Key Stats: Howie Kendrick's infield fly ball percentage last season was 0.0% - nobody else in baseball did that last season. When he puts the ball in play, there's a great chance he's going to get a hit. When he puts the ball in play being the key part of that sentence. Kendrick had the worst strikeout rate of his career last season striking out more than 6% more than he did in 2010.
Skeptics Say: The 18 home runs that Kendrick finished with is a bit of a head scratcher. He hit one home run every 60.4 at-bats up until last season. Last season he hit one home run every 29.8 at-bats. It could be the fact that Kendrick is finding his power stroke heading into his late 20s, but I doubt it. The 16.5 HR:FB rate was a career best and about 10% better than it was in 2010.
Peer Comparison: Tristan Cockcroft and Rotochamp have Kendrick ranked a lot higher than we do here. Usually I dislike tiers because players can be in the same tier, but if there is a two home run differential between those players that could make all the difference in the final standings. That said, this is a case that I argue in favor of tiers. Kendrick is hardly in the class of Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, and Ian Kinsler. Nobody will argue that. Dan Uggla, Chase Utley, and Brandon Phillips crush Kendrick under the consistency test. While health has always been an issue, Rickie Weeks has much more upside and brings much more to a team when healthy. And finally, Michael Young appeared in 14 games at second base, if he's eligible that's an easy call over Kendrick. Kendrick does not even enter the conversation with any of these players who can all be top sixty overall picks.
Then there's a break on taking second basemen. And then there's these guys.
Player A: 86 R, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB, .285
Player B: 99 R, 20 HR, 91 RBI, 19 SB, .269
Player C: 70 R, 11 HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB, .273
Player D: 70 R, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB, .284
Player E: 76 R, 12 HR, 83 RBI, 9 SB, .273
Player F: 72 R, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB, .236
That's Kendrick, Ben Zobrist, Dustin Ackley (based on 162 games pace), Michael Cuddyer, Neil Walker, and Danny Espinosa. Those are the top 13 (or 14 counting Young) at the position. If I'm missing on the top batch I'll take what's left from the second batch late in standard drafts and cheap in auction styles.
Lineup Outlook: Kendrick registered more than 20 games in four different spots in the Angels batting order last year which is a back-handed compliment from Mike Scioscia. The Angels would love to add a healthy and effective Kendrys Morales, but that's a hope at this point. Then there are the young players - which will drive Kendrick's ranking by 20 spots in either direction. Can Mark Trumbo improve his walk rate? Will Mike Trout succeed over the course of a whole season at the highest level? Can Peter Bourjos build on his second half? Each player is a variable - this is one of the hardest teams to set expectations for offensively in 2012.
Projection: One thing not mentioned above is Kendrick's durability. He's been a full-time Major Leaguer essentially since 2007 and has missed more than 20 games in all but one of those seasons. That is something to consider within the projections.
80 R 14 HR 61 RBI 12 SB .290 AVG .335 OBP .818 OPS