Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nationals sign Tyler Herron: Scouting Report

The Washington Nationals have signed Tyler Herron according to Baseball America. Herron, 26 years old, was a 1st round (46th overall) pick by Cardinals in 2005. He was released after reaching AA in 2009 and pitched a little for the Pirates in AA. Herron spent 2010 in the Frontier League, pitching mostly as a reliever in 36 innings with a 3.73 FIP (in a league with a 3.92 FIP and 4.84 ERA. I'm guessing defense was the reason for the big difference. Whether it was because of park, bad defense, or just poor pitching, Herron's team had a league worst 6.42 ERA, so all things considered, including small sample size, Herron was very solid), but didn't pitch at all in 2011, then spent all of 2012 with Fargo-Moorhead of the American Associaton. Herron was mainly a starter (but also made 6 relief appearances), throwing 123 innings with a 3.07 FIP. League average ERA was 4.62, with 5.31 runs per game, and 3.93 FIP. The team was the best offensively and in pitching, so it is really hard to say anything about their park factors.

He is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League. As far as I know, they don't have any streams or anyway to watch the games, but FanGraphs' "Scout" has him rated as the 10th best pitcher in the league (I will be honest, while the data that goes into "Scout" is pretty straight forward, I simply don't know how predictive it is, especially with Winter League statistics. If anyone knows of a good evaluation of it, send it to me or leave it in the comments). In Puerto Rico, he has a 1.38 GO/AO in 6 starts, with a 2.84 FIP in 6 starts. That FIP, if it was his ERA, would be the 5th best in the league, but the crowd above him is mixed. One is a guy who has been out of affiliated baseball since 2010, a guy who has been out of affiliated ball since 2008, a Mexican Leaguer, and
Hector Santiago, who had success out of the White Sox bullpen in 2012. Especially considering the sample size, it is hard to put much stock in these numbers.

Since all Winnipeg Goldeyes (an American Association team) games (or at least home games) are available on YouTube, that is where I am getting the empirical observations from.

He is still listed at 6-3 190, but it seems that he is heavier than that now. Reportedly, Herron still has a fastball of 89-93 MPH, along with a change-up and a soft curveball doesn't have exceptional loop or break. It registered as low as 66-70 MPH on the radar gun, but didn't have the dramatic loop you see in most slow curves. Nothing he throws is straight, as his fastball has some pretty dramatic arm-side tail (though occasionally it would cut inside to left-handed hitters). When I saw him, he was mainly 87-89 MPH according to the broadcast radar gun, and was very fastball heavy. He didn't seem to have the best command either. The changeup didn't provide much speed differential, as it sat between 82-85 MPH (and it seemed he threw it more against righties than lefties for some reason, perhaps because of the cutter). It doesn't move a lot and his command of it was iffy at best.

Obviously this latter empirical data doesn't suggest a big league pitcher, and the statistics in the American Association and winter ball are not concrete enough to overrule the lack of stuff. At his age, the Nationals could use him as an old AA pitcher, or more likely, give him a shot in AAA. It is just really hard to see him ever making a MLB impact, as he doesn't have the breaking pitches or deception to live with a below average fastball. I believe he will go where his fastball takes him.

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