44. Sam Hentges – Left-handed Pitcher
Born: 07/18/1996 – Height: 6’6” – Weight: 245 – Bats: Left – Throws: Left
Facts & Info: Hentges was selected by the Indians in the 4th round of the 2014 Draft out of Mounds View High School (MN) and signed for $700,000. Had he not signed with the Indians he had a commitment to attend and play baseball at the University of Arkansas. He was named the 2013-2014 Gatorade Minnesota Baseball Player of the Year and helped his team win back-to-back state titles in 2013-2014.
Stuff: Hentges is a guy who is exciting just from a physical perspective considering his overall size and strength at just 20 years old – and could still get even bigger. He’s a projection left-hander who has some good stuff and some arm strength, but he is very raw and will need a lot of develop to realize his potential. He has a solid average fastball that sits at 89-92 MPH and touches 94 MPH with the arm strength to add more velocity as he fills out his body and fine tunes his mechanics. His fastball gets a lot of swing and miss and is tough to square up because of how he does a good job of leveraging it on hitters and gets it on a good downward plane with some good movement. His average curveball is his best secondary offering and has the potential to be plus because of his good feel to spin it and the good shape it shows when he is on with it. He also mixes in a developing changeup that is a work in progress as he lacks much experience with it and does not have much confidence in throwing it.
Delivery & Intangibles: Hentges has a really good, powerful delivery with some good, clean arm action and good overall athleticism that allows him to repeat everything well. He creates some deception with how he hides the ball within his delivery and also with the great extension he gets on his delivery which allows him to get on hitters quickly and his stuff to play up. He fields his position well and controls a running game well with a solid pickoff move and a willingness to hold runners. He is a hard worker on and off the field with a desire to get better every day and compete.
Focus: Hentges does not have a lot of experience on the mound as he was a first baseman for most of his high school career before moving to the mound full-time as a senior. Also, as someone who is from a cold weather state, he has not played in as many games as high school kids do in southern states. While the talent is undeniable, he came into the organization extremely raw and as more of a project that they knew would take some time to develop. The Indians have really worked hard on his foundation by getting him acquainted to the routines of a starting pitcher and just the everyday care and maintenance required on the body from a nutritional, mental and physical perspective. He really showed some good strides at the beginning of last season as his velocity was up a little, his curveball was better, his command had improved and he took a few steps forward in the confidence and effectiveness of his changeup. Unfortunately, that progress was halted when he left his start on June 18th with a left elbow strain and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery on July 1st. The focus in the short term for this season will be about getting him healthy and ready to get back on the mound late in the year. The long term focus will still be about more consistently commanding his fastball down in the zone and getting better at locating it to both sides of the plate. Also, to remain a starter, his changeup needs to come along with his command of it, his confidence in it and the depth of it.
Future: Hentges was off to a solid start last season and his very good 10.9 K/9, solid 4.3 BB/9 (for his age) and decent 4.52 FIP show he pitched better than his high 6.12 ERA indicated. It was a big year for him to expand on the foundation he had built the previous year in Arizona and to really begin to solidify his delivery so that he could be more consistent with his outings – and he started to do all of that – but the elbow injury brought all of that to a halt. The injury is a big blow as while many pitchers do come back from it, he is still in his formative years as a professional pitcher and lost half season of development time last year and will likely miss just about all of this season as well. It can be tough for a pitcher to make up that amount of lost development time, especially a raw high school arm like Hentges, so he has a tough road ahead of him. The Indians still believe he has only scratched the surface at what he can truly become and that he is someone who can be an impact arm down the road. While the sky is the limit still for him, the floor is also still pretty low considering how raw he still is and now coming off injury. Unfortunately, the Indians or anyone else really won’t know what kind of prospect they have until he gets back on the mound on a regular basis and with little restrictions which won’t be until the 2018 season, so in the meantime it is just a waiting game on him. He should open the season in extended spring training to continue his rehab and if all is well should make some rehab appearances with rookie Arizona in June or July. If he has gets the all clear to pitch in more meaningful games, he could get some innings at Short-A Mahoning Valley or Low-A Lake County the last few weeks of the season.
Ranking History: #32 (2016), #34 (2015)