Whither Howie Kendrick?


  Kendrick MLB FanHouse's Andrew Johnson asks a good question: What happened to Howie Kendrick?

    Once upon a time Howie Kendrick was rated the 12th best prospect in the game by Baseball America, ahead of future All-Stars like Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Quentin, Ryan Braun and Cole Hamels and a whole 65 spots in front of reigning American League MVP Dustin Pedroia, also a second baseman.
    That was 2006.

    Three years later Kendrick has failed to establish himself in a meaningful way at the major league level, and it could cost him his job according to the Los Angeles Times.


    Way back when he was a prospect, Kendrick was billed as a future batting champ. A .360 career average over almost 1,700 plate appearances in the minors has a way of building up the hype.

    Kendrick's main problem over the last couple of seasons has been staying in the lineup because of physical ailments. He hit .322 in 2007 and .306 last year, but played 88 and 92 games, respectively, in those seasons.

    This year has been another story entirely. He's played in 43 of the Angels' 49 games, but has also seen his average tumble from .256 on May 1 all the way to .225 at the end of the month. His 12.7 percent line-drive rate -- down 7.3 percent from last season -- offers little comfort or hope that he is merely going through an unusually long patch of bad luck, and he has to hit for average to be an asset offensively.


    Is he hiding an injury? Is he just not that good? It's awfully hard to say at this juncture, but the Angels probably aren't going to wait much longer to find out the answer.

Let's mostly dispense with the "just not that good" theory. I mean, maybe he's "just not that good" right now, and in fact that seems fairly obvious. But Kendrick batted .360 in the minors, and that includes a .357 mark in Triple-A. Throughout his four-and-a-half seasons in the minors, he always hit. Granted, as he moved up the ladder he mostly stopped drawing walks, which was (or should have been) a bit worrying. But .360's .360.
More to the point, in Kendrick's first full season in the majors he did bat .322, he did look good at second base, and he was only 23. After that season, I would have bet you three dollars that Kendrick was going to play in a few All-Star Games. At least a few.

Now? I might bet you a dollar, and I might lose. Kendrick certainly was that good ... but it's not clear that he's healthy enough to be that good again.