Potential doesn’t always translate into results as quickly as anticipated, but if the tools are present, there’s room for growth and the ability to put everything together. Entering his fifth season in professional baseball, Kendall Coleman has the look of a player whose learned how to harness opposing pitching, batting a robust .478/.536/.609 in his first week with the Staten Island Yankees and getting the most out of his ability.
A Rowlett, Texas native, Coleman showed initial promise at Rockwall High School playing centerfield and first base and hit over .400 as a Senior. Coleman originally signed a letter of intent to play college baseball at Iowa, but ultimately chose to begin his professional career with the Yankees as their 11th round selection in the 2013 draft.
“My school was traditionally was pretty good in baseball,” Coleman said. “We made the playoffs every year I was there. There were guys ahead of me that got drafted out of high school, so I know what the process was like. They talked to me about what they went through, and overall I enjoyed my time at Rockwell.”
Before Coleman was able to prove himself on the professional level, he suffered injuries in both his quad and his shin, which limited him to just 18 games between two Gulf Coast League seasons. Though his ailments hindered his development on the field, he relied on the help of the strength and conditioning coaches to help him through his recovery.
“The first year, I injured my left quad and my second year, I had an issue with both of my shins. It slowed down my development a little bit, but all the trainers and the head strength and conditioning guys did a great job helping me through it, and I am just happy to be playing again.”
During his second year with the Gulf Coast Yankees, Coleman worked diligently with the former prized prospect and NFL quarterback Drew Henson, who rejoined the organization as a batting instructor before settling into a role as a pro scout. Coleman’s time with Henson proved invaluable as he listened intently to his teachings.
“Drew is a great guy on the baseball field and off the baseball field,” Coleman said. “You knew what he was talking about because he was once a big leaguer. You sit down and listen to him and soak in all that he has to say. Off the field, you can also talk to him about anything, so that helped me as well.”
Coleman’s first full professional season came in 2015 in the Appalachian League with the Pulaski Yankees and hit .236./.336/.389 with five home runs in 235 plate appearances. He began adapting to the overall atmosphere and had the help of longtime minor league manager Tony Franklin, who led the club during their inaugural season in Pulaski.
“The fans in Pulaski are great along with the town and the atmosphere. We had a great season and made it to the first round. Tony Franklin has been in the game over 30 years, and when I struggled there, he told what I needed to do and to keep my head up while trying to get better every day.”
By 2016, Coleman advanced to Staten Island and initially struggled with a .194 batting average and a .297 slugging percentage. Playing on a regular basis helped him make adjustments to the level of competition and further the progression of his overall skill set. He also realizes that the fundamentals of the game itself don’t vary too much.
“I need to get better at every aspect of the game,” Coleman said. “Baseball is baseball no matter where you go. You have struggles, and you have successes. I try to focus on what I need to do. You get into a groove playing every day, starting in March. My first couple of years I couldn’t get into a groove, but the past couple has been pretty good.”
Returning to Staten Island for the 2017 season, Coleman emerged into one of the team’s most consistent hitters, hitting safely in his first seven games and recorded an .839 OPS in his first 51 at-bats. Coleman cites his comfort at the plate as one of the key for his recent success and his work with the coaching staff.
“I’m feeling more comfortable at the plate. I have been feeling good all year and have worked with the hitting coaches. One of the things I do is always to try to be as selective as possible and just look for a pitch to drive and early in the year I haven’t been missing much. I’m trying to hit my pitch and not foul it off, and success will follow.”
Coleman’s ability to pull the ball to the right-center gap is the source of his recent power as he looks to take advantage of pitches in his zone. Coupled with his previous selectivity, he’s evolved into a hitter, who now bats in the middle of the lineup and looks to drive in runs. He’s currently on pace to set a career-high in extra base hits and focuses on covering particular zones at the plate.
“You usually get just one pitch in every at-bat, and I am not looking to miss it. My hands are working well, and I have good length through the zone. I’m not trying to hit homers. Instead, I’m hitting the ball hard and trying to drive in runs, and thus far it’s been leading to some good results.”