Jarred Kelinic is saying all the right things as he prepares to join Braves

MLB: JUN 09 Mariners at Angels

The Braves haven’t made any blockbuster moves to this point in the offseason, much to the dismay of many. They’ve focused on the margins, re-signing some of their own and bringing in two somewhat under-the-radar acquisitions that could add a lot more to the club than many people anticipate.

Reynaldo Lopez inked a three-year deal with the Braves about a month ago. He adds some much-needed velocity and versatility to Atlanta’s bullpen, which now looks like one of the best in the league after a very good season this year. But it’s former 6th overall selection Jarred Kelenic that really seems like a player that could have the most substantial impact among this winter’s acquisitions.

Kelenic was originally drafted sixth overall by the Mets. Being selected that high in a city like New York comes with a lot of pressure, and that pressure only multiplied when he was included in a trade to the Mariners for star closer Edwin Diaz. Seattle is nothing like New York in terms of market size, but anytime you’re the centerpiece of a trade for an All-Star, there usually comes unrealistic expectations, which Kelenic hasn’t always handled the right way early on in his career.

In his first two seasons with the Mariners, Kelenic fell well short of living up to his lofty status as a prospect. He hit just .168 with 21 homers over 147 games, but things started to turn for him in year three, or so it seemed.

Jarred Kelenic hit .309 with seven homers and a .979 OPS in his first 28 games this season. However, that success wouldn’t last for much longer. He started reverting back to his old ways, and it all culminated with an incident in which he kicked a water cool out of frustration, resulting in a broken foot. It was at that point Kelenic realized things really needed to change if he wanted to continue his major-league dream.

Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary for a player to realize his full potential. Kelenic’s actions may have grown old in Seattle, but expectations will be different in Atlanta. He’ll be surrounded by All-Star talent, and he’s excited for the opportunity.

“I was fired up because I knew I was going to a really good organization,” Jarred Kelenic said. “They’ve had a winning history for the last however many years, and it’s no question that they were one of the best teams in baseball all last year and years prior.”

The Braves don’t need Kelenic to be a superstar. He has the talent to become one, but all they’ll be expecting from him is to fit into the clubhouse, come to work everyday prepared, blast a few homers into the chophouse, and play good defense in left field. If Kelenic can do that, he’ll be a cheaper version of Eddie Rosario. Anything more than that is just gravy. That should take a lot of pressure off a player that has dealt with so much of it early in his career, and allow him to have fun playing a kid’s game again.

“Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve wanted to play in the big leagues, and here I am,” Kelenic said, via Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “When I’m in the big leagues and I’m breaking my foot out of frustration, that just can’t happen. It made me appreciate the game a little bit more. Even when I was on my rehab assignment and I was just back on a baseball field, I hadn’t felt that joy, just to be back on a field. I just truly felt thankful to have the opportunity to be out there and playing again.”

Blockbuster signings win the offseason, but the offseason isn’t where World Series are won. Oftentimes, the difference is the improvements on the margins. Nobody is better at making sure the roster is 1% better across the board than Alex Anthopoulos, and there’s a chance that he may have just struck gold with Jarred Kelenic.

Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

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