Dodgers Prospect Watch: Jeren Kendall Aims to Improve Swing Mechanics

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(Mandatory Credit: Steve Saenz)

Along with our recent flurry of stories surrounding many of the prospects on the Dodgers‘ farm came plenty of conversations from several of our regular readers.

Some of the most notable chatter was about outfielder Jeren Kendall, who has been ranked in the organization’s Top 10 since his earliest days in the system.

While many believed that his approach at the plate would need some adjusting as a professional, those familiar with Kendall never guessed that he would be struggling as much as he is, especially when playing every day in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Cal League last year.

For High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2018, Kendall hit just .215/.300/.356 over 438 AB, causing a bit of stirring from fans who expected a lot more from the Vanderbilt product. He did hit 12 home runs and 20 doubles though, suggesting that there’s still a hint of power present in his swing. However, 158 punchouts and a .656 OPS isn’t anything to write home about considering his current level and how highly he’s regarded.

Thanks to our own Jeff D., we found a recent report from Bill Plunkett and Baseball America indicating that Kendall has indeed been addressing some of the holes in his swing over the winter. According to the story, the 23-year-old Florida native has spent time this winter in the Los Angeles area working with hitting expert Craig Wallenbrock and the newly hired hitting coach of the Dodgers, Robert Van Scoyoc.

“My hands are so in and out of the zone,” Kendall told Plunkett. “Hitting with them every day, it’s easy adjustments. It’s just hard to repeat them over and over again. But obviously coming off a year like last year, I don’t have to be perfect. You see one little thing you’ve got to change and that ends up changing three or four different things. It’s a process but it’s been fun so far.”

Kendall was chosen as the 23rd overall pick by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2017 draft. At the time, he became the third star out of Vandy 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.

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, he slashed .254/.311/.444 with three long balls, six doubles, eight triples and nine stolen bases in 40 games played, mostly appearing in center field.

Considered by some to be the best overall athlete in the organization, Los Angeles scouts still 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 not long after the 2017 draft. “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 Vanderbilt in 2017 as a junior, Kendall posted a .307 batting average with 10 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 53 RBI and stole 20 bases in 2017. 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.

Despite all that, his biggest problem right now is making contact with the ball. Fortunately, his other tools are still shining brightly, proving why he’s still a valuable prospect amidst his current dilemma at the plate.

“I’m not happy by any means,” Kendall added. “I think the numbers can only say so much. I think if you came and watched me it’d be hard to say the numbers were what they were at the end of the year. If you came and watched me—watched me play defense, watched me run when I got on—you would never have noticed I was struggling the way I was.”

Hopefully, Van Scoyoc can work some of his magic.

 

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14 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Jeren Kendall Aims to Improve Swing Mechanics

  1. I look forward to seeing what this guy can do after being coached up. First suggestion from me would be quit trying to hit the ball so far and start hitting it hard where it’s pitched. The distance will come. So many strikeouts at that level raise questions and I believe RVS has answers. Sounds like Kendall is willing to listen and adjust. Hope so. He’s got the skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From the story I read it was not just RVS he worked with. There was another guy in on it too although I cannot remember his name. But the kid made the trip out to LA to do all this. I also read that Bellinger was working with RVS at Dodger Stadium last month. The FO must really believe this guy can get results. if he does, that is good for the whole team. They all could use some work and I am pretty sure Seager is going to be pretty rusty. It will also be something to see if Seager, because he was injured, reports to spring camp early. He can do that.

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      1. Thanks to our own Jeff D., we found a recent report from Bill Plunkett and Baseball America indicating that Kendall has indeed been addressing some of the holes in his swing over the winter. According to the story, the 23-year-old Florida native has spent time this winter in the Los Angeles area working with hitting expert Craig Wallenbrock and the newly hired hitting coach of the Dodgers, Robert Van Scoyoc.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like the kid is a hard worker and wants to get better. Will be fun to follow his progress this year! Hopefully he breaks out the way Lux did last year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Makes me wonder why they don’t have hitting coaches in the minors. Oh gosh they do. Makes me wonder if they should be fired. Or maybe he just can’t hit.

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    1. Good point Gordon. It makes me question the “player development” investments we hear so much about. This guy is a first round pick that succeeded 3 years at the highest level in college. Why is he not developing? He’s 23. He’s older than Verdugo. With his college background and 2 years in minors, he should be ready to step in.

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  4. Koehler signed with the Pirates today and the Dodgers signed former Phillie Cody Ashe to a minor league deal. Today is my oldest grand daughters 27th birthday, and today her dad passed away. He and my daughter have been apart a long time, but I still feel the loss my grandkids are feeling right now.

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  5. Sorry to hear your news Bear. Any loss touching one’s family is always difficult and especially tough when it happens on a birthday. My condolences.

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