SEATTLE -- The Mariners didn’t come into this season thinking Jarred Kelenic would fly up the ranks of their Minor League system so quickly. Turns out the dynamic 20-year-old center fielder had plans of his own.
Seattle promoted its No. 1-ranked prospect to Double-A Arkansas on Saturday, a move that speaks volumes about how impressed they’ve been with the youngster in his first year after being acquired from the Mets in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz deal.
Kelenic, the No. 24 overall prospect in the game per MLB Pipeline, just turned 20 last month. But he’s turned heads since opening the year at Class A West Virginia and again after being bumped up to Class A Advanced Modesto two months ago.
Now the Mariners are making the aggressive move of fast-tracking him to the Double-A Texas League, where he’ll be four years younger than the average position player and the youngest of an impressive group of prospects Seattle is gathering at that level for a concerted push forward in the future.
“It’s a big challenge,” said Andy McKay, the Mariners director of player development. “We started this year with the idea he’d go to West Virginia and just stay there. But he quickly showed, ‘I’m not at the right level, guys.’
“When we brought him to Modesto, outside of a couple nagging injuries, he’s been the best player on the field. The talent and skill is obvious to everybody. But it’s the way he prepares himself and the ability to commit to his approach at the plate that is the separator.”
Kelenic hit .309/.394/.586 with 11 homers and seven stolen bases in 50 games for West Virginia, then .290/.353/.485 with six homers and 10 stolen bases in 46 games at Modesto. After adjusting to his Class A Advanced promotion and recovering from minor wrist and ankle issues, Kelenic has hit .379/.413/.586 over his last 15 games.
He’ll be given the chance now to play the final three weeks of the regular season with Arkansas, as well as participate in the postseason with a team that already includes six of Seattle’s other top 10 prospects in pitchers Logan Gilbert, Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield, first baseman Evan White, catcher Cal Raleigh and outfielder Kyle Lewis.
“It’s something we’ve talked about, putting that group together at Double-A that is feeding off each other and pushing and making each other better,” McKay said. “It’s time Jarred joins that group. He needs to sit next to Kyle Lewis on a bus and hit with Evan White and talk baseball with Justin Dunn and have lunch with Donnie Walton. This is how you build relationships and grow. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
McKay acknowledged it’s unusual for a young player to move up so quickly, but says Kelenic -- who was drafted by the Mets with the sixth overall pick in 2018 out of high school in Wisconsin -- has an extremely mature approach at the plate when it comes to understanding his own swing and how pitchers are attacking him.
“It’s incredibly rare,” McKay said. “I’ve had conversations with Jarred about specific at-bats that I’ve never had with many Major League players. For him to be doing it at that age, sometimes I feel like this isn’t a real conversation. And I’ve been around some really good players trying to figure it out at 24 or 25."
More from the Minors
• Second baseman Shed Long, the Mariners’ No. 15-ranked prospect who played 19 games for Seattle earlier this year, will likely need about another three weeks before he’s game ready as he recovers from a broken finger on his right hand, according to McKay.
Long broke the finger when he got hit in his throwing hand with the ball while looking to turn a double play in a game on July 11 for Triple-A Tacoma.
• Outfielder Ian Miller was traded to the Twins on Saturday in a cash deal, which will allow him to possibly get a shot at his first Major League opportunity. The 27-year-old posted a .269/.351/.449 line with 11 homers and 29 stolen bases in 106 games for Tacoma and will be a Minor League free agent after this season.
Because he’s not on the 40-man roster, Miller could be dealt after the July 31 Trade Deadline. The Mariners also moved veteran catcher Jose Lobaton to the Dodgers on Friday in a similar deal.