, batting .333 with three homers, six RBIs and a whopping 1.218 OPS in 12 games. After bouncing back and forth between the D-backs and their Triple-A affiliate in 2022, Hummel could provide the Mariners with depth in ’23. Cal Raleigh and Tom Murphy have the backstop position covered, but Hummel might be able to carve out a bench role at the corner outfield spots.

“It’s an interesting skill set,” Servais said. “[Hummel is] off to a good start, had a good camp so far. [We’re] trying to give him time behind the plate, see if he can develop that a little bit more. You’ll probably start to see him move around the field a little bit, which will be good for him.

“It’s about getting in the big leagues and what’s going to allow him to get on a Major League roster. And looking at how we’re built out, the versatility he brings, the switch-hit tool [are] pretty valuable. … So we’ll see.”

Calhoun, who signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Feb. 24, came in as a player with a chance to break camp as a depth piece if the 35-year-old veteran did enough to impress Seattle.

With 11 years of big league experience, Calhoun is part of the reserve outfield mix, but the Mariners are also giving him a try at first base, as they did against the Royals, because of the value he has brought with the bat. Despite an 0-for-2 showing vs. Kansas City, he’s hitting .320 with a .706 OPS in nine games.

“He’s a good athlete, he’s been around; nothing’s going to faze him,” Servais said. “He’s fired up about it today. I think he’s had a good spring. Kole has made some adjustments offensively, he’s getting some results. A nice fit in our clubhouse. But [it’s to] just create options and opportunities for guys and see what it looks like.”