Taking a look at the career of Howie Kendrick as free agency approaches

Taking a look at the career of Howie Kendrick as free agency approaches

by October 6, 2019 2 comments

Howie Kendrick is a veteran of MLB for 14 seasons, and 2019 may be his best one yet.

He may be remembered for his time with the Los Angeles Angels, but he’s currently resurging his career.

Drafted in the 10th round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of St. Johns River Community College in Palatka, Fla., the Los Angeles Angels (or Anaheim Angels, at the time he was drafted) were all Howie Kendrick had ever known. Until the 2014 offseason.

Kendrick played four seasons in the minor leagues before reaching the majors in 2006. Coming into that 2006 season, he was rated the 12th best prospect by Baseball America. Taking a look at his time in the minor leagues, Kendrick’s numbers are eye-popping.

After being drafted at 18 years old, Howie Kendrick was assigned to Anaheim’s rookie-level affiliate. He would collect 50 hits in 42 games and accrued a .368 on-base percentage.

In his first full season of pro ball, Kendrick remained at the rookie level, getting adjusted to the demands of being a professional baseball player. He took the lifestyle by storm, hitting .368 with a .952 OPS. The next season saw time at the rookie level and Single-A, and Kendrick only continued his production, hitting .363 and increasing his home run total from three to 10. 

He continued to torch minor-league hitting, and Kendrick only kept improving as he advanced to Single-A+ and Double-A. The 2005 minor league season saw Kendrick hit .367 with 19 homers, and he put his speed on display as he swiped 25 bases. The Angels had a legitimate prospect rising through the minors.

Howie Kendrick’s 2006 Bowman rookie card is a prominent one to collectors. The green coloring behind his name underneath his printed signature styled the card and featured Kendrick smiling on the basepaths. He had reason to be smiling, for he was going to be wearing that Angels uniform in regular-season play.

The 22-year-old debuted on April 26 starting at second base against the Detroit Tigers. Kendrick would call that position his primary one for seasons to come. Eventually, he would slot in at first base and left field in his career, but second base has been his home. After all, he has amassed 1,183 career games at the four-spot. 

He has appeared in major league play in each season since, appearing in at least 40 games every year. Those 14 seasons have been rather productive yet quiet. 

Perhaps his 2011 season was the best of his career. He hit a career-high 18 home runs alongside 63 RBI and 14 stolen bases. His .285 batting average was second on the team behind Alberto Callaspo’s .288. The Angels would not make the playoffs that season, falling five games behind the Rays, who secured a Wild Card berth.

2011 was also the only year Kendrick was selected to an All-Star team. This may come as a surprise given how productive and reliable he has been in the lineup. Just for reference, Kendrick has hit below .279 just once in his career (.255).

OPS+ can measure the value of a player adjusting to ballparks, and 100 is typically the average for MLB. Kendrick has averaged 109 OPS+ and has six seasons of OPS+ over 110. 

Back to the reference about Anaheim and the Angels being all Kendrick had known. His tenure as an Angel came to an end when he was traded to the other Los Angeles team in the 2014 offseason. He hit .274 over his two seasons as a Dodger before being traded to Philadelphia. He spent half a season there before he was traded to the Nationals at the 2017 trade deadline.

Kendrick has remained a National since but will become a free agent at the conclusion of the season. He has enjoyed a fantastic career year. His OPS+ is 142, the best of his career. He hit 17 home runs, two shy of his career-high, and sported a .344 batting average. He did not qualify for the batting title. 

Kendrick has played most of his games this season at first base, including the NL Wild Card Game and Game 1 of the NLDS. He went 1-for-3 in the Wild Card Game and 0-for-2 with a walk in Game 1. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI in Game 2 of the NLDS.

It is going to be interesting to see how Howie Kendrick’s offseason goes. Next season, he will be 36. Not many teams will be looking to invest in a 36-year-old first baseman, especially with a somewhat loaded first base class to choose from. Among other options for free agent first basemen are Jose Abreu, Yonder Alonso and, Justin Smoak.

Surely a team will pick him up, even if it is for an option off the bench. Kendrick can be choosy if he wants, deciding whether he wants to start on a bad team or take a bench role with a winning team. He has proven that he can still play well, and if he continues to plays well this postseason, he can even prove that he can produce results in high leverage situations.

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  1. B.J. Martin
    #1 B.J. Martin 7 October, 2019, 20:09

    Kendrick has been one of my favorite players to watch in baseball the past 14 years. Glad to see him have success in Washington and hope he can get Nats to the Series this year. Good dude and missed on the Angels.

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  2. Andersen Pickard
    #2 Andersen Pickard 8 October, 2019, 13:03

    Kendrick is a great player. Have enjoyed seeing him succeed this season. Great piece, Jacob.

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