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Jarred Kelenic excited for his opportunity with the Atlanta Braves

Atlanta’s newest outfielder discussed the recent trade, the ups and downs of his professional career and how much he is excited for a fresh start.

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves jumped through a lot of hoops in order to bring in former No. 6 overall pick Jarred Kelenic into the organization. In the initial deal with the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta agreed to take on Marco Gonzales and Evan White and their salaries. Both Gonzales and White have since moved on in subsequent deals in order to offload some of the money that was owed to each.

However steep the price tag from a financial standpoint, the Braves thought that it was a worthy investment to take a chance on a former top prospect in Kelenic, who hasn’t realized his potential during his short major league career. Kelenic is still just 24 and will figure into Atlanta’s left field picture next season. Kelenic spoke with the media Wednesday morning via a Zoom call and said that he was fired up when he learned the news that he was headed to Atlanta.

“I was actually watching the Packers game with a bunch of buddies of mine at my house here and I got a phone call and from our GM with the Mariners. He just informed me that I was going to be going to Atlanta,” Kelenic said. “Once I heard that, I was fired up because I knew I was going to go to a really good organization that’s had a winning history the last however many years. “It’s no question that they were one of the best teams in baseball all last year and years prior. I am really looking forward to just being a part of that and learning from those guys and kind of just having a fresh new start with a new organization.”

The New York Mets took Kelenic with the sixth pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Waukesha West High School in Wisconsin. He put up an .839 OPS in 56 games in rookie ball after he was drafted, but was traded that December to the Mariners in the deal that brought Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets.

Kelenic advanced through three levels in 2019 while slugging 23 home runs and putting up a .904 OPS. The pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, but he began the 2021 season at Triple A where he posted a 143 wRC+ in 30 games. He made his major league debut that summer, but struggled. Kelenic would again play well in Triple A in 2022, but failed to make any traction in the majors. It looked like things were finally coming together for him in 2023 when he hit .308/.366/.615 with seven home runs and a 169 wRC+ in April. However, he hit just .235/.314/.356 and struck out 33 percent of the time in 315 plate appearances the rest of the way. Kelenic also missed a little over a month with a broken foot that he suffered when he kicked a water cooler in the dugout after a strikeout.

Kelenic admitted that he is no stranger to failure and he has been through plenty of ups and downs along the way during his time as a professional.

“I think I would say that when I first came up to the big leagues, I didn’t know what to expect, honestly,” Kelenic said. “Looking back on the struggles that I had in the big leagues and stuff like that, some of those struggles were some of the biggest lessons that I learned and some of the ones that I needed to learn. Some of the biggest takeaways from my first three seasons in the big leagues would be that learning how to kind of turn the page and just let things go. My foot was a prime example of that. A real turning point in, not only just baseball, but also just my life in general, how I view it. Granted, it was a terrible thing, but it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I look at the struggles that I had, they made me who I am today, but also they taught me a lot. The older I get, the more information I learn and the better off I’m going to be.”

After his up and down start in Seattle, Kelenic is excited to have a fresh start with the Braves and in an organization that he views as having a good culture.

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity to go to an amazing organization and have the ability to go out and learn from an amazing staff.” Kelenic said. “The Braves culture in general, when I played there last year, last summer, seeing guys like Chipper and those guys around was something that I thought was amazing. I definitely am looking forward to a fresh new start, but being able to have gone through the adversity that I went through and being able to just apply it in my day to day work as I move forward throughout my career, I’m really looking forward to just being myself and having a clean slate.”

On paper, it looks like Kelenic is in line to see the bulk of playing time in left field next season. The Braves have also said that they are willing to give infielder Vaughn Grissom a look in left field and he is playing the outfield in Puerto Rico in Winter Ball this offseason. A platoon situation could develop if Grissom isn’t included in a deal for a starting pitcher. Still, with the amount of money that they took on to acquire him, it would be surprising for Kelenic not get an opportunity to win the job.

It could be a low stakes situation for him as well. The Braves don’t need him to come in and anchor a lineup. They don’t need him to be a catalyst. He’s likely to hit towards the bottom of the order where perhaps he can finally relax and develop. To his credit, Kelenic says that he is excited to fit in and to learn from his new teammates.

“I think the most exciting thing for me is being able to not only be teammates with those guys, but also be able to just kind of watch how they go about their business on a day to day and really learn the ins and the outs of what they’re doing,” Kelenic said. “Obviously it’s working. I mean, some of the best players in the game are on that roster. That’s one thing that I’m really looking forward to. I think that it’ll allow me to just get comfortable in the box and really hone in on what makes me click and what makes me the best version of myself. I think if I can just focus on that, I think I’ll be right where I need to be.”

Kelenic’s time in Seattle was often tumultuous. Seattle’s team president was forced to resign in 2021 after comments he made in regard to Kelenic and service time manipulation. He’s hoping a fresh start with the Braves and their organization will be what is needed to unlock his true potential.

“I have a few buddies that play in the Braves organization. Everything that they talk about is that they do it the right way and that they truly care about their players,” Kelenic said. “It’s like a family type organization and that’s something that I’m really looking forward to. It’s something that I value a lot. I was raised in a blue collar family that really values relationships and just being a good person in general. To know that you’re going to an organization where they really value that is really exciting for me. I think it’s going to help propel me to get the most out of me and just make me the best version, not only the best player, but the best individual person that I can be. That’s exciting because I’m still young, I’m only 24 years old and there’s a lot of learning that I still need to do, but to know that I’m going into an organization that really teaches and values that, I think is awesome.”

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