After celebrating Memorial Day with a trio of strikeouts, Seattle Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic’s batting average is on par with the price of a large coke at McDonalds.
And his on-base-percentage? Oof.
Kelenic – Seattle’s top prospect, number four overall prospect in baseball, and the team’s primary reason for hope – has completely floundered since the team called him up on May 14th. The centerpiece of the deal that sent Robinson Cano to the Mets in December 2018, Kelenic was advertised as the man to douse the Mariners’ dumpster fire, and so far, he’s only added gasoline. Kelenic was billed as the total five-tool package: a player with burning speed on the base paths, breath-taking defense in the outfield, as well as the ability to hit for a high batting average and wallop the ball out-of-the-park.
We’ve seen glimpses of that brilliance, but his statistics tell you everything you need to know: he’s struggled mightily, and he looks overmatched by big-league pitching. His statistics raise the question that no Mariners fan wants to ask: is Jarred Kelenic the next Dustin Ackley? The next Justin Smoak? God forbid, the next Jesus Montero?
Turn the clock back a decade, and the M’s were in almost the same situation they’re in today: stuck in the middle of a rebuild. Former General Manager Jack Zduriencik stacked the team’s farm system, attempting to rebuild Seattle’s foundation from the ground up, organically, through talented young players. The only problem with Jack Z’s approach – his prospects flopped miserably.
Zduriencik drafted Dustin Ackley second overall in 2009. Ackley was supposed to be a catalyst at the top of the Mariners lineup, a line-drive hitter with a keen eye for the strike zone. But Ackley never lived up to the hype, and he might be the biggest bust in team history. Between 2012 and 2015 he hit .234, averaged 9 home runs per season, and was out of the league by 2016.
At the trade deadline in 2010, Zduriencik shipped ace pitcher Cliff Lee to Texas in exchange for a package of prospects centered around first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak was supposed to be the anchor of the Mariners lineup for years to come, a switch-hitter who drew comparisons to Mark Teixeira. But I’m sure you can guess what happened instead. Smoak produced massively underwhelming results with a long, lumbering swing, never hitting more than 20 homers in a season while with the Mariners, and ultimately never realizing his potential.
In January 2012, Zduriencik shipped a flame-throwing youngster in Michael Pineda to the Yankees for prized prospect Jesus Montero. Montero was another can’t-miss prospect. He seemed like a sure thing. Scouts advertised Montero as a superstar in the making, a guy with the potential to be a mainstay in the middle of the lineup for a decade, if not longer.
But, just like Smoak and Ackley, Montero failed to live up to the hype. He only came close to playing a full season once – in 2012 when he hit a mediocre .260 with 15 home runs. He was notoriously lazy and out-of-shape. In 2014 he showed up to spring training 40 pounds overweight, and claimed that his off-season workout regimen consisted of enchiladas, cheesecake, and binge-watching Netflix. He told Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times “After winter ball, all I did was eat.”
Ackley, Smoak, and Montero were supposed to save the Mariners. Instead, their failure prolonged Seattle’s agony, and kept the franchise at the bottom of the league. Seattle’s future hinges on Kelenic. We’ve heard about Kelenic for years. He’s mashed in the minor leagues, he’s mashed in Spring Training, and now the M’s need him to mash in the Majors. He can’t be another Ackley. Another Smoak. Another Montero. He can’t be another guy who was “supposed to be.”
But, as his batting average drops precipitously, Seattle Mariners fans can only ask themselves, “is Jarred Kelenic the next Dustin Ackley? The next Justin Smoak? The next Jesus Montero?”