Braves: Familiar issues plaguing Jarred Kelenic’s offense

MLB: MAR 30 Braves at Phillies

From the moment the Braves traded for Jarred Kelenic, it was always going to be a process to help him reach his full potential.

This a player who was taken 6th overall out of high school. Before long, Kelenic was rated among the top prospects in baseball as a member of the New York Mets organization. Then, everything was flipped on its head.

Kelenic was involved in a trade to the Seattle Mariners, which brought All-Star closer Edwin Diaz to New York. That kind of change at such a young age can do a number to a player’s confidence, and it didn’t have a positive effect on Jarred Kelenic. He struggled mightily with the Mariners once he was called up, hitting to the tune of a .168 batting average and .589 OPS over his first two seasons.

Finally, Kelenic started to flash some of the sky-high potential the world saw in him as a prospect last season. But the struggles came back, and with them, came the frustration. So much so, that Kelenic would go on to break his foot after kicking a water cooler, costing him several months. That ended up being the final straw for him in Seattle, who willingly shipped him to Atlanta in what was nothing more than a glorified salary dump.

Given the number of Braves’ success stories when it comes to buy-low situations, everyone sort of expected Kelenic would figure it out in his new home, where there’s no pressure for him to be the guy. Over the first couple of weeks, he was among the Braves’ best offensive players, but many of the same issues that plagued him in Seattle have quickly reared their ugly head as the summer months approach.

Over his last 17 games, Jarred Kelenic has just nine hits and three walks compared to 20 strikeouts. He’s hitting just .177 in that stretch with one extra-base hit, no homers, and a .418 OPS. Much like it was with the Mariners, it’s been the breaking pitches giving him most of the issues, particularly the slider.

Kelenic has seen 58 sliders this season and has yet to record a hit. He’s whiffing over 55% of the time against the offering and has an expected slugging percentage of just .118. Hitting the heater has never been a problem for him, but until he starts making more solid contact against breaking pitches, he’ll never be anything more than an average hitter at the major-league level.

That’s not to say Kelenic isn’t capable. Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer‘s magic has worked on far less talented players. But as I said at the beginning, this was always going to be a process, and it may not even be something that comes together this year. On the positive side, Kelenic might be the best defensive left fielder in the National League, a far cry from what the Braves have had at the position in recent years.

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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