School: Vanderbilt University; Class: Junior
Position: CF; B/T: L/R
Height: 6-0; Weight: 190
Previously Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 30nd round, 2014
Background: Easily one of the top prospects in the 2017 draft class, Kendall, a former 30th round pick of the Red Sox coming out of high school, has made his presence known since stepping on campus for the Commodores two years ago. As the only teenage regular to receive more than 27 trips to the plate for Head Coach Tim Corbin in 2015, the toolsy center fielder slugged a robust .281/.394/.530 with 24 doubles and 15 long balls while tying eventual top pick Dansby Swanson for the team lead in triples with six. Kendall also paced the club in stolen bases as well, swiping 19 bags in 23 attempts.
The lefty-swinging outfielder handled his own in the Cape Cod League that summer as well, hitting .253/.330/.392 with one double, two triples, a pair of homeruns, and four stolen bases in 20 games for the Cotuit Kettleers.
With expectations approaching a boiling point heading into his sophomore season – he was a pre-season All-American – Kendall got off to a scorching start for Vanderbilt: he went 10-for-15 with three dingers and 10 RBIs en route to earning SEC Player of the Week and National Player of the Week by Louisville Slugger.
And that was just a glimpse of what was to come.
In 62 games for the Commodores two years ago, Kendall battered the opposition to the tune of .332/.396/.568 while setting career highs doubles (16), triples (8), homeruns (9), and stolen bases (28). He would finish with 142 total bases, the most in the SEC in 2016 and tied for the 17th most in the conference since 2011. Kendall, of course, continued to shine brightly for Team USA last summer as well. In a team-leading 19 games, the future first round pick slugged .290/.329/.536 with five doubles, three triples, and a pair of homeruns.
This season he has continued to display his supreme athleticism. Through the school’s first 44 contests, Kendall’s slugging .301/.384/.579 with 12 doubles, three triples, 13 homeruns, and 15 stolen bases (in 19 attempts).
Projection: And now the bad news: Kendall’s propensity for the strikeout raises more than a few red flags. He’s whiffed in more than 24% of his plate appearances thus far in 2017. And he’s sporting a K-rate that’s only slightly better throughout his career. But to add just a little context to his production consider the following like tidbit:
• There’s been only 58 players to finish a year with a walk percentage between 8% and 12% and a strikeout rate north of 24% since 2011 (minimum 200 at bats). Only one of them, Derek Fisher, went on to have an established professional career.
Consider the following comparisons:
Kendall, without question, is a better professional prospect than Fisher was. And the Commodore center fielder has a very similar toolkit to Springer, though the disparity in career production can be explained somewhat because Kendall faced off against stiffer competition on a more regular basis.
He’ll will have to prove that his already troublesome strikeout rate won’t balloon out of control any further in the professional ranks. But he offers up plenty of potential with the always sought-after power/speed combo.
If everything breaks well – and that means showing no major platoon splits against fellow lefties – Kendall looks like a .270/.330/.450 type big league hitter, capable of hitting 30 doubles, six triples, and 25 homeruns to go along with 15 or 20 stolen bases. A reasonable comp would be Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 2016 season with the Red Sox.
Make no mistake about it: there’s some risk here.
Ceiling: 4.5-win player
Floor: 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
Grade: First Round