2023 Fantasy Baseball Player Debate: Is Jarred Kelenic a Post-Hype Sleeper Worth Drafting at his ADP?
Howard Bender and James Grande debate the fantasy baseball ADP value of Seattle Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic heading into the 2023 MLB season.
Fantasy baseball drafts are here as we are less than three weeks away from the start of the 2023 MLB season. That means your fantasy draft is rapidly approaching and you are left with the age-old question “who do I draft and in what round do I draft him?” You have probably studied the fantasy baseball player rankings in our free fantasy baseball draft guide and maybe you've done a few fantasy baseball mock drafts. Studying fantasy baseball ADP is a must, but you should also be looking at our fantasy baseball cheat sheet, because that will help guide you as well, especially if it's a player who is having a strong spring and you're just not sure what to do with him. That is where these player debates come in. Let us do the arguing for you and from there, you can pick a side.
Take Seattle Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic, for example. After two failed attempts in the majors, Kelenic is off to a hot start this spring and many are wondering if he is still worth a look. If you are one of those people wondering, then keep reading as Howard Bender and James Grande debate whether Kelecnic is worth it this season, especially at his current ADP.
Drafting Jarred Kelenic At His Current ADP is a Steal
by Howard Bender
When it comes to fantasy baseball drafts, there are few things better than the post-hype sleeper. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is simple – we’re talking about a player who received significant hype coming into the league, failed miserably during his rookie campaign and was kicked to the curb by the fantasy community, only to eventually break out and deliver the goods. Some felt this way about Mike Trout and Aaron Judge after poor rookie seasons and we know how each of them turned out. So, when everyone started dismissing Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic once again in 2023, further investigation was necessary and we are back on the hype train.
It was a rough road for Kelenic when he was finally promoted to the majors in 2021. He was mashing at Triple-A with a .320/.394/.624 slash line and .304 ISO over 143 plate appearances, but when he landed in the majors, it was horrendous. He struck out nearly 30-percent of the time and every metric from exit velocity and barrel rate to hard-hit percentage and xWOBA were terrible. He showed some random flashes of what was promised, but it just wasn’t enough. We tried it again last season, but while we did see some improvements in his underlying peripherals, it just wasn’t enough.
This spring, however, things look different for the now 23-year-old outfielder as he seems to be swinging the bat with a lot more confidence. Through 28 plate appearances, Kelenic is slashing .462/.500/.1.038 with four home runs, eight RBI and he’s even stolen two bases. But what is even more impressive is the uptick in exit velocity and barrel rate, improvements in his launch angle and only a 21.4-percent strikeout rate. He does not look as overmatched as he has in past seasons and the Mariners have taken off the kid gloves. It’s not so much a sink or swim, but the team is not babying him anymore, especially after watching Julio Rodriguez deliver on his potential last season at an equally early age.
Now, obviously, we have been trained to take spring training numbers with a grain of salt. We cannot simply look at these numbers and expect they will translate to the regular season. We have to examine, not just Kelenic’s current approach at the plate, but also the level of competition against which he is playing. Are the pitches he is crushing just fastballs grooved down the middle? Are the pitchers he is finding success against legitimate or just some tomato-can minor leaguers never to be seen in the majors? Early in the spring, yes, but as we’ve moved into more Cactus League play, Kelenic is shining bright against quality pitching and we find this to be very encouraging.
Best of all, Kelenic’s current fantasy baseball ADP is hovering around the 280 mark. That puts him somewhere around the 23rd round in a 12-team mixed league. I don’t want to say he might as well be free, but come on. Look at who else is being drafted in that area. Mark Canha? Brandon Marsh? Why wouldn’t you take a shot on a guy with such a strong hit tool and plus-speed? Some might jump a round or two if they go by name recognition alone, so be wary of that in your drafts. Anything after the 20th round is a huge win for you, so look for him there, especially if this torrid spring continues. The value you could get by season’s end could be the difference between winning it all and finishing in the middle of the pack.
Don't Let Jarred Kelenic's Hot Spring Fool You
by James Grande
It’s too early to write him off but at 23 years old, has Jarred Kelenic shown us enough to be believers heading into the 2023 season? I’m pretty skeptical that this years OF65 is going to pay off that price tag and be an everyday fantasy starter.
Through Kelenic’s first 147 games as a pro, the 21 home runs and 11 stolen bases are very respectable. As is the 76 RBI and 71 runs, but we’re talking about the former number-one overall prospect in the game here and that’s across two seasons, not one.
He hasn’t been able to stick in the Mariners lineup in each of his first two seasons, especially in 2022 when he played just 54 games, because of his inability to put the ball in play. After an abysmal start to his career posting a 28.7% K-rate in 2021, he followed that up in 2022 by upping that mark to 33.7%. He not only struck out more, but he walked less. His already subpar walk rate of 9.5% dipped to 8.8%.
When you continue diving into Kelenic’s numbers, there are only a few things you can definitively look at and like and think there will be improvements. BABIP is one considering his .201 BABIP at the major league level is astronomically low and fairly unlucky. That being said, when you’re looking at some of his adjusted rates courtesy of Fangraphs, his .xBA last year was only .172, xSLG was .351, and xwOBA was .269. None of those numbers play in any lineup across the league. None of those numbers give us much hope that things will improve considering they weren’t all that better in 2021.
There are some players that are fortunate to play in ballparks such as Coors Field, Great American Ball Park, and Fenway Park, but T-Mobile Park in Seattle does hitters no favors. According to Baseball Savant, T-Mobile rated out as the worst hitters park in the league. It’s actually been the worst in back-to-back seasons, and no, just because it’s a bad park doesn’t mean nobody can hit there (looking at you Julio Rodriguez) but it doesn’t do you any favors in the luck department.
The Mariners outfielder still has an option to the minor leagues as well if the team feels the need to send him down due to once again struggling. They’ve shown they’re not afraid of doing so and have a lot of potential replacements if he does struggle. AJ Pollock who projects as the team’s DH played 137 games in the outfield for the White Sox last year. Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, and potentially Kole Calhoun are waiting in the wings for more opportunities if Kelenic is slow out of the gate.
Sure Jarred Kelenic is off to a hot start this spring training, but we’ve seen this song and dance before. He had a .294 ISO last year, and a .400 ISO in 2021. He’s hit multiple home runs during spring for three straight seasons, but will 2023 finally be the year that his hot spring turns into a big regular season? I’m skeptical.