Minutes before the deadline yesterday the Cubs matched up with the Rangers for the second time in less than 24 hours as they traded Ryan Dempster. In the trade the Cubs acquired Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva. MILB.com lists the 22 year old right handed Hendricks at 6'3", 190 lbs. He's been described as the throw-in, but he has very impressive numbers.
Hendricks wasn't highly thought of in high school or in college. He was undrafted out of high school and went to Dartmouth. An econ major at an Ivy League school, perhaps he'll advice the Ricketts family on why they should pay for the renovation to Wrigley themselves, but I won't hold my breath. He ended up being selected near the bottom of the 2011 draft (39th round), but took to professional ball with ease.
Other than 1 appearance and 3 innings at AA Frisco last season, he spent the rest of the season in A ball. In 35.2 total innings last year, he allowed just 24 hits, walked only 6 and struckout 38. His ERA was 2.02 and his FIP even better at around 1.5.
The strikeouts were misleading. Hendricks is not a strikeout pitcher. He sits in the 87 to 89 mph range and can get it up into the very low 90s on occasion. Since he was a college pitcher and those numbers were in A ball they had to be taken with a grain of salt, but he's been equally impressive at the higher level (High A) this season. Baseball America mentioned recently that he had made a couple changes entering this season.
Since then, he’s made two changes and he’s again one of the best performers in his league, having spent the entire season with high Class A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League.
“I changed my mechanics a little bit at the very beginning of the year, trying to get more directional and trying to get everything going towards home plate,” Hendricks said. “And then other than that, I’ve been working with the pitching coach just on pitch sequences, learning the hitters and just watching and learning from the swings they take on certain pitches so that I can make adjustments on the mound as you go and really thinking while you’re out there instead of just throwing.”
He also added a cutter and in his first full season as a professional he's continued to get impressive results. He's struckout fewer this year, which is no surprise considering the lack of velocity, but the guy throws a ton of strikes. His K/BB ratio in 130.2 innings this year is a ridiculous 112/15. He has hit 6 batters, but still, that's just 112/21. You know how many times over the years I've wanted to have a pitcher with that kind of control on the mound? He's struckout nearly 22% of the batters this year, which is actually pretty good and walked under 3%.
Through his first 166 innings as a professional you have to be happy. He might run into trouble in the higher minors when his strikeout rate drops. A lot of analysts seem to think that's likely. His strikeout rate will drop, but I'm thinking if the guy can walk 3% of the batters he faces he's going to reach the big leagues in some capacity. Time will tell if it's a starter or a reliever, but right now he's pitching well. You figure out what to do later on if the results start getting too bad.
Baseball America wrote this about the Dempster trade yesterday.
Hendricks has had a fine season with Myrtle Beach, as detailed in a recent BA Prospects Blog post. He throws an upper-80s two-seam fastball, a four-seamer that bumps 92 mph and mid-80s cutter to go with a curveball, slider and changeup. None of the pitches grades as plus, but he has feel for his craft and for the strike zone. He ranked second in the Carolina League in ERA, WHIP and innings as well as third in strikeouts, while leading the league in walk ratio (1.0 per nine innings). At a listed 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, he has room to get bigger and stronger.
I mentioned earlier that he was listed by milb.com at 6'3", 190, but Baseball Reference does list him the same as they point out there. Fangraphs also lists him at 6'3", 190.
We'll look at the centerpiece of this trade tomorrow.