Kelenic on how to skeet-shoot frisbees in BP

Mariners' top prospect hopes to get 'a little bit back to normal'

February 14th, 2021

SEATTLE -- Scouting reports suggest that has high upside when it comes to all-field ability, and he has video proof of just how accurate his batted-ball profile can be with a skeet-shooting-esque drill that he explained in detail on Saturday.

In an interview with MLB Network, Kelenic outlined the genesis behind a tweet that went viral a little over a year ago. Kelenic, who is training back home in Wisconsin, got the idea from one of his personal hitting coaches, who was discussing skeet shooting, and there just so happened to be a frisbee on the ground at the training facility.

From there, competitive creativity took over. With his dad gliding the frisbee into the outfield, Kelenic took hacks off a tee, attempting to strike contact mid-air.

"I was like, 'There's no way,'" Kelenic said. "Then he threw it, and the first time I tried it, I missed it by about like four inches. Once I was like, 'You might be able to do this,' it took me seven tries total. And I smashed it. I even cracked it."

This won't necessarily be a drill Kelenic practices regularly after he reports to Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 22 for his second big league Spring Training. But it's one of many that he's used to improve his hand-eye and bat-to-ball coordination as he looks to build upon his last full season in 2019, when he hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 homers in 117 games, skyrocketing through two Minor League classifications and finishing at Double-A Arkansas.

"That's the hardest part, because when he throws it, you have to watch the frisbee and see how it's going to fall," Kelenic said. "And then look down at the ball and guess where you think the frisbee is going to end up. So when I hit it, I was just as surprised as anybody else."

Kelenic's appearance on Saturday was in conjunction with MLB Pipeline unveiling its Top 100 prospects list for 2021 in a one-hour show on MLB Network. The Mariners have six players among that group -- second most in baseball to only the Rays -- including Kelenic (No. 4 overall), fellow outfielder Julio RodrĂ­guez (No. 5), right-handers Emerson Hancock (No. 31), Logan Gilbert (No. 33) and George Kirby (No. 92) and outfielder Taylor Trammell (No. 100).

Kelenic and RodrĂ­guez are obviously at the head of Seattle's class, having made a huge leap into the Top 5, where they trail only Rays shortstop Wander Franco, Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Tigers infielder Spencer Torkelson. Pairing them with American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Kyle Lewis in the coming years has many -- including Kelenic -- excited for what could be one of the more dynamic outfields in the AL. All three will be in big league camp together this spring.

"It's an exciting time for the fans of Seattle to have two prospects high in the Top 5, as well as Logan Gilbert and George Kirby," Kelenic said.

But how soon might they make an impact? Because of service-time control, and the fact that Kelenic only has 92 plate appearances above Class A Advanced, he likely won't be up until early summer. RodrĂ­guez, who sustained a fractured wrist last season, is a little further behind. The Mariners will not only exercise patience with each, but they also want to re-up their game reps given that both haven't played against tangible competition since last spring's Cactus League.

"It's tough. You just had to take it day by day," Kelenic said of 2020. "That was the biggest thing for me. You know, I just went out and went about my business, and any time there was a situation to compete, that's what I did. And try to keep my teammates involved as best I could. Because I know it was a tough situation.

"I'm just looking forward to going on competing against an opponent, for that matter. Last year was kind of tough not playing against other guys."

One noticeable difference in Kelenic this offseason has been his more reserved demeanor. Known to be outspoken and confident to the point where he can be perceived as brash, Kelenic has been more selective with how he comments on his immediate future. On Saturday, he was asked for the second time in two weeks how important the 2021 season is to him, and for the second time, he reverted his answer back to it being a vital year for the Mariners collectively.

"It's a big one, for sure -- not for just me, but for everyone," Kelenic said. "A little bit back to normal, just a little bit more of a normal season. Hopefully, we'll get some fans in there."

More than any player in Seattle's system, Kelenic is an embodiment of patience -- for himself, Mariners fans, the front office and everyone else waiting to see what the promising outfielder can do in the Majors.