Dodgers 2016 Season Previews: Howie Kendrick

Kicking off our look at the Dodgers middle infielders is starting second basemen, Howie Kendrick

After dealing with a lingering hamstring injury in 2015, Howie Kendrick looks to get back into form in his second year with the Dodgers. With some new talent in town, the pressure seems to be on Kendrick this season to keep his spot in the lineup.

2015 Recap 

After spending the first 13 years of his MLB career with the Los Angeles Angels, Kendrick was traded to the Dodgers in the 2014 offseason. Kendrick has never been known as a “star” per say, but he has always been a reliable source of consistency. Kendrick spent most of 2015 at the top of the Dodgers order, but another hamstring problem popped up in August.

Kendrick has dealt with four substantial hamstring injuries before in his career, so this was not much of a surprise. Despite his DL stint, Kendrick still managed 495 plate appearances with a slash line of .295/.336/.409, which just about mirrors his career line.

2016 Role and Steamer Projections 

Kendrick declined his one-year qualifying offer this past offseason from the Dodgers to pursue free agency, but a lack of interest from other teams changed his plans. Due to the forfeiting of a draft pick to sign Kendrick, no one called to offer Kendrick anything. After signing a two-year deal to return to the Dodgers, Kendrick should start the season as the Dodgers starting second baseman.

Kendrick’s role likely will not change, but the added presence of Micah Johnson and Chase Utley may challenge his playing time. Johnson is only 25 and is still considered a prospect, so Kendrick should be able to maintain his role as long as he produces.

The Steamers projections project a decline for Kendrick in 2016, which can be expected as he enters his age-33 season. Steamers are projecting a .281/.326/.403 line to go along with 56 runs scored and a .324 BABIP. Although, Steamers does project an increase in ISO for Kendrick from .114 to .122. A rise in home runs also seems unlikely for Kendrick, as he has not hit double digit home runs since 2013.

What Could Go Wrong?

Even through the numerous hamstring injuries, Kendrick has been the same player year by year. I do not have any doubts about his performance, but I do have concerns about the seriousness of a potential injury. Kendrick’s biggest concern this year should be health, which can ruin his season. Just two weeks into Spring Training, Kendrick is already experiencing some groin soreness. The injury is not supposedly serious, but it should be a cause for concern.

What Could Go Right? 

Staying healthy is only half of the objective, as Kendrick needs to maintain his level of play. Best case scenario for Kendrick and the Dodgers is for him to play at the level he played at in 2014. In his last season with the Angels, Kendrick provided a .293/.347/.397 slash line, along with 85 R, 75 RBI, and 14 SB. Kendrick also produced a 5.4 WAR, the best of his career.

Kendrick is aging but has still been an excellent model of consistency over his career. The Dodgers can somewhat expect what Kendrick is going to contribute this season, which can be a real positive for a club that will have some position battles entering the season. Kendrick maintaining or improving his play will be instrumental to the top of the Dodgers order this season. Kendrick will be an essential piece of the Dodgers success or downfall for the 2016 season.