Tale of the Tape
Position(s): All outfield spots
Jeren Kendall is a player who has been on the prospect radar for some time. One of the top hitters in his prep class, he has long been praised for his potential with all five tools, and to this point four of them look average or better. An outstanding athlete, Kendall is fast in everything he does. He has an excellent first step and takes good angles in the outfield, and also shows a knack for getting good jumps on the bases. Even his throwing release is tight and quick. There is little doubt right now that he will be able to provide significant value to major league clubs with defense and baserunning.
On offense, Kendall is a more difficult evaluation. Though he does not have the biggest frame, the Vanderbilt star packs significant pop. He has explosive hips and can hit lasers to the pull side- evidenced by his 13 home runs on the season. Unfortunately, his swing has some serious issues and he will need significant work in pro ball to pay off as a hitter. His upper half is very busy and his hands take an awkward path to the ball that leads to a lot of weak contact and issues lofting the ball. He is a bit stiff in the upper body with a lot of moving parts and these problems are already hampering his production. Though he is hitting a robust .296/.372/.545, he has 63 strikeouts in 240 appearances and without a swing rework it is hard to envision him improving much in this regard. He also does not show the best pitch recognition which adds to the swing and miss in his game. Serious concerns about the hit tool are warranted.
While there is a lot to like about Kendall given his outstanding glove, speed, arm strength and solid power, his hit tool is simply too questionable for me to give him high praise. I think he will have swing and miss issues for the duration of his career unless he can rework his swing in a way that would be ambitious for a prep player, never mind a college junior.
Projected Draft Round
Kendall has a chance to go off the board in the top dozen, or fall into the late teens or even lower. I would give him a late first round grade, but some teams place a very high value on defensive tools which he has in spades.
Will he sign?
If he ends up sliding further than expected, it is not inconceivable that he could return to Vanderbilt. He can definitely improve upon his sophomore and junior campaigns. That said, the expectation is that he will jump to pro ball this year.
Does he make sense for the Astros?
He is certainly in the mix at 15 and the Astros have shown a willingness to draft players of this sort in the past, though the most notable example, George Springer, was an Ed Wade selection. In my opinion, if they want to go the college hitter route, Jake Burger represents the strongest option, and Kendall might not even be my second choice.