Turns out Triple-A couldn't even begin to contain Jarred Kelenic. The most buzzed-about prospect since the start of spring training is expected to be called up Thursday, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported Monday. He added that "things can obviously change," but it's an optimal date for logistical reasons, as others had suggested even prior to Passan's report. It's when Mariners head back home to Washington, which is where Kelenic will already be playing for Triple-A Tacoma.
Of course, given the way he's performed at Tacoma, it's a wonder Mariners can hold out that long. He entered play Monday having gone 8 for 18 with two home runs and two stolen bases already, and it's almost like he's gotten better with each new challenge. He struck out one time in 20 at-bats this spring, homering twice and doubling twice. Even missing two weeks in the middle with a strained groin, there was no rust to be found.
Here are his numbers from 2019, the last minor-league season on record:
That's the year that catapulted him from another good prospect to one of the absolute best, with him climbing two levels while demonstrating an almost preternatural ability to gameplan along with pitchers, recognizing how they'll attack him. He knows how to take his walks but will swing when there's damage to be done, and his base-running instincts should help him get the most out of his 60-grade speed.
There have been questions about his defense, but offensively, it seems like there's nothing left to resolve. GM Jerry Dipoto tried to make the case a couple of weeks ago that the Mariners needed to see improvement against left-handed pitchers but had to admit the 21-year-old was "acing that test" at the alternate training site. Kelenic then went on to homer against a lefty in Tacoma's first game last week.
Wander Franco is the top prospect in baseball and may be the next big one to arrive, but Kelenic is the one who I'm most confident makes an impact right away, potentially contributing to all five Rotisserie categories while also doing the kinds of things points-leaguers will love. The buzz he has built as a 21-year-old with just one full minor-league season under his belt gives him the look to me of a true natural.
And it's what's so direly needed given the present state of Fantasy Baseball, with offense being down across the league and especially in the outfield. If Kelenic delivers on his best-case outcome right away -- which is of course no guarantee, but again, I like his chances -- he could be the sort of piece that turns your season around.
Already, without seeing him play his first major-league game, I'm inclined to rank him as a top-20 outfielder, ahead of names like Austin Meadows and Michael Conforto. Such is the demand for a truly impactful bat.
It goes without saying you should pick him up anywhere he's still available, but it won't be much of anywhere at all. Kelenic is already rostered in 81 percent of CBS Sports leagues and has been over 70 percent since Draft Day. The same can be said for Franco. Those were the big two prospect stashes coming into the year, and while there's certainly value to stashing away a Jo Adell or Jarren Duran or Vidal Brujan in anticipation of their arrival, the cost-to-benefit ratio isn't quite the same.
Those who stashed Kelenic, though, are about to be richly rewarded.