I’ve received more emails asking about Kyle Hendricks than any other prospect in recent weeks. Everyone seems to be curious about the Cubs’ right-handed pitching prospect who posted a 1.85 ERA in 21 Double-A starts. Due to popular demand, he leads off this edition of the Prospect Stock Watch.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs: The hurler’s numbers immediately jump out: 1.85 ERA, 107 hits allowed in 126.1 innings (7.72 H/9) and just 26 walks (1.85 BB/9). The catch with Hendricks, though, is that he has a fringe-average fastball in the 87-91 mph range. He’s dominated hitters in the minors due to above-average control and command of his four-pitch repertoire (fastball, curveball, cutter, changeup).
The 23-year-old prospect was originally a ninth-round draft pick out of Dartmouth in 2011 by the Texas Rangers and it took him just three seasons to reach the upper levels of the minor leagues. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with fellow prospect Christian Villanueva during a 2012 trade-deadline deal for veteran hurler Ryan Dempster.
Hendricks spent the majority of 2013 in Double-A but was recently promoted to Triple-A and made his first start at that level on Aug. 8. I caught his last Double-A start — against the Birmingham Barons, a Chicago White Sox affiliate — on Aug. 1. He showed an easy delivery with little to no effort. His simple mechanics allow him to consistently repeat his delivery — both from the full windup and from the stretch. I was a little surprised in his lack of athleticism.
Although his fastball lacks premium velocity, Hendricks did a nice job of changing speeds and mixing his pitches. He used his heater to get ahead in the pitch count and then mixed in his other three offerings. The California native received swinging strikeouts on both his changeup — which showed plus potential — and on his cutter. His curveball was just fringe-average on this day and did not result in many swings and misses — most were fouled off.
Hendricks is definitely not the type of pitcher that’s going to arrive in the Majors and produce an ungodly strikeout rate or top-of-the-rotation numbers. However, he has a strong frame, keeps his pitch count to a minimum and has a low-effort delivery, all of which should allow him to act as an innings-eating No. 4 starter.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona’s top hitting prospect Matt Davidson made his MLB debut on Aug. 11 but he’s not the only promising third base prospect in the system. The club boasts some impressive depth with the likes of Davidson, Jake Lamb (recently back from injury) and Brandon Drury. After a disappointing 2012 season in Low-A ball when he posted a .603 OPS, Drury was dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton deal. Still just 20, he’s made the necessary adjustments while repeating the level and is currently hitting more than .300 with an OPS of .882. The former 13th round draft pick has slugged 14 home runs and 46 doubles in 115 games. The infielder is beginning to tap into his raw power potential, as witnessed by the eye-popping two-bag total. He’s an aggressive hitter who’s walked just 34 times but Drury’s base-on-balls rate has increased each of the past two seasons.
Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Taylor was ranked 14th on the Brewers pre-season Top 15 prospects list and has seen his value increase more so than any other player in the minor league system. A star football player in high school, the outfielder is still quite raw because of the gridiron focus but he has an impressive array of tools, including the potential to develop into a 20-20 player. Taylor’s power is currently manifesting itself in the form of doubles. He’s swiped 16 bases but has also been caught eight times and needs to add some polish to his base running. He plays an above-average center field and could eventually become exception on defense. The 19-year-old prospect is probably about three years away from the Majors but could very well be worth the wait — and the increasing hype.
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