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Mariners option Jarred Kelenic to Triple-A Tacoma, recall INF Shed Long Jr.

A breather for Jarred, a breath of fresh air from Shed

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Today the Mariners announced the following roster moves:

First of all, awww poor Swaggy Ham. As a reminder, not having Sam Haggerty nor Dylan Moore is the reason we are seeing so much Jacob Nottingham and Jack Mayfield and Donovan Walton, outfielder, which is a mess certainly of the Mariners’ own roster construction but also some very poor luck. Moore, at least, looks to be on the road back to Seattle and should get some rehab games in soon, but apparently Haggerty’s fortunes have turned in the opposite direction, and we wish him well in his recovery.

Shed Long knows all about a long recovery journey, as his has been full of stops and starts as he recovered from a serious ankle injury that required insertion of a metal rod into the affected ankle. Shed returned to his first pro baseball game since September 8, 2020 on May 28 in Reno, where it must be noted, the ball absolutely flies out of the park; still, he was just 5-for-20, with a single in each of the first three games and two doubles in the final game of the series. He also struck out three times and walked twice. Over the course of the three games he played in Tacoma’s more neutral park, Shed went 5-for-11 with 3 BB, 2K, a 2B and a HR. It sure looks like he’s got his stroke back:

The conundrum with Triple-A this year is the pitching, stretched paper-thin everywhere, just isn’t good enough to offer much challenge to more advanced hitters, and the juicy ball, stores of which they’re still working through, continues to fly out of parks and inflate offensive numbers. Meanwhile, offense is down across the big leagues to the point where MLB has deemed it necessary to start enthusiastically cracking down on the use of banned substances. Shed Long is ready to get out of Tacoma, for sure, but don’t expect him to immediately start tearing up the big leagues based on what he did over a rehab stint.

On the flip side, Jarred Kelenic will head to Tacoma to take Long’s spot. Kelenic is far from the only prospect struggling with making the transition between the minor leagues after a year of lost development and facing the current offensive environment in baseball; the Brewers’ Keston Hiura is facing a similar rocky road, with a source close to Hiura saying:

“The environment in the big leagues now, everything is hard on hitters,” the player said. “Never been a bigger gap between Triple-A and the big leagues. So that didn’t really help him on what he needs to do to succeed here consistently.”

But while Kelenic isn’t the only young player struggling, as a high-profile and hyped-up prospect he’s had to deal with an extra level of scrutiny, not just from Seattle’s own fanbase and those who expected St. Jarred to sweep in and airlift this team out of the cellar of the division but rival fanbases, like the Angels fans who chanted “overrated” at him over the course of this last series. While facing the kind of patched-together pitching staffs that populate Triple-A clubs likely won’t provide much development to Kelenic’s bat, a breather away from the spotlight—like the Angels gave similar top prospect who struggled in his big-league debut Jo Adell—will help him reset and hopefully, relax a little. Being demoted is certainly frustrating to him now, but hopefully he will realize there are worse things than hanging out by the team hotel pool when playing the Las Vegas Aviators before heading to the park to launch a few 500-foot home runs.

And maybe, like fellow prospect Taylor Trammell, who has a full year at Double-A to Kelenic’s fewer than 100 PAs, the time away will give Kelenic an opportunity to reflect and adjust. Trammell said during his time in Tacoma he was able to make a slight mechanical adjustment with lowering his hands, as well as a mental adjustment of trying to focus on hitting the ball over the shortstop’s head. It’s a very brief sample size but since returning, Trammell has raised his wRC+ from the double digits to 120; most encouragingly, he’s cut his strikeouts down from around 40% to around 26%.

Strikeouts weren’t really the problem for the contact monster Kelenic, although they crept up alarmingly as he pressed harder and harder; that quality of contact, though, suffered as Kelenic fell behind in counts and failed to hit the ball with conviction, often grounding out or popping it up harmlessly (35% FB rate and 12% LD rate is the opposite of what you want). Kelenic is at his best when he’s hitting line drives all over the park, and maybe some time in Tacoma will help him, like Trammell, start thinking about hitting the ball over the shortstop’s head. At the very least, it will offer the uber-competitive Kelenic an opportunity to take a breath and hopefully start having fun playing the game again as he takes out his frustrations on some Triple-A pitching staffs. Thoughts and prayers to them.