One not familiar with the case of Howie Kendrick may be quick to dismiss the Angels second baseman as a forgettable fantasy option. Last season’s ten home runs were a career high for Kendrick, and the 11 stolen bases tied his career high from the previous year. You would reasonably expect little hoopla surrounding a 10/10 hitter with a solid average. Kendrick isn’t just that 10/10 hitter though; he’s so much more.
I call his average “solid”, but his minor-league stats paint a more optimistic picture. Kendrick posted a .368 mark in rookie ball at the age of 19, then a .367 mark at Single-A the next year. He split 2005 between Single-A Advanced and Double-A, hitting .367 for the season at the age of 21. Next came half a season at Triple-A, hitting .369 at that level and spending the rest of the year in the majors as a 22-year-old rookie. Not only did Kendrick progress steadily through the minor leagues (something you love to see an organization do), but Kendrick was remarkably consistent with his batting average the entire way.
You’re probably aware of his batting-average upside, but did you know Kendrick carries quite a bit more power and speed potential than he’s flashed already? If you just look at his year-by-year HR and SB totals, they may look unimpressive. What you should be looking at are his at-bat totals. Kendrick has only approached a 500-plate appearance season twice in any year. The first instance came as a 21-year-old tackling Single-A Advanced and Double-A for the first time in 2005. In that season, he posted a .367/.406/.614 line between the two levels, hitting 19 HRs and 43 doubles while stealing 25 bases in 508 plate appearances. The second instance came the next season, when he posted a .369/.408/.631 in 312 plate appearances during his first trip to Triple-A and posting an unimpressive line in his first 283 major-league plate appearances.
If you treat Kendrick’s potential only on his four major-league seasons, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Once you look closely at his minor-league stats, you suddenly realize that this is a potential breakout candidate that you want on your team.
What’s in store for Kendrick this year? His batting average is expected to stay above .300, and his developing power could give him 15-20 HRs with 500 at-bats. Ditto with the steals. Would you take a .300/15/15 middle infielder in the middle of your draft, especially one that has the potential for more? Of course you would. Considering the breakout vibe that’s emanating from Kendrick, you should feel very fortunate that others aren’t falling over each other to draft the guy just yet.
2010 prediction: 540 at-bats, .315 average, 17 HRs, 85 runs, 80 RBIs, 22 SBs.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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