Welcome to the second installment of Make or Break 2007. Joining Tim Moss on my “on notice” list is 2003 draftee Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick, a seventh round pick in 2003, has four years of time in, and with the new CBA rules regarding the minors, Kendrick will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft after 2007 if he isn’t placed on the 40 man roster. A 6’3, 185 lb right hander from Washington, Kendrick has yet to really assert himself in his 4 seasons in the system, but his 2006 was a step in the right direction. Kendrick was a tremendous athlete in high school, playing baseball, basketball and football, and eventually turned down a scholarship to Washington State to begin his baseball career. The Phillies loved his long frame and live arm, and figured he’d learn the nuances of pitching as he progressed. Even more so, there was quite a bit made about his strong character and aptitude, and the Phillies felt he had the total package needed to be a successful pitcher.
Things didn’t start so well for Kyle. He struggled in 2003 after being drafted, posting a 5.46 ERA in 31 innings at the GCL Level. He split time at Batavia and Lakewood in 2004, and the results were worse, with a 5.48 ERA at Batavia in 70 innings, and a more painful 6.07 ERA at Lakewood in 66 innings. He gave up 179 hits and 51 walks, compared to only 89 K in 133 innings combined over the two levels. Kendrick saw time at three different levels in 2005
Batavia: 91.1 IP, 3.74 ERA, 94 H, 22 BB, 70 K
Lakewood: 22.2 IP, 9.13 ERA, 38H, 10 BB, 11 K
Clearwater: 4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K
His progress at Batavia was somewhat encouraging, but his first taste of full season ball didn’t go the way he’d have liked. In 2006, the Phillies decided to start him at Lakewood and see what happened. In 46 innings, he posted a nice 2.15 ERA, allowing only 34 H and 18 BB, against 54 K’s. The Phillies bumped him up to Clearwater, and he performed surprisingly well, with a 3.53 ERA in 130 innings, allowing 117 H, 37 BB, and striking out 79. He finished the season in the AFL league, where he struggled a bit, albeit in only 10 innings. His 2006 represents a huge improvement to actually getting results on the field, and because 2006 was only his age 22 season, he’s still in the prospect territory. In my overall top 30, he’d be somewhere between 22-28, simply because I’m not sure what to expect from him going forward, the 2005 version or the 2006 version.
Kendrick is basically a three pitch pitcher, featuring a fastball that sits around 90-93 with good movement, an average changeup, and a slider. He originally threw a slow curveball, but the pitch was inconsistent and he wasn’t able to get many swings and misses, especially ahead in counts, so the Phillies had him scrap the curve late in 2005 and switch to the slider. If the 2006 results are an indication, it was a wise move to switch. The movement on his fastball enables him to get a lot of ground balls, as he had a 1.79 GB to FB ratio in 2006, and he had a solid 0.77 HR/9 rate in 2006. He was tougher on righties than lefties, but not by a margin that suggests he’d be better suited to relief at this point. He does still appear to lack the true qualities of a strikeout pitcher, which could spell some trouble going forward.
Kendrick seems like a lock to start the season in the Reading rotation, and it will represent a huge test for him. He initially struggled when promoted to full season ball, but in 2006 he handled the move from Low A to High A well, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the move to Reading. He’ll be playing in a tougher park for pitchers than he did at Clearwater, and a league that generally promotes a little more offense in the Eastern League than he was accustomed to in the Florida State League. With a strong season, he will almost assuredly find his way onto the 40 man roster come November, and he may get a spot either way, because the Phillies have invested a lot of time in him, and he has shown signs of improvement. However, if he is intent on making a big league contribution, not just the 40 man roster, he’s going to need to step up in 2007 and prove what he can do at Reading.