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The Road to The Show™: Jarred Kelenic

Top Mariners prospect is on the fast track to the Emerald City
Jarred Kelenic was promoted to Double-A less than a month after celebrating his 20th birthday. (Freek Bouw/Phrake Photography)
April 20, 2020

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Seattle Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Seattle Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

Less than two years removed from his high school graduation, Jarred Kelenic isn't on a fast track to the Majors, he's at the controls of a supersonic ship. Whenever baseball resumes, the top Mariners prospect will likely continue his climb with a return to Double-A Arkansas, where he spent the final 21 games of 2019. Considered one of the best pure hitters in the 2018 Draft, Kelenic's rapid progression could see him in a big league uniform much sooner than anyone expected.
2018: Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Rookie Advanced Kingsport
There was no adjustment period for Kelenic, who made his professional debut mere weeks after getting his high school diploma. For all intents and purposes,'s No. 11 overall prospect might as well have been playing amateur competition. Kelenic debuted with a three-hit effort in the GCL and followed with five more multi-hit performances in the next 11 games. He left the Sunshine State toting a video game-worthy .413/.451/.609 slash line with five extra-base hits, nine RBIs and four stolen bases in 12 contests.
The differences between Port St. Lucie, Florida, and Kingsport, Tennessee, are as pronounced as the roughly 750 miles that separate the ballparks in the respective towns. That gap was negligible for Kelenic. Promoted to the Appalachian League on July 9, the 6-foot, 196-pounder was in the K-Mets' lineup the following night and homered, singled, walked and drove in four runs.
Watch: Kelenic hits first Double-A homer
Predictably, the number of games played caught up to Kelenic, whose numbers in the Appy League leveled off after a hot start. However, he closed with a flourish by hitting safely in 15 of his final 16 games, including a three-hit, three-RBI performance on Aug. 23. The outfielder finished with 17 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 12 tries in 44 games with Kingsport.
All told, Kelenic's 60-grade bat, 55-grade power and 60-grade speed were on full display as he finished his debut campaign with a .286/.371/.468 line, 22 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs in 56 games.
Sent home for the winter, Kelenic found himself in the middle of one of baseball's biggest offseason trades on Dec. 3, 2018. Along with fellow prospects Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista and Major Leaguers Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, he was dealt to Seattle for All-Stars Robinson Canó and Edwin Diaz. 
The sixth overall pick in the 2018 Draft waved goodbye to the Big Apple and said hello to the Emerald City.
2019: Class A West Virginia, Class A Advanced Modesto, Double-A Arkansas
The Mariners thought enough of Kelenic to bring him to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee at the age of 19. His advanced skill set convinced the organization to have him bypass short-season competition and start his full-season career in the South Atlantic League with West Virginia. Already a Top-100 prospect, Kelenic resumed his meteoric rise in Charleston, West Virginia.
He collected a career-high four hits on April 16 and enjoyed his first multi-homer game 11 days later in the midst of a personal-best 18-game hitting streak. The hot stretch erased a slow start and put him on the fast track for the rest of the season.
"Anytime you fail, it's frustrating, but at the same time I was just trying to get comfortable and stick with it," Kelenic said last spring. "There are a lot of variables that contributed to [the slump]. I was getting pitched around a fair deal and when I would get a pitch to hit, I was missing them. I just kept grinding it out while trying to find something that works. I was just hoping to get off to a quick start and carry over what I had done during Spring Training. I just got away from my approach a bit."
Watch: Kelenic goes deep again
Convinced his .309/.394/.596 slash line, 28 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs in 50 games with West Virginia wasn't a mirage, the M's promoted Kelenic to the California League, where he went yard in his first game with Modesto.
"He earned the promotion through his performance on the field," Mariners director of player development Andy McKay told "We are excited for him to move up to Modesto and continue his excellent year."
And continue it, he did. Kelenic spent less time in the Cal League than he did in the SAL, appearing in 46 games. Still playing as a teenager for most of his tenure with Modesto, the lefty-hitting slugger batted .290 with an .838 OPS while adding 20 extra-base hits to his ledger. He participated in the All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland, then missed a week with an ankle injury before coming back with a three-double performance on July 24. 

The game proved a swan song of sorts as Kelenic departed California and was promoted yet again, this time to the Texas League. Playing against competition that was on average nearly five years older than him, Kelenic closed the year strongly with the Travelers. He swatted six homers, including a pair of roundtrippers on Aug. 23, to finish his first full season at .291/.364/.540 with 23 long balls among 59 extra-base hits. Kelenic drove in 68 runs, scored 80 and swiped 20 bases in 27 attempts across 117 games, numbers that pushed him to the upper echelon of baseball's prospects.
Slated to play in the Arizona Fall League, he appeared in three games before getting shut down with a minor back issue. The official end to his year capped a thrilling season for Kelenic, who was named an Organization All-Star and a member of the 2019 All-MiLB Team
"We want to see consistency in his performance," McKay told last month. "He doesn't have a lot of reps in the upper levels and there is nothing we can do to speed that up. He can't get 100 at-bats any quicker than simply going out and getting 100 at-bats. We want to see him fall into a funk, struggle and then get himself out of it. It's all part of the process."
While his own progression will dictate the next steps, Kelenic seemed primed to reach Triple-A at some point in 2020. The uncertain future produced by the COVID-19 pandemic has put those plans on hold. What is certain, however, is that the Pacific Northwest will have another sweet-swinging lefty to call its own before long.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.