Make it two Vanderbilt baseball players taken in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, as outfielder Jeren Kendall was picked No. 23 overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pitcher Kyle Wright was picked with the No. 5 selection by the Atlanta Braves.
Kendall has long been regarded as a top prospect, dating back to as far as 2014, when he was a high schooler who was projected to go in the first three rounds. That still was the case heading into the 2017 MLB Draft, but his draft stock took a dive in his junior season at Vanderbilt, in which he struck out in 25 percent of his at-bats.
Kendall hit .307 with 15 homers among his 30 extra-base hits in 2017. He also stole 20 bases.
A left-handed hitter out of Holmen, Wisconsin, Kendall possesses all the tools one would want defensively from an outfielder. He’s fast enough to the point that, prior to his junior year, many expected that he would be a lead-off hitter in the MLB. Scouts graded his speed at an 80, and his father, Jeremy Kendall, a former AA player, once stole 62 games in a season. His arm is of no issue, as it is both strong and accurate, and his range in the outfield is considered above average. Athleticsnation.com, the Oakland Athletics’ branch of SBNation, even wrote that he is likely the best defensive outfielder in the draft.
Wrote Jeremy Johnson of Athleticsnation: “He has a natural ability to read the ball off the bat and the speed to track down balls most outfielders don’t get to. His athleticism would almost certainly convert to success as a major league center fielder. He has an above-average arm to round out the defensive package. His glove alone ensures that Kendall can provide major league value, at the worst as a 4th outfielder.”
While his strikeout rate is, at first, somewhat alarming, Kendall also possesses a fair amount of power, having hit 15 home runs in the 2017 season. When he makes contact, good things tend to happens. It’s simply a matter of putting the bat on the ball.