Prospect Grades: Griffith, Kendrick, Johnson, Overholt

Round 4 begins now.

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Griffith, Derek, LHP (age 24) Grade = D+

Griffith had a decent 2005, allowing less than a hit per inning, striking out over 7 per nine innings, and keeping the ball in the park. In 2006, with a promotion to Clearwater, he took a step back. The former 17th round pick posted a 4.52 ERA in 151.2 IP, allowing 162 H, 57 walks, and struck out only 95 batters. His home run rate remained similar (up a tick), and he didn’t walk too many more per 9, but because he was 23, he needed a better season. When you’re taking guys in the 17th round, you are clearly tempering expectations, but after his 2005, there was reason to be somewhat optimistic. Because he is left handed, his shelf life is probably longer than that of a comparable pitcher who happens to be right handed. He experienced slightly better success vs LHB, holding them to a .641 OPS against his .777 OPS allowed to RH batters, which may suggest a possible move to the bullpen. He also induced 254 groundballs, to only 156 flyballs, which is nice, but he still pitches to contact too much for my liking, and that tends to catch up at higher levels. Griffith may repeat Clearwater, but along with Lakewood, those two teams will have a ton of candidates for the rotation, so he may be sent to Reading to start, or he may be converted to relief. If he can hone his stuff and ramp it up for one inning, he might be a good bullpen candidate in 2 years, but he has a ways to go yet. He’d receive a straight D if he weren’t lefthanded and didn’t have strong groundball tendencies.

Ceiling: I’m not sure, a swingman or 6th inning guy? He doesn’t have dominant splits, but is a bit better against LH batters than RH batters, so he might be a viable bullpen option.

Floor: Out of baseball in 3 years. He’s still got the tall frame that scouts like, especially for a LHP, but at some point, he needs to show it on the field. 2007 will kind of determine his future in baseball, or at least give us a much better idea.

Conclusion: As you can tell by the grade, I’m not very high on Griffith at this point. I guess if he lights up the world in 2007, the Phillies will take a chance on him and add him to the 40 man. If not, he’s Rule 5 bound, and could be out of the organization. He needs a big time season in 2007, because he’s 24 and has yet to reach AA.

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Kendrick, Kyle, RHP (age 22) Grade: B

My thinking on Kendrick seems to differ day to day. I wrote a piece a little while back that 2007 was a big year for him, and if he were going to become a big league contributor, he’d have to take a big step forward, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable I am with him as a prospect. Because of his age, he pitched almost all of 2006 at age 21, he is still fine in terms of where he should be, but he’s been in pro ball for four seasons now, and after 2007, will have to be placed on the 40 man roster. Prior to 2006, he hadn’t done much to warrant that spot, but his 2006 was a definite step in the right direction. He posted dominant numbers at Lakewood, with a 2.15 ERA in 46 IP, allowing only 34 H and 15 BB against 54 K. After being promoted to Clearwater, the strikeout numbers dropped substantially (79 in 130 IP), but his walk rate actually improved (2.93 to 2.56) and he saw a moderate rise in his hit rate. As he’s climbed the ladder, it seems he struggles initially, but once he repeats the level, he gets more comfortable and regains his stuff. As 2007 will only be his age 22 season, he’s still prime prospect age. He could start back at Clearwater, but the Phillies might go ahead and send him to Reading, as he did log 130 innings at Clearwater. He’ll experience his toughest test to date in the Eastern League, and it will be interesting to see which Kendrick we get. His grade has room to move in either direction. A strong season at AA and I’d have no problems rating him a B+, but if he falters and his K rate remains in the 5-6 range, he could easily become a C+ prospect.

Ceiling: A #2/#3 starter, depending on his K rate. Right now, that is the area that remains the biggest question mark. Many had pegged Kendrick as a breakout candidate for 2006, and they were right, but now the test will be what he does going forward.

Floor: Let’s say his floor is a four A SP who bounces between AAA and the Majors. He doesn’t seem like a bullpen guy, at least now, and people will always dream on his loose arm and quality stuff, but if he can’t get guys out, and can’t generate swings and misses, he might not have a long term future in the pen either.

Conclusion: I had my doubts about Kendrick prior to 2006, and while I still have doubts, they’ve grown less convincing. I still think 2007 is a make or break year for him, not so much in being placed on the 40 man (he probably will be, regardless), but in him actually becoming a quality big league pitcher.

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Johnson, Nate, RHP (age 24) Grade = C (Updated from a C+ to a C)

Johnson is a guy who never gets mentioned, even when discussing the fringe prospects, but I think he might deserve a look. I give him a C+, but I will state right off the top that he was too old for High A Clearwater. Johnson was taken in the 20th round of the 2004 draft, and 2006 represented his age 24 season, so it’s time for him to start moving a bit more rapidly. However, since he is exclusively a reliever, that shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Johnson struggled at Batavia in 2004, he struggled at Lakewood in 2005, but he really came into his own in 2006, posting a 2.56 ERA in 66 IP, allowing only 59 hits and 10 walks to 55 strikeouts. While the K rate (7.42/9) isn’t overly impressive, his control is, and 1.35 BB/9 is good regardless of the level you’re at. He induced more groundballs than fly balls (91 to 65) and allowed only 3 HR in the 66 innings. He was tough against LH batters, holding them to a .573 OPS, but he also shut down righties to the tune of a .609 OPS. He should be sent to Reading in 2007, where he’ll pitch for most of the year, in all likelihood. With another solid year, he could present himself as a bullpen option sometime in 2008. He isn’t flashy, he doesn’t have world-beater stuff, but he’s just the type of prospect all successful organizations need to have an abundance of.

