Atlanta Braves Trade for Jarred Kelenic

by Corey Pieper

The winter meetings are underway in Nashville, Tennessee, and the first big trade occurred late Sunday evening as the Atlanta Braves traded for outfielder Jarred Kelenic, pitcher Marco Gonzales, and outfielder Evan White in exchange for pitchers Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips.

Kelenic gets a chance to start over with one of the best offenses in baseball as he returns to the NL East.

You may have forgotten that his career began as an extremely highly regarded prospect for the New York Mets. He was the pivotal prospect going to Seattle in the trade which brought both Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to New York before the 2019 season.

Atlanta Braves Trade for Jarred Kelenic

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Jarred Kelenic with the Seattle Mariners

The expectations for Kelenic have been high since he arrived in Seattle. By 2021, Kelenic's name was found near the very top of prospect lists along with future stars like Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco, Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, and fellow Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

A knee injury delayed his rookie season debut in 2021. His long-awaited debut would come later in the 2021 season with the Mariners. While the 14 home runs and six stolen bases in only 337 at-bats were nice, the .181 batting average was not. Kelenic struggled with a 28% strikeout percentage, but a .216 BABIP had people still excited going into 2022.

Unfortunately, 2022 was even worse for Kelenic at the major league level. He only saw 163 at-bats because his strikeout rate climbed to over 33%, causing his batting average to fall to 141. He still managed to hit seven home runs and steal five bases despite to poor batting average.

The encouraging aspect of the 2022 season was his performance again in the minor leagues. At the AAA level, he hit 18 home runs, stole nine stolen bases, and hit .295.

2023 saw an improvement in Kelenic during the first half of the season. Through 90 games, Kelenic had 11 home runs, 12 stolen bases, and most importantly, his average was a very palatable .252. He was still striking out at a 36% rate so the average seemed unlikely to stay that high. One of his July strikeouts was particularly costly.

Kelenic was able to return for the last few weeks of the season from the fractured foot. It was a rather uneventful stretch of games as he had just one stolen base during that time.

Even with the foot injury, his last season in Seattle was his best season yet. He reached double-digit stolen bases for the first time with 13. He hit 11 home runs. Most important though was the .253 average. While nothing special, it's much more playable than the sub-.200 averages he posted in the first years.

Jarred Kelenic's Fantasy Impact with the Atlanta Braves

There is no better offense to join than the Atlanta Braves. Last year's Braves team led the league in many offensive categories including runs scored, home runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage! Most of those categories were by a considerable margin. For example, they hit 58 more home runs than the next team!

Kelenic projects to be the starting left fielder for the Atlanta Braves. Current free agent, Eddie Rosario, filled left field for the Braves last season.

Before trading for Kelenic, it was expected that infielder Vaughn Grissom would be transitioning to left field. Notably, Kelenic bats left-handed, and Grissom bats right-handed.

At this point, I expect the Braves to use the two players in a platoon situation. Kelenic has a career 189 average against left-handed pitchers, with only seven of his 32 career home runs coming against them.

As a left-handed bat, Kelenic would be on the strong side of the platoon. That means that barring an injury, I think we can count on 400 at-bats out of Kelenic. Even though it would be towards the bottom of the order, in Atlanta that won't matter with as strong of an offense as they have.

Jarred Kelenic's Departure Impact on the Seattle Mariners

Kelenic is the most notable player that is going back to the Atlanta Braves. For Seattle though, the most important aspect of the trade may have been White and Gonzales. The Braves are also planning to move on from Marco Gonzales per Ken Rosenthal.

By moving White and Gonzales, Seattle saved nearly 20 million dollars. It seems likely that the Mariners are getting ready to make a big splash. Juan Soto and Randy Arozarena are the two biggest names being speculated at this point.

Both of those players are under contract with their current teams so that would require another trade. Though he Mariners have plenty of young, controllable starting pitchers to make a deal of that magnitude happen yet.

The current in-house replacement options for the outfield are uninspiring for fantasy purposes.  Those options include Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Dominic Canzone, Sam Haggerty, and Dylan Moore. The one that interests me most if he finds full-time playing time is Canzone.

Canzone was a part of the return package that sent closer Paul Sewald to Arizona last season. Before the trade, Canzone was experiencing a breakout season with the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate in Reno. In 257 at-bats, he had 16 home runs, 71 RBI, and was hitting an absurd .354. Reno is also part of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) which is notorious for hitter's environments so take those numbers with a grain of salt. However, he continued his solid play in the majors too last season with limited time.

After the trade to Seattle, he was able to accumulate 135 at-bats at the big-league level. He hit five home runs, although the average fell to .215. In a 50-round draft-and-hold format, I'd be willing to take a shot late on Canzone.

Final Thoughts on Jarred Kelenic

Every day more NFBC drafts are being added to the average draft position (ADP) which makes their data more reliable. Currently, Jarred Kelenic is going as the 50th outfielder with an ADP of  228. That makes him a mid-teens-round selection on average in a 15-team league.

I'm much more likely to take Kelenic at that price with Atlanta than I was with Seattle. The lineup in Atlanta will lead to counting statistics even towards the bottom of the lineup.

Then, you have to look at the park factor upgrade that Atlanta will offer. Seattle's T-Mobile Park is the park that rates the most difficult for hitters.  Meanwhile, Atlanta's Truist Park is a top-10-rated offensive park.

His strikeouts are still very concerning. If he is going to continue to strike out over 30% of the time, his average is capped at likely around .230, and could easily bottom out back below .200 with a bad string of luck on balls in play. Investing in Kelenic means recognizing that there are risks involved in this profile, but there could also be big rewards if everything comes together.

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