If there’s one area of the Dodgers‘ farm system that’s stocked more plentifully than any other, it’s definitely the outfield. While the organization was once known as a breeding ground for starting pitchers, the number of talented outfielders in the system continues to grow at a very rapid rate. One particular outfielder, Jeren Kendall, might easily be one of the most athletic players in the entire organization, and could climb the ladder quite quickly over the next few seasons.
Kendall was chosen as the 23rd overall pick by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft last June. He became the third star out of Vanderbilt University to be selected by the Dodgers on the first day of the draft, joining pitcher Jordan Sheffield from 2016 and pitcher Walker Buehler from 2015. Coincidentally, Kendall and Sheffield were roommates during the 2016 school year.
The left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Kendall was immediately ushered to rookie league at Ogden after signing his contract, and it didn’t take long for him to earn a promotion to Low-A Great Lakes. Across both levels in 2017, the 21-year-old slashed .254/.311/.444 with three long balls, six doubles, eight triples and nine stolen bases in just 40 games played, mostly appearing in center field.
The Clearwater, Florida native is considered a raw talent by some pundits, but Los Angeles scouts truly believe they have a gem, as every single one of Kendall’s tools seemingly has an unlimited ceiling.
“Jeren is a very explosive player and some people may use the five-tool word to describe him,” Dodgers director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said over the summer. “He has the speed, the power and can play defense in center field, and he has an accomplished track record of results. He played for Team USA and playing at the Vanderbilt program that we know very well, we just thought it added up to a lot of positives.”
In his final season at Vandy, Kendall posted a .307 batting average with 10 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 53 RBI and stole 20 bases in 2017 as a junior. He led the team in runs scored, hits and home runs, while recording a .372 on-base percentage and a .556 slugging percentage. He was ranked the sixth-best outfielder in the 2017 MLB Draft and the 18th overall best prospect by Baseball America. He was also named to the All-SEC and All-Defensive Team last season with the Commodores.
Kendall his baseball in his lineage, as his father Jeremy played in the Phillies’ organization, climbing as high as the Double-A level.
“Honestly, he’s been the best coach ever, even though he’s my dad, too. He’s been with me for a long time,” Jeren said in the days leading up to the 2017 draft.
While growing up, Kendall was a fan of the Oakland Athletics, and he admired former Dodger and current Atlanta outfielder Matt Kemp as his favorite player.
If there’s one weakness which exists in his game, it may be making consistent contact at the dish. However, Gasparino believes that it’s an obstacle which Kendall can overcome when working closely with the organization’s coaching staff.
“When he puts ball in play, there’s a premium speed or power result, whether it’s a home run, double or stolen base,” Gasparino explained. “If we can improve his contact rate so he can put ball in play, we feel he’ll be a productive player.”
As far as 2018 goes, if Kendall does indeed maintain his current rate of progress, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he sees action at High-A Rancho Cucamonga by season’s end.
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