Commentary: Not time to panic with Kelenic, but sending him back down might be prudent move

Tonight we start with Jarred Kelenic, the heralded Mariners prospect who we all were curious to see finally get a chance at the big league level. 

But now, while it’s not time to panic, it might be time to send him back to the minors. 

I admit I was a proponent of bringing the 21-year-old up sooner than later. And he certainly provided fireworks in just his second game with the M’s, with his first major league home run. So even though his experience at the highest minor league level was somewhat lacking, there was no reason, from a performance perspective at least, to keep him in Tacoma

But Kelenic has now gone 11 games without a hit. Oh-for his last 39. 

His batting average is under 100. And he was out of the starting lineup earlier today.

Let me be clear: This stretch does not mean that Jarred Kelenic is a bust. Given the number of promising Mariners players who never developed in the past, it’s easy to jump to such conclusions. But after 22 games at the major league level – with many more frustrations than highlights – I don’t see any reason to let Kelenic try and play himself out of this slump and risk further damage to his psyche. 

If we’ve learned anything about Kelenic, it’s that he thrives off of confidence, borderline cockiness. It’s the brashness and assurance that I’ve loved seeing from him the last few years – as he’s consistently backed up his words with results. 

Look at these tweets from the offseason. 

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But that "Go" is now at a pace slower than rush hour now that the pandemic is over. It’s really the first major roadblock Kelenic has faced in an otherwise meteoric rise.

The last thing we need is to watch that spirit, tenacity and self-certainty fall by the wayside if a slump like this continues. 

The Mariners could be considering keeping him on the big league roster and using him as a pinch hitter to see if he breaks out of this slump. But it certainly gives him fewer opportunities to do so. But nobody is expecting the M’s to win a World Series this season, so why not cut your losses and build him back up unitl he looks ready again? 

If Kelenic had started hot and stayed hot, this would be a different story. But it’s not. 

Frankly, he’s still incredibly young and will hopefully still end up being the face of this organization sometime soon, and for many years to come. 

Maybe the light will come on quickly back in Tacoma, like it did for Taylor Trammell, who has seen a slight improvement since returning to the M’s. And if he stays, maybe Kelenic uses words like this commentary as motivation and turns it around. 

Either way, I’m not alarmed. There really shouldn’t be panic. 

But at this point, while it’s painful to say it, sending Kelenic back down might just be the right move.         


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