Good News: Atlanta Braves Signed another Outfielder equa to Ronald Acuna…

Being traded to Braves offers fresh start to outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

Braves' trade for Jarred Kelenic offers outfielder a fresh start with very  little risk | Sporting News

ATLANTA — Jarred Kelenic is eager to change his personal narrative after recently being traded to the Atlanta Braves.

He doesn’t want to be another prized prospect who fails to live up to lofty expectations in the big leagues. For sure, he doesn’t want to be remembered mostly as the guy who foolishly broke his foot kicking a water cooler in frustration.

“I’m looking forward to a fresh start,” Kelenic said Wednesday.

The 24-year-old outfielder has been the most intriguing acquisition of the offseason for the Braves, who led Major League Baseball with 104 wins during the 2023 regular season but lost in a National League Division Series against the rival Philadelphia Phillies for the second straight postseason since winning the 2021 World Series.

Kelenic is expected to take over in left field after Atlanta declined its option on Eddie Rosario, giving the Braves another young player with huge potential in an already potent lineup led by reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr., who’s in right field.

“I’ve done a lot of learning the last three years, that’s for sure,” Kelenic said. “I’m looking forward to being myself and having a clean slate.”

The sixth pick by the New York Mets in the 2018 amateur draft, Kelenic was a key piece in a blockbuster deal a few months later with the Seattle Mariners. The Mets had to give up one of baseball’s top prospects as part of a seven-player trade to acquire closer Edwin Díaz and infielder Robinson Canó.

Kelenic made his MLB debut in 2021, hitting 14 home runs with 43 RBIs but posting an average of just .181. He was even worse the following year, batting .141 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 54 games.

This past season, Kelenic finally began to live up expectations. He hit .308 with seven homers and 14 RBIs over the first month of the schedule, carving out a regular spot in the Seattle lineup.

But his average dipped as the summer went along. The hits were fewer and farther in between. Having gone more than a month without a homer, his frustration finally boiled over after a ninth-inning strikeout during the Mariners’ loss to the Minnesota Twins on July 19.

Kelenic delivered a kick to that infamous water cooler and wound up with a broken bone in his left foot. While sidelined for nearly two months, he realized his mindset had to change.

“I had to step back to look at what I’m doing,” Kelenic said, explaining he remembered thinking to himself: “I’m not happy. I’m way too frustrated. I’m letting my emotions get the best of me. I’m not even enjoying the game.

“I had to take a step back and realize how lucky and thankful I am to be in the position I am in. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play in the big leagues, and here I am. I’m in the big leagues, and I break my foot out of frustration. That just can’t happen.”

Kelenic returned to the Mariners for the final three weeks of the season, but the team missed out on a playoff berth by a single game in a highly competitive American League West, where the Houston Astros won the division but the runner-up Texas Rangers won the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Kelenic finished with season totals of 11 homers, 43 RBIs, 13 stolen bases and a .253 average — still a far cry from what was expected of him after being quickly hailed as a future star. When the Mariners decided to shed payroll, they were willing to give up Kelenic as part of a five-player trade with Atlanta.

The Braves are eager to see what he can do on a team where he won’t be the center of attention. They won their sixth straight NL East title with a fearsome batting order that matched the MLB record with 307 homers, and barring more moves, Rosario is the only player from that starting lineup who won’t be returning to Atlanta in 2024.

Acuña had an unprecedented season when it comes to power at the plate and speed on the basepaths with 41 homers and 73 stolen bases, Matt Olson slugged a franchise-record 54 homers, Marcell Ozuna went deep 40 times, and Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley both surpassed 30 homers. Four players on the roster piled up 100 RBIs, and Riley just missed out with 97.

The left-handed-hitting Kelenic will likely hit toward the bottom of the order, and he could even find himself in a platoon situation if Vaughn Grissom — who has spent parts of the past two seasons in the majors and has been a middle infielder during his time in the pros — shows he’s capable of playing the outfield.

Grissom is coming off a stellar season offensively with the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers, but he has struggled at shortstop, so the Braves sent him to the Puerto Rican winter league to learn a new position.

As for Kelenic, no matter his role, he is thrilled to be with a group of players who have had so much success.

“I’m fired up,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to be their teammate.”

The Braves can afford to be patient with Kelenic, who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2029. In that sense, he fits right in with a team that has much of its young core signed to long-term deals.

“I still believe in the ability I have,” Kelenic said. “I know what I’m capable of doing.”

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