.303/.331/.474 – 4 HRs, 1 SB
Howie Kendrick hit the DL in late May after suffering a gruesome Achilles injury while playing the outfield. But after signing a two-year deal prior to the 2018 season, he could still factor into the Washington Nationals’ 2019 second base plans.
Achilles injuries are extremely tough to return from. While reliever Zach Britton returned to the major leagues in June after suffering the injury last December, the situation could be a little different for position players, especially ones that are turning 36 years old next summer.
Kendrick does at least have time on his side in one sense. He will be roughly 10 months removed from the date of the injury on Opening Day 2019. That should give him enough time for a clean bill of health by the start of the season.
When he is healthy, Kendrick still hits at a high clip. In 92 games with the Nats, he has put together a cool .821 OPS while playing second base, first base, and both corner outfield spots. He is a steady hitter against lefties and righties, and he has proven to be a capable pinch hitter over the years.
But similarly to Difo, it doesn’t make sense to rely on Kendrick in the starting role. His defense has tapered off at second base since the early 2010’s, and will likely get even worse post-injury.
Although he has performed well at the plate, that has mostly been as a quasi-part time player. Even a Difo-Kendrick platoon would likely stretch both players too far over the course of a full season.
The Nationals should plan for 2019 as if Kendrick will be unable to go, even if he progresses well through his rehab. If Mike Rizzo fills out the rest of the roster with quality players, then he will be protected should Kendrick struggle or a loaded team should Kendrick return to full strength.