How close is Kelenic to making MLB debut?

Notes: Harvey impressing; Buster back with a bang

April 23rd, 2021

Jarred Kelenic is expected to land in the Majors at some point this season, but given the Mariners’ solid start and the state of the club’s outfield, don’t expect to see the star prospect in Seattle in the immediate future.

The Mariners wanted Kelenic -- who hasn’t played in a competitive game since 2019 because of the pandemic -- to return to the alternate training site to begin the season, giving him a chance to see more left-handed pitching. In 117 Minor League games in 2019 (only 21 of which were as high as Double-A), Kelenic posted a .940 OPS against right-handers compared to a .757 mark against lefties.

“It’s no fault of his own, but he hasn’t had a chance to see a lot of it,” GM Jerry Dipoto said of the need for Kelenic to see more lefties. “Not shockingly, he’s acing that test right now. Injury aside, he’s going to play in the big leagues in the not-too-distant future.”

Of course, “not-too-distant” is a relatively vague term, leaving no firm timetable for Kelenic to make his debut. Given the team’s early-season results with Mitch Haniger, Taylor Trammell and Ty France all performing well and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis back from the injured list, Dipoto expects that quartet to handle outfield and DH duties for the time being.

“When you break camp with a team, committing to those players for the first 30 or 40 games, it would be unfair to judge what they do without giving them that sample to work with,” Dipoto said. “[Kelenic] is going to get here soon, but I don’t expect that’s going to be in a matter of days.”

Kelenic’s name was in the headlines during Spring Training after former club president Kevin Mather hinted in a speech to a local rotary club that the club would possibly wait to call him up to delay his free agency by a year. As good as Kelenic might be, it would have been unusual for a club to promote a top prospect with just 21 games above Class A on his résumé, especially after a year during which he didn’t play any games at all.

Dipoto is confident that Kelenic -- MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect in the game -- will thrive once he reaches the Majors, whenever that may be. In 10 Cactus League games this spring, the 21-year-old hit .300 with a 1.140 OPS, two home runs and five RBIs.

“He’s in a good place; he knows what we wanted to see and he’s doing those things” Dipoto said. “As he always has, he’s delivering. He works as hard as any player I’ve ever been around and he’s going to will himself to be good.”

Dark Knight rising

Matt Harvey picked up his first victory in more than 22 months on Tuesday, and while his numbers aren’t particularly impressive -- he’s 1-1 with a 5.12 ERA in four starts -- the 32-year-old has looked more like his old self thus far than at any point since his 2016 surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

“The biggest thing is he seems to be healthy,” one AL executive said. “It’s been a nice story so far -- for him and for the Orioles.”

Harvey agreed to a Minor League deal with Baltimore in mid-February, a fading former All-Star hoping for a bounce-back season. The Orioles liked enough of what they had seen from Harvey during his limited time with the Royals last season, and after he spent the offseason working at a pitching lab, Baltimore brass believed it had identified some things they could tweak that would benefit him.

Although he’s not pitching deep into games, Harvey has kept the Orioles competitive in each of his four outings, departing with a lead three times and tied in the other. His fastball might not consistently hit 95-96 mph the way it did once upon a time, but Harvey’s heater is averaging 93.1 mph this season, giving him more than enough to get outs along with his slider, curveball and changeup.

“You watch him throw, he still has four distinct pitches; he touches 95 or 96 most nights, never throws below 92,” the executive said. “He has a legitimate repertoire, and he’s throwing a lot of strikes. If you watched all of his starts, he could easily have an ERA under 4.00. They’ve played some questionable defense behind him. He seems like a different guy than the one who has been hit around the past couple years.”

Nobody is confusing Harvey with the 24-year-old version of himself, but he’s taking advantage of his opportunity with the Orioles. If he can continue throwing strikes -- he has 16 strikeouts to only three walks in 19 1/3 innings -- Baltimore might find itself with a low-cost trade chip come July.

Welcome back, Buster

Buster Posey smacked a pair of home runs in his first two games this season, announcing his return to the Giants' lineup with an exclamation point. Tuesday, Posey -- who opted out of the 2020 season -- belted a pair of home runs in a win over the Phillies, showing that at age 34, he can still make a major impact on San Francisco’s offense.

Posey’s contributions at the plate have helped the Giants get off to a 12-7 start, but his work behind the plate has been just as important. The Giants' rotation posted a combined 2.56 ERA through the first 19 games, helping carry an offense that ranks 13th out of 15 in the NL in runs scored.

Returning a decorated veteran into the clubhouse – one who played a crucial role in three World Series championships – is clearly going to be a plus for any team. For the Giants, having Posey – who sees the game as well as any catcher in the game – come back has been like adding a second pitching coach into the mix.