Name: Jeren Kendall
Age: 21 (February 2, 1996)
Height: 6’ 0”
Weight: 190 lbs.
Position: OF (L/R)
Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 70 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
Jeren Kendall is widely considered the best defensive outfielder in this season’s draft. With his plus-plus speed and great instincts, he is able to patrol a very large center field. His throwing arm is above average and can play at all three outfield positions and also gets high marks for its accuracy. In the field he has often been likened to Jacoby Ellsbury, but Kendall’s arm is much stronger than the Yankee center fielder’s.
In addition to his ability to play strong defense up the middle, Kendall also possess a good deal of power in his left-handed bat. He hits for both average and power slashing .306/ .380/ .570 with 15 home runs and 18 steals for the Commodores this season.
The knock on Kendall is a coachable one, and that is his propensity to strike out, this season striking out in nearly 30% of at-bats. Even as a college player he has shown a glimmer of being a three-outcome player; strikeout, walk, or hard hit (roughly half going for extra bases). This is in stark contrast to another outfield bat in this season’s draft, Adam Haseley. Of the two, Kendall has the better all-around tools and higher ceiling, but Haseley has the better plate discipline and is considered a safer draft because of it. The high strikeout totals for Kendall are in keeping with the philosophy at Vanderbilt, for the hitters to swing often and to swing hard. A premium is placed on the ability to hit balls hard, with no real concern for strikeout versus other out. If Kendall can reign that approach in just a bit, getting more selective with some professional coaching, he should have little trouble. If, however, Kendall remains a free-swinger, he could run into trouble as he reaches the higher levels where advanced pitching is the norm.
Regardless of his strikeout tendencies though, Kendall punishes mistakes and fastballs as hard as anyone else in the draft. With his elite defensive skills, he profiles as a 4th outfielder for a floor, but as an all-star for his ceiling as a “glove -first” center fielder who still provides 20 home run and 30 stolen base potential. How quickly Kendall reaches The Show will depend on his ability to adjust his approach at the plate and bring his strikeouts down some. He already walks a fair amount, but if he could turn some of those out-of-the-zone strikeouts into a few more free passes, he would be a true threat for any spot in the top five slots in a lineup.
In addition to his high strikeout rate, there were some concerns about Kendall’s ability with wooden bat leagues. Most of those concerns have been disappearing over the last year though, and there seems to be little doubt now that he will transition just fine.
If the Diamondbacks organization did not have such an atrocious record with plate discipline at every level, Kendall would represent just the sort of 5-tool, all-star upside which Arizona should be taking with the seventh pick. However, with the extreme lack of discipline shown by an alarming number of Arizona prospects, I am hesitant to place too much faith in the organization’s ability to get Kendall’s plate discipline under control. As enticing a player as Kendall is (and I do feel he still goes in the top 12), there will be some better surety to be had with the seventh pick, either with a possible top-of-the-rotation pitcher, or with a different bat that has fewer question marks.
Chances of Kendall being available at #7: About 80% – Jeren Kendall represents a great prospect for a team like San Diego or Tampa Bay to target should they chose to sign under-slot at three or four. Kyle Schwarber was selected under-slot at #4 by the Cubs in 2014 with some of the same hitting concerns and with an obviously inferior defensive profile.
Chances of Kendall signing at #7: Very good. The only concern with his signability is if he drops out of the top 15.