Top-10 Stories of 2021: Rortvedt, Kelenic make their MLB debuts

By: Diego Solares
Staff Writer, Associate Scout

At the end of each calendar year, our staff reflects on the most interesting stories of the past year. Through the end of the month, we’ll be counting down some of the most impactful headlines that affected Wisconsin’s baseball community, ending with our No. 1 story of 2021 revealed on New Year’s Day.

As we’ve highlighted rather frequently over the past 12 months, Wisconsin has become quite the hotbed for professional talent, particularly up the middle. Several prospects from the Badger State have debuted in the big leagues over the last few years, starting with C Danny Jansen (Appleton West; Toronto Blue Jays), INF Owen Miller (Ozaukee; Cleveland Guardians) and, of course, INF/OF Gavin Lux (Indian Trail; Los Angeles Dodgers).

Two more of those upper-tier Wisconsin natives made their major league debuts this year when C Ben Rortvedt (Verona; Minnesota Twins) and OF Jarred Kelenic (Waukesha West; Seattle Mariners) joined their respective teams.

It was Rortvedt who got the call first, making his debut on April 30. He made several trips between Triple-A and the Twins throughout the season, finishing with 98 plate appearances across 39 games at the major league level. Known for the advanced defense presence he brings behind the plate, Rortvedt is likely to earn more playing time in 2022 and beyond.

Kelenic got the much-anticipated call on May 13 when the Mariners decided to call their top prospect up for the first time. He endured his share of ups and downs in his first taste of MLB action, as most young players do, and Seattle sent Kelenic back down to Triple-A Tacoma, only to bring him back up in July for their stretch run.

His performance in September, when Seattle was directly in the thick of a postseason berth, showed flashes of encouragement and developmental steps from the Mariners’ young star. After further acclimating himself to the best pitching in the world, Kelenic slashed .248/.331/.524 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs across 105 at-bats in September and October.

These two join the aforementioned names as the next wave of high-end Wisconsin names to debut professionally while continuing to pave the way for those next in line. We’re eager to monitor both Rortvedt and Kelenic’s progress as they continue to make strides towards successful major league careers.