Howie Kendrick Looks Like a Leader

When the Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick in the offseason, the idea was to bring in a steady veteran with the leadership qualifications to help guide a roster of young works-in-progress. So far, so good.

The Phillies have tons of money to spend, but this winter, they opted instead to infuse the clubhouse with some much-needed (and reasonably affordable) experience. At 33 years of age, Kendrick has plenty of that, along with a consistent bat and an absurd degree of fielding versatility. At present, Yahoo! Fantasy lists him as eligible to play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF. And quite frankly, if the Clay Buchholz injury is at all serious, I’d also be willing to throw him out on the mound and see what he can do every fifth day.

Making a Great First Impression
The Phillies’ new leftfielder came out of the gate swinging a sharp bat, collecting 11 hits and 4 walks in 31 ABs, good for an early slash of .355/.429./.516. Across the first 8 games, Kendrick looks like a guy who’s ready to lead by action and example.

Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak sent Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers in the offseason in exchange for Kendrick. It may prove to be a savvy under-the-radar move. Bothered by nagging but minor injuries at both the start and finish of 2016, Kendrick toiled his way to a .255/.326/.366 slash.

It was the worst year of an otherwise consistent career.

The Phillies are hoping they end up with something a lot closer to Kendrick’s career line of .290/.333/.418. If he does approach those numbers, he’ll look like a pretty solid bargain.

Role Modeling
As the least productive offense in baseball last year, the Phillies could obviously use Kendrick’s consistency. But the real plan with Howie was to bring in a player who makes those around him better as well. The Phillies have the fortune of young talent, but last year’s mixed bag of terrifying lows, dizzying highs, and creamy middles revealed just how badly the team is in need of mentorship.

This is not only the role that Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin envision for Howie, but the role that the veteran wants to play.

Reflecting on the generous tutelage he received from teammates Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Salmon as a 22-year-old rookie for the Angels in 2006, Kendrick has gamely stepped into the void. Despite being new to South Philly, he is already a vocal clubhouse presence.

Of the team’s promising but young makeup, Kendrick recently told reporters, “they have great talent here, a lot of young guys who can play the game. I think that because they’re so young, they don’t necessarily have anybody to look to as far as understanding the game and growing in the game. If we all get moving in the right direction and play the game the right way and play hard, I think we can do a lot of good things.”

In other words, Kendrick is here both to offer tips on the finer points of the game and to ride lollygaggers for trotting casually to first base on routine fly balls. Some of the younger players in the clubhouse have already expressed their appreciation. Third baseman Maikel Franco is among them. The deeply talented but still unpolished young player said “He’s helped me a lot…I’m close to him. He wants to help me, and I can learn from him. He’s been around the league. He knows a lot about hitting. As a young player, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Talking to him about hitting and situations, that’s what I’m looking for right now.”

For a guy who’s only here on the second year of a two-year contract, Kendrick’s potential long-term value is already coming into view. Whether he is a part of the Phillies’ immediate future or a profitable bargaining chip as the team approaches this summer’s trade deadline, Howie Kendrick looks like a guy who could really steer the organization’s young talent in the right direction.

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7 comments

  1. Eddie

    April 13, 2017 10:16 AM

    “absurd degree of fielding versatility”

    It would be absurd if he was actually really good at all of them; as it is he’s a pretty bog-standard utility man. Which is fine, except a utility man doesn’t need to be in the lineup every day. Notwithstanding Kendrick’s hot start, I’d like to see Altherr get ABs this season..

  2. Mike Fassano

    April 13, 2017 11:10 AM

    Kendrick was a terrific pick up for the Phils, but I wish they hadn’t signed Saunders. Nothing personal, but he’s blocking Altherr. Hernandez, Kendrick, and Herrera will set the table for Franco, Joseph, and Rupp. This team will definitely draw twice as many walks than last years team. More base runners equal more runs.
    On another note, I believe that Velasquez will be the teams closer by August. Right now we need him as a starter, but it shouldn’t take long for Pivetta, Eflin, Lively, and possibly Thompson to push their way into the rotation.

    • Romus

      April 13, 2017 02:07 PM

      Velasquez as a the closer.
      That may happen eventually, but for this year I think they want to see if he can handle it as a starter.
      If he closes in August…..then he really went south and he probably would have asked to go into that role. I seriously doubt the Phillies would force him into that role in the next three months.
      What could damage his outlook however, if guys like Eflin, Pivetta, Lively or Thompson all get called up at some point and do well. For Eflin and Thompson , they were already there and know what has to be done to succeed.
      If that should occur, Velasquez, if he continues to be a 95 pitch/5th inning guy, who gets lit up, may want to try closing.
      One thing about closers anymore…their trade value has really sky rocketed if they are good.

    • Junior Varsity

      April 13, 2017 03:59 PM

      -
      -10

      Thompson is a bust; his stuff doesn’t look nearly as good as it was billed, he’s got zero poise, & he lacks control much less command. Good thing Eickhoff has over-delivered or else Amaro Jr. might still be getting it from philly blog nation. Valasquez doesn’t seem to have the command (& emotional maturity) to close. Perhaps a good set up guy if starting doesn’t pan out.

    • Eddie

      April 14, 2017 03:23 AM

      Sending Velasquez to the bullpen is hysterical overreaction. Had he qualified, his 3.86 FIP would have put him in the NL’s top 20 last year., in his age 23/24 season. Nobody in AAA or AA has his kind of frontline starter potential.

  3. Guset

    April 14, 2017 01:04 PM

    One good point is on leadership. People vastly undervalue what guys like Guerrero, Gomes, and Napoli bring and the impact it has, making players a team instead of individuals.

    • Junior Varsity

      April 14, 2017 02:21 PM

      I’m glad to see that the analytics set is beginning to recognize the value of leadership, hustle, chemistry, & grit. Kind of matches the crusty old man set’s recognition of the value of advanced stats. Everyone wins when there is a convergence of knowledge & a Hegelian synthesis.

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