Ceiling: A 7th inning reliever, really nothing more, and maybe a long man as “less” if you want to go that route.

Floor: Organizational filler.

Conclusion: I’m probably the only one talking about Johnson, and I may look silly in this space at this time next year, but I think he’s got a decent chance to become the 2008 version of Geoff Geary. Not spectacular, doesn’t have mind blowing stuff, but gets guys out, and does so cheaply. His ability to keep the ball in the park, and his impeccable control are big pluses for me, but we’ll see how it translates at AAA and eventually the bigs. I think he’s got a 50/50 shot of becoming the next Geary.

EDIT: oldgrandad snapped me out of my Nate Johnson appreciation fest and made me realize he does, in fact, warrant only a C.

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Overholt, Patrick, RHP (age 22) Grade = B-

Overholt was a guy that I highlighted in my Arms to Watch piece, and I’m a big fan of his going forward. A college closer, he has the mentality to pitch in the late innings, and maybe most importantly, to me anyway, is his dominant strikeout rate. He K’ed 52 in 45 innings at Lakewood, and then 41 in 26 innings at Clearwater. His peripheral numbers were actually better at Clearwater than Lakewood (except HR rate), but his ERA was worse, 4.15 at Clearwater to only 3.15 at Lakewood. His final numbers were solid, 73 IP, 57 H allowed, 36 BB, 93 K. I’d have given him a straight B if it weren’t for his control issues at Lakewood. He cut down his walks by almost 2 per 9 innings at Clearwater, but they are still a concern. He will be 23 for his entire 2007 campaign, and personally, I think he should start off at Reading, but the Phillies might play it safe and start him as the closer in Clearwater with a mid-season promotion. If he can work on his control a bit and get his walk rate down in the 2.75-2.90/9 range and keep his K total where it is, he’s going to be a big league reliever, and possibly even a high leverage type of guy. Definitely an interesting arm, one of many in our pitching heavy system.

Ceiling: A big league closer. Simply put, he’s got quality stuff and gets a lot of swings and misses, plus he has the closing background and seems to have the mindset to pitch in high leverage situations.

Floor: A middle reliever, pitching anywhere from the 6th-8th inning, depending on need.

Conclusion: With Overholt, it’s simply going to come down to his command/control. If he can harness his stuff and avoid giving out free passes, he’s got the ingredients to become a big time reliever, and possibly a closer. While you rarely see a young pitcher come in and just start closing games at the big league level, ala Huston Street, Overholt might start as a 6th/7th inning guy, maybe even as soon as September 2007, but could eventually work his way into the back end of the pen. Tom Gordon isn’t young, and his contract is basically done after 2008, so if Overholt continues to impress, he may get a shot late in 2008 to close out some games, and it could be his role on this team, or on some other team, a few years down the road. Outside of Bisenius, he’s probably our best relief prospect, and being a year younger with closing experience, probably has a leg up on Joe for that spot, if we have an in house guy who can take it.

10 thoughts on “Prospect Grades: Griffith, Kendrick, Johnson, Overholt

  1. You may be a little tough on Griffith, James. Remember that his
    low draft status (#17) was due in large part to previous arm
    problems. Without them, he might have been drafted higher. And
    you don’t seem know what he throws, except we may infer a curve
    and perhaps sinker. It is unlikely, in any case, with all the
    lefties we have in the organization now that he will stay with
    us beyond next year even if he puts up good numbers this summer.
    I predict he’ll be snapped up by someone soon after he’s gone.

  2. Likewise, there is a bigger difference between Overholt and
    Johnson IMO–especially given the 2year disparity in age and
    pitching at the same level. I’ll take Overholt for my pitching
    staff, and you can have Johnson… 🙂

  3. You’re right, Johnson should have been a straight C, but I’m happy with Overholt as a B- for now until he improves his command. Griffith gets a lower grade than Johnson because his numbers are worse, they are the same age, and Johnson did it at a level higher.

  4. That’s true, but considering their numbers, Johnson is ahead at this point, and considering Johnson has a true role right now, as a reliever, and did it well in 2006, he’s more deserving of a C than Griffith, especially since he improved from 2005 to 2006, while Griffith went in the other direction.

  5. The plus on Griffith is that he is a really big lefty. The rest was all a downer this past season. His stats aren’t awful, but opponents BA up about 20 points, Ks down, walks up a tad, ERA up, win percentage way down … so both on traditional and more modern stats, not a good year for him after showing promise at Lakewood last season. I think this year at Reading is true make or break for him. In fairness to him, his HR rate is reasonably good. But he put up pretty much across the board significantly worse numbers than Kendrick on the same team, despite being 2 years older. He has the lefty advantage and maybe can be more effective as a reliever down the road.

  6. Well, as I said above, Griffith will doubtless be gone from our
    organization after this summer no matter what his numbers are.
    He’ll be a plum lefty for another organization.

  7. Griffith had Tommy John surgery in 2003 a little over a month before the draft. Without that setback, was projected to be as high as 2nd round, but more likely 3rd round. With rehab, that put him on a 2004 draft timescale, but he was younger than most 2003 college juniors by about a year. Through the early part of the season, numbers were better than Hamels and Happ at Clearwater, but had some consistency issues in the 2nd half. He still has high potential. I agree with olgrandad on the plum for another organization.

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