Mariners recall top prospect Kelenic

July 17th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- has returned to the big leagues.

The Mariners recalled their prized outfield prospect on Friday when they opened the second half of the regular season in Anaheim.

Kelenic was in Friday’s lineup batting eighth and playing center field, the position he will continue to man regularly while Kyle Lewis recovers from knee surgery. Since being demoted, Kelenic has played nine of his 24 games in center field for Tacoma. Given that J.P. Crawford is hitting .306/.362/.444 out of the leadoff spot, Kelenic figured to be reinstalled lower in the lineup, and easing him back in might alleviate some of the pressure that MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect experienced in his first stint.

“Not asking for too much,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Be Jarred, have good at-bats, play good defense and help us win a ballgame any way he can.”

Jake Fraley will slide over to be the regular left fielder, but like Kelenic, he’ll see time in center and right. There could be some fluidity, since Seattle still wants to DH Mitch Haniger every three to four days. In those instances, Shed Long Jr. will likely contribute in left. Dipoto said that the club will “be very creative” with its roster management in the second half.

Because Hector Santiago’s 10-game suspension was upheld by Major League Baseball on Thursday and since his 26-man roster spot cannot be replaced, there was no corresponding move needed to add Kelenic.

On Monday, they designated Rule 5 Draft selection Will Vest for assignment in order to reinstate Yusei Kikuchi from the COVID-19 IL so Kikuchi could participate in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. However, the fully-vaccinated left-hander opted not to play due to a lengthy layoff since the last time he had thrown, given that he was under the weather most of last weekend.

Kelenic, who played in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field in Denver on Sunday, has been on a tear since being demoted to the Minors on June 7, hitting .306/.386/.622 with seven homers in 24 games. Since the Mariners had just two outfielders on the active roster, Haniger and Fraley, after sending Taylor Trammell back down to Tacoma on Sunday, it seemed clear that Kelenic would rejoin the team out of the break.

Lewis isn’t expected to return until late August at the earliest, and depending on how Dipoto approaches the July 30 Trade Deadline -- Haniger’s situation is certainly worth following -- the Mariners will be leaning on Kelenic for run production.

The rest of the offense has also taken a significant step forward since Kelenic was first called up on May 13, when they were collectively hitting .204 with a .281 on-base percentage, both the lowest in the league, and were days away from being no-hit for the second time this season.

Kelenic returns with less pressure, restored confidence and a renewed mental approach. That could very well be a formula for what he and the Mariners have long envisioned for a more productive second half.

“He's done what we've asked him to do,” Dipoto said last weekend. “And that goes beyond just what you see in the box score. He's really answered a lot of the questions we had in the short term to assess his progress. And we promised him when he left that we would continue to assess him in ways different than just paying attention to his OPS or how many homers he hit.”

Kelenic, MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect, hit .096/.185/.193 in his first stint in the big leagues earlier this season. He looked mentally overwhelmed at times, which was the main factor in the club sending him down.

In an interview with last week, the uber-confident Kelenic was candid in his self-assessment.

“His attitude is, ‘I want to beat you, and I want to be the greatest player that I can be,’” Dipoto said. “And I find that to be a good trait. He’s driven. He wants to win every day, and he wants to be the best player on the field every day. Sometimes that pushes him in a really positive way, and sometimes it can create a little bit of a roadblock. But I would much rather help him work out how to avoid the roadblock, because the traits that he has, the drive that he has, you just can't teach that.”