Jeren Kendall Strives For More Contact
When the Dodgers made Jeren Kendall their first-round pick in the 2017 draft, the scouting report said he was an exceptional athlete with a rare combination of power and speed, albeit with too much swing-and-miss.
After two seasons, the scouting report remains the same. The 23-year-old outfielder from Vanderbilt has hit just .225 with 15 home runs in two pro seasons with a whopping 203 strikeouts in 600 at-bats.
"I'm not happy by any means," Kendall said. "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."
But Kendall readily admits his offensive development over the past two seasons has not been what he hoped. He spent time this winter in the Los Angeles area working with hitting guru Craig Wallenbrock and newly hired Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc.
"I didn't do very well so obviously I don't know much about hitting," Kendall said jokingly, "so that's why I'm here."
The focus has been on improving Kendall's bat path, putting him in the hitting zone sooner and keeping his bat there longer, giving him a better chance to make contact more often.
"My hands are so in and out of the zone," Kendall said. "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 realizes the changes he needs to make won't happen overnight—or even over one winter.
"You come into an organization and they expect you to do certain things. It's kind of hurts a little bit (to underachieve)," he said.
—The Dodgers announced their minor league coaching staffs for 2019. Travis Barbary takes over at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Scott Hennessey will manage at Double-A Tulsa, Mark Kertenian at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga and John Shoemaker at low Class A Great Lakes.