By Joshua Iversen
Between the sheer star power headed to New York and the tens of millions of dollars changing hands both ways, today’s trade between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets is absolutely fascinating. While now-Mets Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz will be the ones grabbing headlines, it’s prospects Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista that could have the greatest long-term impact.
Ranked the Mets’ third-best prospect by MLB.com, Jarred Kelenic is the prize piece of Seattle’s return. The left-handed hitting outfielder should rank comfortably near the top of a weak Mariners farm system.
During his four years at Waukesha West High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Kelenic proved to be a true five-tool talent. He starred for Team USA’s U-18 team in both 2016 and 2017, and even participated in the High School Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. He was listed as the top player in Wisconsin by Perfect Game, and when he was picked sixth overall by the Mets in the 2018 draft, he became the highest drafted player ever from the state.
After the selection, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs listed Kelenic as “likely the most polished/advanced prep hitter in the class,” and Kelenic proved it to be true from day one. In 56 Rookie League games, Kelenic slashed .286/.371/.468 with six home runs and 15 stolen bases.
Kelenic has above-average speed and a good hitting tool, along with decent pop. He should be able to stick in center field for at least the foreseeable future. He is listed by FanGraphs as the 86th-best prospect in the game, with an MLB ETA of 2021. At his best, Kelenic could profile similar to a pre-2018 Christian Yelich.
“I think he’s a kid that’s taken advantage of a situation,” his father, Tom, told Sean Collins of MLB.com. “He’s always worked out and played in facilities given to him, he was involved in USA baseball from an early age and had the best trainer in the country and best hitting guys in the state. There’s a lot of kids that don’t use the facilities, or at least only use them during the season, but they aren’t gym rats like Jarred.”
Justin Dunn was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, out of The Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut. However, the right-handed pitcher turned down their 37th-round offer and instead attended Boston College.
Dunn did not have the typical career path for a future top starting pitching prospect. He threw only 12 innings his freshman year and spent most of his sophomore year pitching out of the bullpen. It wasn’t until his junior year that he got an extended look in the rotation and he ran with it, posting a 2.06 ERA over 65.2 innings with 72 strikeouts against only 18 walks. The Mets decided this success and his projectability made him worth their first round pick (19th overall) in 2016.
Aside from a rough 2017 in High-A, Dunn has put together a very solid minor league career so far. He made it to Double-A in 2018 and struck out well over a batter per inning. He throws his fastball in the 92-95 MPH range and while he doesn’t spot it particularly well, he makes up for it with plus command of his two breaking balls, both above average pitches. He also shows an inconsistent, but occasionally plus changeup.
A report on draft day by MLB.com wrote that “Many teams feel Dunn has a very good chance to start as a Yordano Ventura type athletic, yet slightly undersized, right-hander.” Almost three years later, Dunn’s profile as a thin, high-velocity righty means the comp to the late Ventura still holds strong. However, Dunn’s advanced repertoire makes me believe he could put it together in a way Ventura never did and blossom into a reliable mid-rotation arm.
Originally an international signee by the Boston Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Gerson Bautista made his way to the Mets in a trade for Addison Reed in 2017. While he was a starter early on for the Red Sox, Bautista now pitches exclusively in relief.
Bautista began the 2018 season in Double-A, but made his Major League debut in late April. His fastball sits 96-98 MPH and touches triple digits, and he most often pairs it with a mid-80s slider. Both his slider and changeup could use some work and unless he can sharpen those two pitches up, he likely ends up a middle reliever. Regardless, the 23-year-old righty is young and cost controlled, making him a respectable third piece of the return for Seattle.