Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Hendricks’

The Myth of Greg Maddux, the Soft Tosser

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Since Andrew Cashner, no high ceiling starting pitching prospects both succeeded in the upper minors and eventually debuted with the Cubs. They have, however, had a variety of pitching prospects with mediocre fastball velocity, but good control, or at least reported good control. From Nick Struck to Chris Rusin, this tradition is now being held up by Kyle Hendricks. With Jake Arrieta likely not ready for the start of the season, some call for Hendricks to get a shot at a spot in the rotation to start the season, despite Hendricks only starting six Triple A games.

The back end of this tradition, however, always involves the proponents of the soft tossing prospects arguing, “but Greg Maddux didn’t throw hard!”

In some ways that statement is correct. Maddux never threw 95, and spent the last 6 or 7 years of his career with his fastball velocity slowly creeping from the high 80s to the mid 80s. But prior to his decline, Maddux threw a 92 mile per hour fastball. A 92 mile per hour fastball with fantastic movement and pinpoint control and command.

The four elements of a fastball are velocity, movement, control and command. On the 20-80 scouting scale, Maddux’s velocity through his prime was a 55-60, solidly above average, and the movement, command and control were all 70s to 80s.

So, first of all, comparing guys who throw 89-90 to in prime Maddux is inaccurate. There’s a big difference between 89 and 92.

Second, comparing a guy who has above average to good control in the minors to the pitcher with the greatest combination of pitch movement and control in the history of baseball is a disservice to the young pitcher.

I’m rooting for Hendricks. He could be a solid, cost controlled back end of the rotation piece. But let’s allow him to be that before we start comparing him to one of the greatest pitchers, if not the greatest pitcher, of most of our lifetimes.

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Three Up, Three Down

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

(Through games of 5/1, minimum of 50 PAs for hitters, 20 innings pitched for pitchers)

Three Up

Pierce Johnson, RHP
Age 21, Single A
5 GS, 24.2 IP, 2.92 ERA, 25 Ks, 7 BBs, 0 HRs, 2.39 FIP
9.12 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 0 HR/9

Of the pitchers in the Cubs system, if anyone was going to speed through the organization it was going to be Pierce Johnson. A 2012 draftee with good stuff who fell from a mid-first round grade in the 2012 draft to the sandwich round due to a forearm strain, Johnson has recovered from a rough first start (2.1 IP, 5 ER) to be excellent in his four starts since (22.1 IP, 2 ER). He’s as likely as anyone to get a quick promotion, especially as a college starter who just has not been challenged by Midwest League hitters in 4 of his 5 starts.

Logan Watkins, 2B/Utility
Age 23, Triple A
.279/.436/.465, .901 OPS, 9 XBH
21.8% BB, 24.5% K, .386 BABIP

We’ve discussed Watkins a fair bit heading into the season, but he has more than lived up to his reputation for getting on base in his first crack at the Pacific Coast League. He’s still fitting that role as someone who could either be a replacement for Darwin Barney should the Cubs decide to trade the second baseman, or be a left handed utility hitting utility player. Think a left handed Mark DeRosa, but with better defense and less power.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Age 23, Double A
5 GS, 26 IP, 3.12 ERA, 23 Ks, 8 BBs, 1 HR, 2.85 FIP
7.96 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, 0.35 HR/9

Hendricks was the lesser of the prospects who was traded from Texas for Ryan Dempster. While the larger piece in the Cubs received in that trade, Christian Villanueva, has struggled so far, Hendricks has been very good. Hendricks is a control and command pitcher, with five pitches he can throw for strikes. His fastball tops out around 90, so he’s not the sort of power pitcher with top of the rotation stuff, but he might have enough stuff to go along with the good control to be a solid back end of the rotation option in a year or two.

Three Down

Brett Jackson, OF
Age 24, Triple A
.219/.315/.406, .721 OPS, 6 XBH
9.5% BB, 32.4% K, .316 BABIP

Jackson’s been struggling through some foot injuries, so I’m not yet completely writing him off. But the strikeout rate hasn’t come down at all from last season, and he’s running out of time for that to happen.

Marco Hernandez, SS
Age 20, Single A
.240/.266/.320, .586 OPS, 5 XBH
2.5% BB, 17.7% K, .290 BABIP

Hernandez had a brief stint in Peoria last season before Javier Baez came up, and hit miserably. He’s hitting nearly as poorly this year. The two pluses Hernandez has are that he is still young and can handle shortstop defensively, but he’s going to have to start hitting soon or he won’t be a prospect anymore.

Taiwan Easterling, OF
Age 24, Advanced A
.213/.294/.311, .605 OPS, 4 XBH
10.3% BB, 29.4% K, .300 BABIP

Easterling is an outfielder with a bunch of physical gifts, but as a 24 year old in Advanced A he needs to start turning those gifts into on the field production very soon. Odds are this is the beginning of the end of Easterling’s marginal prospecthood.

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