2013 Cubs Prospects in Review: Kyle Hendricks

kyle-hendricksKyle Hendricks is a 6-3, 190 pound right-handed starting pitcher. He turns 24 on December 7th and was drafted 8th round of the 2011 Draft out of Dartmouth College. Here's what Baseball America wrote at the time of the draft.

An economics major at Dartmouth, Hendricks brings a heady presence to the mound. He does more than just outsmart hitters, though, as he has legitimate stuff too. While he pitched exclusively in relief for Spokane, Hendricks mixes four pitches and has a starter's profile. He uses a sneaky 89-91 mph fastball that can get as high as 94, a sharp curveball, an occasional slider and a plus changeup. The changeup is his best pitch and one he's willing to throw in any count. "You watch him pitch and you can never tell what he's throwing," Hulett said. "His pitching tempo is always the same, whether its a fastball or a changeup. He's just got a good idea out there with great composure and great presence on the mound."

The Cubs acquired Hendricks, the team's minor league starting pitcher of the year, from the Rangers last summer for Ryan Dempster. The Cubs also acquired 3rd baseman Christian Villanueva.

Performance

Hendricks was more of a throw-in when the Cubs acquired him. He was someone who had pitched well, but didn't have a high ceiling. He still does't, but he's now pitched well enough that he's climbed the Cubs prospect rankings.

He had a dominating season in AA and pitched quite well in AAA. At Tennessee, Hendricks threw 126.1 innings over 21 starts. He struckout 101, walked only 26 batters, hit 5 batters and threw just one wild pitch. Among AA pitchers who threw 80 or more innings, Kyle Hendricks' 1.85 was the best. No other pitcher was below 2. His 2.65 FIP was third best.

In AA he struckout 19.9% of the batters and walked only 5.5%. He allowed only 3 home runs. His 14.8% K-BB% ranked 22nd in AA.

Hendricks was promoted to Iowa near the end of the season and made 6 starts. He threw 40 innings and struckout 27 batters. He walked 8. His K% dropped to 17%, but his walk rate remained at 5%.

His walk rate was even better last year. Overall this season, Hendricks made 27 starts and threw 166.1 innings. He allowed 142 hits and only 5 of them were home runs. He struckout 128 and walked 34. He struckout 19.2% of the batters faced and walked 5.1%.

Hendricks performed better than the Cubs could have expected when they acquired him.

Scouting

GW wrote about Kyle Hendricks scouting report just a few weeks before the season ended so I'm just going to quote him (thanks, GW).

The Good:

  • He’s dominated hitters in the minors due to above-average control and command of his four-pitch repertoire (fastball, curveball, cutter, changeup)
  • His simple mechanics allow him to consistently repeat his delivery — both from the full windup and from the stretch.
  •  Hendricks did a nice job of changing speeds and mixing his pitches…
  • [He] received swinging strikeouts on both his changeup — which showed plus potential — and on his cutter…

The Bad:

  • He has a fringe-average fastball in the 87-91 mph range.
  • I was a little surprised in his lack of athleticism.
  • His curveball was just fringe-average on this day and did not result in many swings and misses — most were fouled off.

It would be easy to look at the ERA and FIP that he has posted in his career and get really excited about Hendricks. Go ahead and get excited, but temper your expectations. It's hard to work at the MLB level when your fastball often sits in the 80s. We don't see a lot of guys throwing 80 mph fastballs because they usually aren't very good. They tend to get hard at the MLB level.

Still, there's something to be excited about despite the lack of velocity. I can't really remember the last time the Cubs had someone with the command that Hendricks has shown. Strikeouts and walks are the two most predictive pitching stats. You like guys who strikeout a lot, but more than that, you need separation between the two. You also need to keep the walks under control. You can't strikeout 30% of the batters and walk more than 15% and expect to remain a starter, or a reliever for very long. However, Hendricks seems to have a high enough strikeout rate that we're going to see him in Chicago. He's got a chance to be as good as a mid-rotation pitcher, but could safely fall into a number 4 or 5. That has value.

Hendricks has 4 pitches: fastball, slider, curve and his best pitch is his change-up. His change-up was ranked as the best in the Carolina League in 2012 by Baseball America. His mixes up his fastballs too. He throws a 4-seamer, 2-seamer and cutter. He commands all his pitches well and based on eye from this video, he repeats his delivery with ease. I won't add anything else because of my untrained eye.

Kyle Hendricks vs. Wilmington (5/20/2012) from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Outlook

Hendricks will probably return to AAA at the start of next season as a 24-year old. There's a chance he could earn a spot in the Cubs rotation with a strong spring training, but Theo and company have been deliberate and will likely want him to get more work. The good news is that the work for him can pile up quickly. He averaged nearly 6.1 innings per start in 2013. he did average even more in AAA (one out shy of 7 innings per start).

He pitched either 7.0 innings or 8.0 innings in 12 of his 27 starts. Interestingly, there were only two starts (back to back starts in May) in which Hendricks was pulled mid-inning. Each start he pitched 6.2 innings. Compared to C.J. Edwards, Hendricks is a throwback to when they threw 300 innings per season.

At some point in 2013 we will see Hendricks make his Major League debut. I'm going to guess it happens around mid-May.

If he can maintain his K-BB% he can be good even without the high strikeout rate. The guy will throw strikes and he mixes his pitches well enough to be an MLB starter.

Considering he was viewed as a throw-in, the Cubs have to be super happy with what they've gotten in return.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

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