by Jimmy Hascup
Baseball has a lot to do with expectations. Whether you’re a real GM or a virtual one, assembling the right parts to your team has a lot to do with expectations. Similarly to an organization that drafts a player, fantasy owners who participate in fantasy drafts during baseball’s preseason select players according to their interpretation and best understanding of that player’s prospects and potential.
Since baseball is not an exact science, it’s nearly impossible to accurately forecast a players’ worth to a real-life franchise or your fantasy team. Especially in the fantasy baseball realm, those blessed with the sixth sense of precisely predicting players’ output from season-to-season generally do better than those who fail to fully hone their baseball statastic-acumen. Obviously luck is involved in fantasy sports, so it’s impossible to be “right” every time, but there’s also a benefit to understanding the statistical measures behind performance.
After being drafted in the tenth round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels, it can be safely assumed that Howie Kendrick wasn’t a top amateur in the draft by any means. The MLB Draft is one of the biggest crapshoots in all of sports, but we can say that the expectations for Kendrick weren’t too excessive.
Then you time warp to the year 2009 and gloss over his minor league accolades and wonder when Kendrick will really live up to his minor league track record?
The second basemen was the number one prospect in the Texas League in 2005. Baseball America ranked him the 12th best prospect in all of baseball in 2006, while also tabbing him as the Angels’ second-best prospect. Additionally, Baseball Prospectus ranked him baseball’s fifth best prospect the same year.
To give you an idea why Kendrick earned such high honors, let’s take a look at his 2005 minor league stats, having batted .362 with 19 HR with 89 RBI and 25 SB in 469 at-bats.
Even baseball’s best minds had nothing but good things to say about Kendrick. In 2007 Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein compared Kendrick to a right-handed Tony Gwynn. In February of 2009, Goldstein continued to be enamored with Kendrick, “I still think he’s going to get healthy and hit .340 one year,” Goldstein said.
Altogether, Kendrick has a superb minor league line. In 1,618 total at-bats Kendrick has a .360 AVG, 52 HR, 274 RBI and 78 SB. Looks can be deceiving though, as Kendrick has played in parts of four major league seasons, totaling 1,237 AB, but not nearly fulfilling his minor league promise, hitting .298 AVG, 19 HR, 151 RBI, and 31 SB.
Kendrick started the year as the Angels’ starting second basemen. A mediocre first two and a half months of the season (260 AVG, .193 AVG, and .269 AVG) led to his demotion in mid-June. Since then, it seems like Kendrick has found his groove batting .387 and .295 in the months since. He currently sports a .270 AVG, with 7 HR and 45 RBI. However, it seems that in his four seasons, he really hasn’t progressed as hoped.
- 2006- .285/.314/.416
- 2007- .322/.347/.450
- 2008- .306/.333/.421
- 2009- .270/.316/.405
Prior to the All-Star break Kendrick had a woeful .239 AVG. Ever since, he’s batted .361. But is this a sign of maturing or luck?
For starters, never expect patience out of Kendrick. He has a career 3.7 walk rate, which has definitely thrown a wrench in Kendrick’s development. Only players like Vlad Guerrero and Pablo Sandoval have survived with minuscule walk rates. In other words, they’re the exceptions and even they’ve seen improvement in those rates during their time in the majors.
Kendrick has a 17.5 percent strikeout rate, which is actually a solid number. He’s a free swinger, with great contact skills (a 90.7 percent contact rate on pitches in the strike zone), but he just really hasn’t done much with those skills at the major league level.
If Kendrick was supposed to be this batting average champ, with some speed and power to boot, why do his rates look eerily similar (or inferior) to Placido Polanco’s? For those wondering, Polanco has a career 87 homeruns in 5,354 AB:
Rate% – Kendrick/Polanco
Line drive: 17.1/ 31.9
Ground ball: 54.1/ 47.7
Fly ball: 28.8/ 29.9
Obviously, we can tell where Kendrick’s problem lies. He’s just not hitting enough line drives, even though he’s about to surpass 20 doubles for the fourth time in four seasons. He’s also really not capitalizing on his fly balls at all. Before this season he turned 5.5, 6.1, and 4.1 percent of his fly balls into homeruns. This year he’s at 10.8 percent, which is certainly a rate that we’d like him to live near, but we know it can’t be expected. Kendrick hasn’t had a double-digit HR season (between minors and majors) since 2006, but should break the mark this season.
With a career .137 IsoP, Kendrick just isn’t showing any sort of power that is enticing to fantasy owners. His .315 BABIP is lower than his career .349 mark, but even in a plus-year for Kendrick, his HR total approximates to about 15 over the season. Sure that sounds like a great number from a second basemen who has the potential to be a .330 hitter, but between the past two seasons Kendrick had a combined 13 HR (in the minors and majors).
While the batting average is certainly a boon to potential fantasy owners, Kendrick just hasn’t provided much of anything else to be starter worthy, or even sleeper worthy. Let’s be honest though, he’s dealt with his fair-share of injuries, which has caused him to develop slower. I still don’t think it’s a reason for his mediocre power numbers, though.
Kendrick’s an interesting case to me. I’d much rather have him for the remainder of this season, as he’s been playing extremely well since the break. The opportune time to capitalize on streaks is now.
I wouldn’t really risk my pick on him for next season, unless it’s in the later rounds. Kendrick has been such a disappointment in his four years, I don’t see him worthy of a starting spot on my roster next season, even at such a weak fantasy position.
What do you guys think? Is Kendrick worth grabbing for next season? Has he finally conquered big league pitching?
To read the previous article, click here.