Is Howie Kendrick A Breakout Or Bust Candidate In 2011?

It feels like Howie Kendrick has been considered a potential sleeper for the past ten years.  While it hasn’t quite been that long, as we enter 2011, his age 27 season, the time has finally come for Kendrick to either put up or shut up.

Known as a high-level average guy in the minor leagues, he has perpetually disappointed since making his debut.  Unfortunately for owners, 2010 was no exception:

658 At Bats
.279 Batting Average (172 Hits)
10 Home Runs
75 RBI
67 Runs
14 Stolen Bases
.313 On Base Percentage
.407 Slugging Percentage
.313 Batting Average on Balls in Play

His average was supposed to carry him into stardom, having hit .369 in 290 AB at Triple-A in 2006.  However, you have to realize that the number was based on an incredibly unrealistic .409 BABIP.

In other words, he never stood a chance of matching that type of mark in the Major Leagues.  It was simply impossible.  When you take that aspect out of his game out of play, there really is little to get excited about.

While we may want to think Kendrick will add strength, his 6.9% HR/FB rate in 2010 is basically a mirror image of his career mark through parts of five seasons (7.0%).  Yes, he showed more in 2009, when he posted a 12.2% mark, but that is looking more and more like the outlier.

As it is, he barely hits the ball in the air enough to think that even if he posts a better HR/FB, that it’s going to make a major impact.  Last season he posted a 28.1% fly ball rate, right along with his 28.5% career mark.

With 52 HR in 1,618 minor league career at bats and 32 HR in 1,935 major league career at bats, the truth is in the numbers.  He just is not a big-time power threat.  If he added strength, he could maybe top out at 20, but 15 seems like a much more realistic maximum.

He also is not a big-time stolen base threat.  His career high is 25, coming all the way back in 2005 when he split time between High-A and Double-A.  In the major leagues, his best mark was last season’s 14 (in 18 attempts).

Unless there’s a dramatic change, you’re looking at a guy who is right around a 15 SB second baseman.

So, you have a player who could go 15/15, which certainly has value.  Of course, given his history, it’s just as likely that he falls short there.

He spent a lot of time hitting second, which you would think would bring a lot of opportunities to score runs.  Of course, you need to get on base often for that to happen.  With a meager 4.3% walk rate (and a career 3.8% mark), his skill set just doesn’t justify him hitting second.

Chances are the Angels address that in the offseason, meaning his potential value is likely going to fall.  He’s not an RBI machine and if there is less opportunity to score runs, it’s just not a good mix.

The bottom line with Kendrick is that he’s more of a last resort option as a 2B and much better suited to be a middle infielder.  He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well at this point.  A modest average, a little power, a little speed and some run production.  Sounds like a player to target, huh?

What are your thoughts of Kendrick?  Could this be the year he breaks out?  Or, do you side with me and consider him overhyped in the past?

Make sure to check out our review of other players who struggled in 2010 and their prospects for a rebound:

3 comments

  1. big o says:

    well thought-out article .

  2. Bschriebman says:

    First, at 27 Howie has time for a breakout season.
    With improved play at 2nd, what on earth is wrong with 172 hits (and 10 homeruns) for 2nd baseman on a team, that hit so poorly? You’re way out there(or, a dodger fan).which 2nd baseman hits 365?

  3. Rotoprofessor says:

    Trust me, I’m far from a Dodgers fan…lol

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a 2B who hits .365, but the problem is Kendrick isn’t one. There was so much luck involved in that number, it’s impossible for him to replicate it.

    It looks like he’s a .270-.290 hitter with 15/15 potential. He’s a fine player, but he’s just not what fantasy owners had hoped for.

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