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Taking Stock - Kenedy Corona

Trade acquisition Kenedy Corona enjoyed what can only be described as a breakout season in 2022 after showing unrealized athletic potential previously. Can it translate to higher levels?

Syndication: Asheville Citizen-Times Maya Carter/Asheville Citizen Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kenedy Corona joined the Astros system by way of trade, coming over with Blake Taylor in exchange for longtime outfielder Jake Marisnick after the 2019 season. He was 19 at the time and had enjoyed strong statistical performance across three rookie levels that season, totaling a .301/.398/.470 slash with 5 bombs and 19 steals in 24 attempts. Scouts who had seen him at that point were intrigued by his power/speed combo out of a smaller frame, but his approach was a bit more raw than the surface numbers suggest. He, like all other prospects, lost the following season to the pandemic, but would be sent out for his full season debut at the start of 2021.

That debut would end up being a bit of a struggle- he was limited to 57 games by injuries, and had trouble impacting the ball consistently with a .244/.306/.343 slash. His 23.7% K rate wasn’t anything outrageous, but it was tough to stomach with such low power output, and he only walked in 6.3% walk rate, making for a shaky overall offensive profile. After those growing pains, he would be reassigned to Fayetteville to start 2022, but seemed to really settle in at the level at that point. He wasn’t able to make as much contact as he did as a teenager, but he wasn’t quite so free swinging, upping his walk rate to 11.2%, and most importantly his power returned, with his ISO more than doubling to .230 in his second stint with the Woodpeckers as part of a .261/.346/.491 slash in 45 games.

Those efforts were enough to earn him a promotion to Asheville for the second half, where he impressed further by maintaining his numbers almost to a T in a 62 game stint. For the season, He totaled 19 home runs, adding 28 steals in 36 attempts with an overall slash of .278/.362/.495. He maintained a double digit walk rate while holding his K rate steady in the low 20%s, showing exactly the kind of improvements one would’ve hoped to see prior to the season, reestablishing him as a consensus ranked prospect in the organization. His defense has also impressed evaluators, with many feeling that he can handle center field duties on a regular basis with his above average pure speed.

While he doesn’t look like your prototypical everyday outfielder, if you squint it’s possible to evaluate him as one after the impressive campaign, but there’s work to be done for him to get there. While the strikeout to walk improved greatly in 2022, he swings at more pitchers’ pitches than you might expect based on those figures, and could run into more growing pains against upper minors pitchers who can locate well more consistently than the arms he has seen to this point. He’s more of a fringe to solid average raw power guy than a guy who projects to consistently top 20 bombs annually, and may be more of a roaming outfielder than a true center fielder, so there is a fair amount of pressure on the hit tool when looking at his profile from a macro standpoint, but he has shown good enough bat to ball that it’s reasonable to forecast continued growth in that area even if I wouldn’t be running to the sports book to put money on it.

Historically, in my estimation this type of profile typically ends up in a premium reserve outfielder role if he continues tracking in the same direction. In addition to the rough edges around the approach, he has pretty dramatic platoon splits, and I’m inclined to say that he projects best in left field defensively for now, though I’d feel comfortable moving him around on occasion, all of which funnels him towards a reserve/platoon role, particularly in a competitive big league group in Houston. Regardless, he really changed the complexion of his future projection in 2022, and is one of many reasons the depth in the system looks a lot better now than it did this time a year ago. He’ll open 2023 with Corpus Christi where he can improve his stock further by maintaining his torrid pace.