Although Major League Baseball is in hibernation for the winter, the game still offers some excitement via trades and free-agent signings/rumors. The Atlanta Braves made another transaction on Sunday night acquiring Evan White, Marco Gonzales, and Jarred Kelenic from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips.
There is a lot to break down here but we are going to look at specifically what Jarred Kelenic can bring to the table for the Atlanta Braves.
First of all, according to AA, it appears that Kelenic is the answer to the Braves left field dilemma. Rumors have it that the Braves will be platooning Kelenic and Vaughn Grissom in left field to start the 2024 season. Much like 2023, this will give Brian Snitker a right-handed bat to face lefties and a left-handed bat to play against right-handed hurlers.
Jarred Kelenic was a first-round pick (6th overall) by the New York Mets in 2018. He is just 24 years of age and has only played 252 career games at the big league level. Over this stretch, he is a .204 hitter with 32 home runs and 109 runs batted in. If these numbers seem underwhelming to you, we have good news.
2023 seemed to be the season where Kelenic was able to figure something out. Through 90 games he batted .252/.320/.439 with 11 HR, 45 RBI, and a .759 OPS. Kelenic also showcased a little bit of speed stealing 12 bases.
Kelenic found himself on the injured list on July 20 after fracturing his left foot. This injury occurred after he kicked a water cooler following a loss to the Twins. He returned on September 11 and finished out the season with the Mariners.
So, he kind of derailed himself in the best year so far in the majors. Who knows how well he would have done if he'd not been injured? The Braves will hopefully get the opportunity to see the best Kelenic has to offer.
Kelenic is now a .295/.370/.538 career hitter with a .908 OPS in 299 minor league appearances, which is how he was able to become the No. 4 prospect in baseball by 2021. That has just not translated completely to the MLB level.
If anyone can continue to help unlock Kelenic's potential it's Kevin Seitzer who has been able to help get the most out of up-and-coming prospects like Ronald Acuna Jr. and Michael Harris II by simply tweaking their batting stance.
If Atlanta can help fix his struggles at the plate they will also be getting an above-average defender in left field and a potent bat in the bottom half of their lineup. Another benefit to leaving Seattle is that Kelenic will be leaving behind the immense pressure to perform. He was part of a big trade that sent Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to the Mets.
The Atlanta Braves offense is so potent, that even if Kelenic were to struggle, Atlanta can afford to let him work out the kinks because of how great the rest of the offense around him is. That is a luxury he didn't have in Seattle.
Jarred Kelenic is a cheap and productive platoon left-field option for the Atlanta Braves moving forward. He also has that feel of a player that AA sets his sights on, acquires, and transitions into an All-Star caliber player.
Kelenic will not be a free agent until 2029 so if the Braves can help him turn things around, they will have gotten exactly what they wanted from the trade. 5 years of control is invaluable in today's game.
Acquiring Kelenic in this transaction and addressing the need for a corner outfielder, allows Anthopoulos and the Braves to be a little more aggressive in the hunt for starting pitching. Reports state that Marco Gonzales, who was acquired alongside Kelenic, will be used as part of a different trade.
Regardless of what happens next, we are excited to see what dynamic Jarred Kelenic will bring to the Atlanta Braves organization in 2024 and beyond.