Mariners top prospect Kelenic called up

May 13th, 2021

SEATTLE -- The era in Seattle will begin Thursday when the Mariners open a homestand with a four-game series against Cleveland.

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The club called up MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect from Triple-A Tacoma, as well as pitching prospect Logan Gilbert.

Kelenic (pronounced KELL-nick), the uber-talented and confident 21-year-old outfielder, has shined in five games at Tacoma, going 9-for-22 -- including two emphatic home runs on Opening Day last Thursday -- along with five RBIs and six runs scored. He also excelled in Cactus League play this spring, hitting .300/.440/.700 with two homers over 10 games.

His promotion will be met with huge fanfare in Seattle, where the Mariners’ faithful have longed to see him play for more than a year after earning the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year recognition in 2019, when he topped out at Double-A Arkansas. He is the headline prospect in general manager Jerry Dipoto’s extensive rebuild, which is in Year 3 and has shown promising signs that the Mariners could be emerging as contenders in the near future -- centered around blue chip pieces such as Kelenic.

To that end, the acquisition of Kelenic sparked the rebuild in so many ways. The Mariners’ trade for the Wisconsin native on Dec. 3, 2018, was among the first -- and certainly the most significant -- moves by Dipoto that launched the rebuild. Seattle sent Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz, two cornerstones of the 89-win team in ’18, as well as cash considerations to the Mets for Kelenic and starting pitcher Justin Dunn, who has emerged as one of their foundational rotation pieces for the long term. The Mariners also netted right fielder Jay Bruce and relievers Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista, all of whom are no longer with the team.

Kelenic was the No. 6 pick in the 2018 Draft by New York, but the Mariners had intensely scouted the left-handed-hitting outfielder and intended to select him if he fell to them at the No. 14 pick. They wound up using that selection on starting pitcher Logan Gilbert, who is also expected to join Kelenic in the near future.

Kelenic will likely take the roster spot of left fielder Taylor Trammell, who played his way onto the team with a stellar Spring Training but has struggled against big league pitching, hitting .157/.255/.337 through 83 at-bats. He was optioned on Thursday.

Seattle got off to an 11-6 start but is 7-13 since then and enters Thursday in third place in the American League West, 4 1/2 games behind the first-place A’s. Mariners outfielders are collectively hitting .201/.287/.391, with Trammell’s and José Marmolejos’ struggles, utility man Sam Haggerty being leaned on more into an everyday role and Kyle Lewis not debuting until April 20.

Dipoto hinted on his weekly radio hit last week that Kelenic’s impressive start to the Minors season could be a factor in his status with the big league club, sooner than later.

“In some part because we feel he's making progress, some part it's time to take a look at him and that's coming sooner than later,” Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle. “Also, some part in that it might add a spark to our offense if we give him that opportunity.”

Kelenic and Gilbert represent the graduation of two prominent prospects in Seattle’s No. 3-ranked farm system, per MLB Pipeline, ushering in a new wave of talent that the club believes will help end the longest active playoff drought in American professional sports, dating to the record 116-win team in 2001.

Julio Rodríguez, MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 prospect, is not likely coming until next season. Loaded with 40-plus-homer potential, Rodríguez is only just getting his Minors season underway with High-A Everett. He, along with Kelenic and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Lewis, will form an outfield core that some in baseball circles are suggesting could blossom into one of the league’s most dynamic.

After Monday’s game for Tacoma, Kelenic indicated to reporters -- including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times -- that he has not yet absorbed the news.

 “As of right now, I just got done talking to the manager [Kristopher Negrón],” Kelenic said. “I’m in [the lineup] tomorrow. So, I’m just honestly going to be going home tonight, going to bed and getting ready for tomorrow’s game.”