Prospect of the Day: Liam Hendriks, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2012 isn't shaping up as a great year for the Minnesota Twins, but one possible bright spot is the development of prospect Liam Hendriks, who made the starting rotation out of spring training and pitched quite well in his first outing (six innings, one run on seven hits, no walks, four strikeouts).
The Twins are very active with their scouting in Australia, and Hendriks is one of their key finds, signed as a free agent in 2007 for $170,000. His North American debut was excellent (2.05 ERA, 52/11 K/BB in 44 innings in rookie ball), but he was sidelined for all of 2008 with a back injury. He returned in 2009 with an effective half-season in the Low-A Midwest League (3.51 ERA with a 62/15 K/BB in 67 innings), then followed that up with a very strong 2010 campaign split between Low-A (1.32 ERA, 39/4 K/BB in 34 innings) and High-A (1.93 ERA, 66/8 K/BB in 75 innings). He missed more pitching time in '10 with appendicitis, but his performance was otherwise stellar.
Hendriks stayed healthy in 2011. He began at Double-A New Britain, posting a 2.70 ERA with an 81/18 K/BB in 90 innings. He continued to show excellent control in Triple-A (30/3 K/BB in 49 innings for Rochester) although he was hittable (52 hits allowed, a 4.56 ERA). He made four starts for the Twins last year, going 0-2, 6.17 but with a 16/6 K/BB in 23 innings and an xFIP of 3.66. He was bitten by the health bug again this spring with a bout of food poisoning that delayed his first start, although he showed no ill effects when he finally got to the mound.
His fastball isn't a blazer at 87-92 MPH, averaging right around 90. He mixes it with a curveball, slider, and changeup, giving him an arsenal of four pitches. The changeup is probably his best pitch, but both breaking balls are respectable, and all of his pitches play up due to his superior command. Listed at 6-1, 190, the 23-year-ol right-hander is a fine overall athlete. In theory that should help him stay healthy, although he's been vulnerable to unusual injuries including the knee and back problems.
Hendriks doesn't have the overpowering fastball of a stereotype staff ace, but his command stands out as a big plus. Given proper defensive support, he should be a solid mid-rotation starter.