How Kelenic fits into Braves' 2024 plan

February 16th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos and manager Brian Snitker erased any lingering thoughts of having left fielder Jarred Kelenic sit against left-handed starting pitchers.

“He’s 24 years old and getting everyday at-bats would be a real value for him,” Anthopoulos said. “To platoon him at this time, I don’t want to speak for Snit, but I don’t think the lean is to do that. I think the lean, especially since we have a good offensive club, is to give him everyday at-bats.”

There has never been any reason to wonder what the Braves think of Kelenic’s upside. Once they took on some bad contracts and shuffled most of them elsewhere, they essentially paid $17 million to gain five years of control of the young outfielder, who was MLB’s No. 4 prospect as recently as 2021.

Thoughts of Kelenic serving as Atlanta’s everyday left fielder seemed to strengthen in the days that followed him being acquired from the Mariners in early December. Yeah, Anthopoulos mentioned the possibility of Vaughn Grissom getting some time in left field. But even before Grissom was traded to the Red Sox, that never seemed to be a likely option.

So Kelenic can now begin looking toward the start of the regular season, knowing the Braves are going to put him in an everyday role and remain patient as he is given a chance to contribute to the bottom of what may again be baseball’s most potent lineup.

“He’s a very talented young man who is early in his career,” Snitker said. “A kid that’s tooled up like that can [be an everyday player]. So yeah, absolutely.”

Kelenic is still an ultra-talented left-handed slugger who deserves the opportunity to prove he can be productive as an everyday player. He hasn’t yet lived up to the great expectations that have surrounded him. But there are no statistical indications he would benefit from sitting against left-handers.

Here are some of his numbers from last year:

Vs. RHP: 324 PA, .251 BA, .738 OPS, 7 HRs (41 AB/HR), 105 Ks (32.4% K rate)

Vs. LHP: 92 PA, .259 BA, .774 OPS, 4 HRs (21.3 AB/HR), 27 Ks (29.3% K rate)

Kelenic is among the position players who have made an early arrival to Braves camp. He is looking forward to getting back to where he was last year, when he was on pace for a 20-homer season before fracturing his left foot by kicking a dugout water cooler.

“I know what I'm capable of doing,” Kelenic said. “I have a pretty good routine down, on what I need to do to make sure that I'm best prepared for the game. I'm going to just stick to that and let the rest take care of itself. I've had a lot of expectations [in] other places in terms of people saying things and all that. I'm trying to just tune all that out, because I'm just going to go out and be who I am.”