Washington Nationals utility man Howie Kendrick has done a phenomenal job in Daniel Murphy’s absence. Even when Murphy returns, Kendrick deserves to receive regular playing time.
Despite starting for most of his career, Howie Kendrick signed with the Washington Nationals knowing there was not an everyday role for him. However, injuries have cleared a path to regular playing time. To begin 2018, he has played in 19 of the Nats’ first 22 games.
Most of Kendrick’s playing time thus far has come at second base, where he is filling in for Daniel Murphy. Unfortunately for Kendrick, Murphy is progressing towards a return and could make his season debut at some point in the next few weeks.
In the Nats’ star-studded lineup, Kendrick is often overlooked. Bryce Harper leads the majors in homers and walks, and Trea Turner leads the National League in stolen bases, meaning Kendrick flies under the radar.
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Despite receiving little attention, Kendrick has played very well.
In 19 games, he has slashed .260/.288/.429 with seven RBI and seven doubles. His versatility has allowed Dave Martinez to play him all over the field and pencil him into several spots in the lineup.
With the way Kendrick has performed, he deserves to receive regular playing time, even when Murphy returns.
Murphy is coming off of knee surgery and has never been the most versatile second baseman, so he would likely benefit from additional off-days upon returning. He is an elite hitter and has no trouble hitting lefties, but he and Kendrick could temporarily form a natural platoon to ease him back in.
Kendrick could also play left field to limit Adam Eaton‘s workload. Eaton missed nearly all of last season after major knee surgery and has already spent time on the disabled list this year after aggravating his ankle.
Eaton is a fantastic spark plug for the Nats’ offense, but cannot be productive if he is constantly hurt. Like Murphy, he could benefit from a somewhat limited workload. Fortunately, Kendrick is capable of starting in left field as well.
Teams often find ways to get exceptional offensive performers into the lineup. This should remain true for the Nats, who have dealt with a lackluster offense at times in 2018.
Kendrick has played very well in his unexpected opportunity, so the Nats should absolutely find ways to get him into the lineup when/if everyone is healthy.