With the 17th pick in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft, the Phillies plucked Kenneth David Herndon from the Angels’ farm system. As the Rule 5 Draft rarely yields significant Major League talent, nothing much was expected of Herndon and, well, nothing much was delivered. Herndon was adequate, falling victim at times to equal parts bad luck and a shaky arsenal of stuff and settling for an ERA of 4.30 when all was said and done.
Having finished the year with the Phillies, Herndon is now a full-fledged member of the organization, no longer required to be on the active 25-man roster in order to be kept. For that, he deserves some recognition. Sometimes, Rule 5 picks don’t last the year, and are offered back to their original franchise, exposed to waivers, and subsequently lost. Herndon may not have had the most impressive rookie year, but doing well enough to stay up at the Show for an entire year shouldn’t be discarded entirely.
On the whole, Herndon pitched 52.1 innings with 29 strikeouts and 17 walks, inducing a big 56.9 percent groundball rate, a figure that came in 16th in all of baseball among pitchers with 50-plus IP. That’s what Herndon is: a sinkerballer who will only strike out a few more people than Kyle Kendrick, but get plenty of groundballs in the meantime. Of course, that philosophy can backfire quickly, and Herndon’s .354 BABIP against was the 12th-highest mark in baseball. Part of that was bad luck, part of it subpar stuff in some outings, but it’s clearly not all Herndon’s fault.
Herndon seems likely to start the season in Triple-A, where some talk suggests he may be stretched out to become a starter, a position he frequented in the minors before the 2009 season. Failing that, the organization may instead opt to refine his secondary stuff in the hopes of keeping him in full-time relief.
In any case, there seems to be some latent potential within Herndon. Being able to induce as many groundballs as he does is a valuable skill, and if he can somehow refine his stuff enough to increase his strikeouts even a little bit, Herndon could be quite useful. He won’t be a Madson; that just won’t ever happen, but a career of ineffectiveness is far from a foregone conclusion.
So, all that said, 2010 was far from a world-beating year for Mr. Herndon. He took his lumps, made a jump from Double-A to the Bigs and survived. I find that admirable, but that admiration can only obscure the end results so much. The numbers are simultaneously better than and worse than they appear on the surface, so it’s difficult to label just what Herndon was or forecast what he will be. Here’s to an improved 2011, David.
PAUL’S GRADE: 5.5/10