With their seventh selection in the 2021 draft, the Mets selected Kevin Kendall, a shortstop from UCLA.
Kevin Kendall was a three-year letter winner at La Mirada High School, were he hit a cumulative .440/.530/.617 in 65 games. His high level of performance helped the team win back-to-back league titles and got him a lot of notice. He was named onto various honorary teams, received various accolades from local media, and was considered a prep player of interest by reputable national scouting and evaluation organizations. A good student as well as being an excellent athlete, he went to UCLA after graduating and going undrafted in the 2017 MLB Draft.
He played in the West Coast League the summer after graduating, earning All-West Coast League honorable mentions after hitting .301/.389/.410 with 7 doubles and a triple, and his experience with the Port Angeles Lefties may have helped him hit the ground running in his freshman season. Over the course of the 2018 season, Kendall hit .278/.352/.391 with 3 home runs and 13 stolen bases, the base heists tied for second on the team and fourth in the PAC-12. He experienced a sophomore slump in 2019, hitting .258/.331/.298 in 45 games for the Bruins, though there were positives, such as his perfect 9-9 stolen base ratio, the only player on the team to have a 100% success rate. His struggles continued that summer, when he played for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod League and hit .188/.260/.290 in 23 games.
Kendall ended up missing the entire 2020 season even prior to the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19, as he injured his wrist. When he returned in 2021, his redshirt junior season, he made up for lost time, finally putting together a season that matched the potential of his tools. Battling through various minor nicks and dings over the course of the season, he hit .356/.413/.498 in 56 games with 4 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He earned Pac-12 All-Conference Team honorable mentions, as he established new career highs in batting average, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.
The 5’10”, 175-pound Kendall has a smooth left-handed stroke with slight loft. He generally pulls the ball or goes back up the middle, rarely using the opposite field. Due to his less-than-imposing size, his power is mainly limited to doubles and triples right now, but because it is generated thanks to his quick hands generating above-average bat speed and the slight uppercut of his swing, he may be able to add some power to his game in the future if he fills in and adds some additional muscle to his frame. Given that he is fairly lean and slender, that is a distinct possibility.
Kendall was more aggressive in 2021 than in prior years, making more contact and putting the ball in play more often. This led to a lower walk rate, but at the same time, his swing-and-miss did not spike; in fact, it actually fell, as he chased fewer pitches. A plus, virtually plus-plus runner, he uses his speed well on the basepaths, stealing 32 bases in 141 career games with the Bruins to 8 failures, an 80% success rate.
Defensively, Kendall is extremely versatile. Kendall was UCLA’s primary shortstop in 2018 and 2019, but after missing the 2020 season was forced off the position in order to accommodate Matt McLain, who ended up getting drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the 17th overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft. He played the majority of the 2021 season playing center field and played a handful of games in the infield at second base as well.
Thanks to his speed, he has above-average range in the infield, whether it be at second base or shortstop. He shows above-average reaction times, has quick-twitch athleticism that gives him a good first step and has soft hands. Once again because of the speed, he has above-average range in the outfield. That speed lets him turn on the afterburners to correct course when necessary, but more reps in any of the outfield positions will let him learn how to read the ball off the bat better and take more efficient routes to the ball. His one defensive weakness is his arm strength, which was affected by past injuries. His arm fluctuates between below-average to above-average and not accurate to accurate.