Top prospects Kelenic, Kowar stumble in MLB chance
We didn’t have much of a schedule to work with Monday. Only three games. It wasn’t a day that will go down in baseball history.
But we were reminded that baseball is awfully hard. Jarred Kelenic and Scott Kingery were the news of the day; both players were sent to Triple-A. And Kansas City pitching phenom Jackson Kowar was a mess in his MLB debut.
Kelenic, one of the hottest prospects entering the year, deserved the move down. His 23 games with Seattle were a swing and miss: .096/.195/.193, 26 strikeouts. If anything, he needs to go back to the minors and get his confidence back. At least Kelenic drew eight walks with the Mariners, in addition to a pair of homers and a perfect 3-for-3 on steals.
No one is giving up on Kelenic, and in many redraft leagues, the proper move is to keep him and think about the plausible upside he could offer later in the year. Season to taste.
Kingery’s about five years older than Kelenic, at 27, and he’s at a different stage of his career. The Phillies passed Kingery through waivers and took him off the 40-man roster, a sign of how his star has dimmed through the years. Back in 2018, Kingery signed a notable six-year, $24 million contract before he ever played a big-league game. That’s how can’t-miss Kingery was projected to be; heck, a lot of baseball pundits felt Kingery undersold his worth, and might eventually regret the deal.
No one’s saying that now, of course.
Kingery’s been fairly unlucky the last two years. He tested positive for COVID shortly before the 2020 season, and never got comfortable. He didn’t hit this spring, and he was 1-for-19 with the Phillies (12 strikeouts) before suffering a concussion. If he hadn’t signed the extension, the Phillies probably couldn’t have passed him through waivers. But with the big ticket attached, no team wanted to take a chance.
The development curve differs for everyone. As great as Mike Trout turned out to be, his first MLB lap was a rocky one. Lucas Giolito had a 6.13 ERA in his first full season. David Ortiz spent six up-and-down seasons with Minnesota before he found himself in Boston.
There are opposite examples, of course. Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. — they’ve all hit the ground running in their young careers. Every situation is different.
Kowar was just inside the Top 100 list on most prospect boards entering this year, so his pedigree didn’t fly off the page. But fantasy managers were excited after watching Kowar dominate in five Triple-A starts — 0.85 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 41 strikeouts in 31.2 innings. Perhaps it was nerves that hurt Kowar against the Angels on Monday — he uncorked three wild pitches and didn’t make it out of the first inning. The Royals didn’t want to see Kowar get his confidence crushed; regretfully, Mike Matheny hooked him early.
This comes as a review, but one of my takeaways with hot prospects is that I’m always willing to shop them in trade the moment they’re promoted — just to be sure that one of my opponents doesn’t have absurd expectations. You don’t have to trade your buzzy prospects, of course. You can always say no. But it never hurts to see if there’s some FOMO floating around in your league, or if one of your rivals has a thing for shiny new toys.
While I am not a scout (just a reasonable guy who’s watched baseball for a long time), I still think Kelenic is a can’t-miss kid. I think he’ll be back this year and will likely pop. But there are never any guarantees on these things. We’re always making the most educated guess we can, but it’s still a guess, just the same.