Could Howie Kendrick Finally Be A Breakout In 2010?

How long have we heard the hype surrounding Howie Kendrick?  How long have we been hearing about his upside?  How long have we been taking the gamble on him in hopes that this would finally be the year?

He made his MLB debut back in 2006 after originally being drafted in 2002.  Needless to say, now at 26-years old, we all hope that the wait is finally over.

A .360 career hitter in the minor leagues (in 1,618 at bats), he has shown flashes in the Major Leagues.  He is a career .302 hitter, but he hasn’t come close to the speed and power combination that he also displayed in the minors (52 HR/78 SB).  On the low-end you would think that he should be a 10/10 player to go along with the average, something he finally accomplished in 2010:

374 At Bats
.291 Batting Average (109 Hits)
10 Home Runs
61 RBI
61 Runs
11 Stolen Bases
.334 On Base Percentage
.444 Slugging Percentage
.338 Batting Average on Balls in Play

That’s still just not enough.  The power has never developed the way everyone had hoped it would.  Last season he put just 27.4% of his balls into the air.  If he had had enough at bats it would have placed him with the tenth worst number in the league.

The only reason he reached double-digis home runs was his 12.2% HR/FB.  In his prior three stints in the Majors he posted marks of:

  • 2006 – 5.5%
  • 2007 – 6.1%
  • 2008 – 4.1%

Granted, at his age it is quite possible that he is getting stronger and could potentially match last year’s mark.  However, unless he starts putting more balls in the air, 12-14 home runs would appear to be his ceiling.

During his minor league career he posted a 36.0% flyball rate, so there is some hope.  It’s not much though.

The speed is there, but he needs to get on base in order to make a significant impact here as well.  Granted, he may hit around .300, but he’s never been able to draw a walk on a consistent basis.  Last season his walk rate was just 5.0% and over his career he’s at just 3.6%.

If you are looking for hope from his minor league numbers, you need to just keep on looking.  He walked just 4.9%.  It’s just bad and it makes it impossible for him to maintain a usable on base percentage.  If he’s not routinely getting on base, how can you expect him to steal bases?

In addition, how many runs can you safely expect him to score?

You put it all together and is he really a player you want to count on?  Before we get to that, let’s look at my 2010 projection:

.292 (143-490), 14 HR, 55 RBI, 75 R, 19 SB, .331 BABIP, .338 OBP, .453 SLG

The batting average comes down due to a decrease in luck.  After that, there are just too many question marks to hang your hat on him.  He’s given us no reason to believe that the power is suddenly going to be there.  He has not shown any potential to work a walk and continually get on base, giving him ample opportunity to both steal a base and score runs.

Granted, the potential to go 15/15 makes him a better option than many of the no power, no speed options in the middle infield.  Still, he’s a borderline starter, at best, outside of deeper formats for me.  I have him as the twelfth best 2B on my draft board (click here for my most recent rankings).

How about you?  Do you think Kendrick will put it together in 2010?  What are you expecting from him?

If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5) now including a Top 50 Prospects for 2010 List, click here.

For some 2010 projections, click here.  Among those we’ve already covered include:

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

One comment

  1. Hippeaux says:

    I’d take Kendrick over Stewart, merely because of the danger that Stewart obliterates your batting average, but I think the rest of your analysis is utterly justified. Those who are expecting Kendrick to suddenly become a 20/20 player who challenges for a batting title haven’t recognized that his impressive minor-league stats were somewhat hollow. However, it can’t be understated that .290-75-10-50-15 is a pretty acceptable line from your middle infield, presuming you don’t have to pay more than $12-$15 for him.

    Kendrick reminds me a little of Rickie Weeks, in that he’s now coming at a significant post-hype discount. Many people have drafted him expecting a huge return and have been burned, so now he regularly falls below what he’s realistically worth.

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