Alex Anthopoulos reveals Braves plan for Jarred Kelenic

MLB: JUN 11 Mariners at Angels

In the grand scheme of the entire offseason, the Braves acquisition of Jarred Kelenic went under the radar, but it could turn out to be one of the bigger bargain deals made this winter.

Just a few years ago, Jarred Kelenic was regarded as one of baseball’s top prospects. The former 6th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft made his debut as a 21-year-old for the Mariners after being traded by the Mets in the deal that sent All-Star closer Edwin Diaz to New York. That’s where Kelenic’s troubles began.

In 2021, Kelenic hit just .181 with a .615 OPS in 93 games. The following season, those numbers were somehow even worse, hitting an abysmal .141 with a .534 OPS in 54 games. Through his first 147 big-league games, Kelenic had just a .168 batting average with 21 homers and a .598 OPS. However, 2023 was a bit of a breakout campaign for the 23-year-old.

Kelenic began the season on fire, hitting .328 with seven homers in the first 25 games, good for an OPS north of 1.000. His potential as a five-tool player that was raved about as a prospect was finally being realized. But then a familiar stretch of adversity struck, and with that came frustration, which ended in him kicking a water cooler and a subsequent broken foot on July 19th.

Jarred Kelenic would go on to miss the next six weeks, and the Mariners seemed to have had enough of his underwhelming production and the antics that came with it, shipping him to the Braves in what was essentially a salary dump.

To this point in his career, to say Kelenic has been a disappointment would be an understatement. However, he’s still just 24-years-old and has shown flashes of what made him such a highly touted prospect. The Braves believe, in the right situation, Kelenic’s career has the potential to take off.

The pressure that existed in Seattle will be a thing of the past in Atlanta. He doesn’t have to be anything but himself when surrounded by a team full of All-Stars. Kelenic will also have the opportunity to work with Kevin Seitzer, one of the best hitting coaches in the business. Seitzer has been instrumental in the development of the Braves youth, and he’s helped revive the careers of guys like Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Travis d’Arnaud, and Orlando Arcia.

Beyond that, Alex Anthopoulos is going to give Kelenic perhaps what he needs the most, opportunity. The Braves general manager said at his first appearance at Spring Training the plan is for Kelenic to play everyday in left field, giving him the opportunity to feel comfortable at the plate.

I still firmly believe the Braves fourth outfielder isn’t on the roster. They have some worthwhile competition, featuring guys like Eli White, Jordan Luplow, J.P. Martinez, and Forrest Wall. However, Anthopoulos isn’t one to overlook any area of the roster.

Gving Jarred Kelenic the opportunity to figure things out at the plate is the right move. This isn’t just about 2024. The Braves could have him for five seasons if this trade pans out. It’s important to give their investment a real chance at earning the starting job for years to come. However, a backup plan should be in place if things go south. It doesn’t have to be a massive addition, but at the very least, the Braves should look to bring in more competition.

Photo: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire

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