Jeren Kendall was the type of prospect that quite possibly should not have lasted as long as he did in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He is one of the most explosive collegiate athletes to come to the Dodgers in the draft in recent years.
His raw power, elite speed, and top-of-the-line defensive ability make him as high-upside of any prospect in the system as it stands. Still, the hit tool remains the evasive one for Kendall, the one that could be the difference between Kendall being a perennial four-win player and a bench bat.
In recent weeks, Kendall has begun to look like who the Dodgers thought they were drafting when they selected him in the first round. At just 23 years of age, Kendall still has some time, but it is dwindling. Regardless, he could be turning a corner.
For High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season, Kendall holds a 100 wRC+, but is still striking out at an astronomical 37.8 percent rate. While the power is beginning to show itself (.438 slugging percentage, .256 isolated power), he holds an ugly .198 batting average and .301 on-base percentage. A 23-year-old first-round draft pick should be showing a lot more promise at a level as low as Rancho Cucamonga.
Top 5 mid to upper level #Dodgers minor leaguers in ISO for the year:
Edwin Rios .290
Gavin Lux .266
Jeren Kendall .256
Connor Wong .253
Zack Reks .251
As a reminder, ISO only takes extra base hits into account.
— Oskar Vargas (@rawsko94) August 28, 2019
The Hot Streak
Over the last month, however, Kendall has ravaged High-A pitching, slashing .319/.423/.638 and cutting his strikeout rate down to 29.7%. Across those 25 games of play, he has also crushed seven home runs and stolen six bags.
Another interesting facet to Kendall’s game is his ability to crush baseballs when he actually makes contact, evident by an extremely high 44% hard-hit rate:
The Dodgers have the hardest offensive hitters in the California League. OF Jeren Kendall leads the way with a remarkable 44% Hard Hit Rate. pic.twitter.com/sHrqzlV0lk
— tyler j. spicer (@tylerjspicer) August 21, 2019
Here is the write-up Fangraphs penned about Jeren Kendall in their mid-season prospect evaluations;
“Badly in need of a swing change, Kendall’s cut still isn’t quite dialed in and he’s struggling to make contact at Hi-A. He’s a high-risk, high-variance prospect, the kind who might have a 4 WAR season in him because of the power and speed, but not be playable at other times.”
This current stretch demonstrates the type of 20-40 potential Kendall possesses, albeit potentially coming with a slash line in the realm of .220/.320/.420. For reference, Joc Pederson’s slash line in 2019 is .233/.325/.489. For such a minuscule gap in production, Kendall’s defense could be his calling card at the major league level some day.
Some team, if not the Dodgers, will take a chance on Kendall at low stock value eventually. He is the type of low-floor, ridiculous-ceiling prospect that could simply be a change of scenery guy. Regardless, this stretch is extremely encouraging to see and could provide him an imminent promotion to Double-A Tulsa.
The Dodgers are praying for a late-blooming Kendall and he could be well on his way to doing exactly that.