Name: Sean Henn
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: April 23, 1981
The Yankees gave Sean Henn one of the largest signing bonuses ever given to a draft-and-follow in 2001 after being selected in the 26th round in the 2000 MLB Draft. Plagued by injury problems in his career, Henn finally moved to his seemingly destined role - the bullpen.
Whether it was missing the entire 2002 season with left elbow surgery, or making two DL appearances apiece in 2003 and 2005 with injuries to the left arm, or missing over two months of the 2006 campaign with a groin injury, Henn has lost significant development time in his career.
"From the time the season started until now I think I have taken a few steps back because I missed a lot of time to work on things," Henn told PinstripesPlus.com. "It's been disappointing, not in the [moving to the] bullpen sense, but because of me spending 63 days on the disabled list. That didn't help out at all."
Mainly a two-pitch hurler throughout his career, his injuries and subsequent lost development time had not allowed Henn to improve the necessary third pitch to become a quality starter - his changeup.
"I feel good and I think I really started to figure things out before they moved me to the bullpen," said the 25-year old. "It's a little different but it's what they want me to do."
"I think it's still the fastball," he said of his best pitch, "but my changeup has definitely come a long way, basically from not having one, to it being a pretty big weapon for me. In the bullpen [though], the slider is what's really going to help me out."
Even though he had made finally made good progress with his changeup in Columbus last season, the Yankees decided to move him to the bullpen in early July after he spent two months on the disabled list and the switch appears to be a permanent one.
"I would assume from here on out I am going to be in the bullpen," said Henn. "I have to be comfortable with my role in the bullpen because that is what it's going to take [to be a big leaguer]."
Considering he missed a big chunk of the 2006 season, and in an effort to get him more acclimated to his new role, the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League as a reliever to get some work in that capacity.
"I think it's going to be pretty good for me," Henn told PinstripesPlus.com prior to his stint in the AFL. "I think it's going to be good to get some innings, but more importantly, to gain added experience coming out of the bullpen, whether it's with guys on base or not."
While the results weren't great - 3-1 with a 7.43 ERA in nine relief appearances - the trip more than served its purpose after he nearly matched his number of regular season relief appearances (12).
Now figuring to be a mainstay in the bullpen Henn knows what it will take to become the top-notch reliever most scouts believe he can become.
"I would say the whole thing in general, whether it's being more consistent with my fastball, or my slider," Henn said of the thing he needs to work on the most now that he has been moved to the bullpen permanently. "My slider's the big thing; it's the weakest right now just because I worked so hard on my changeup in Spring Training and throughout the year when I was a starter."
"I think it's come along, but now in the bullpen, I think the slider's going to be the best pitch for me."
Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Henn's fastball is a true plus pitch. He not only sits comfortably in the 92-94 MPH range, bringing it as high as 96 MPH at times, he gets tremendous sinking action with his heater. He lives in the lower half of the strike zone with his fastball and it's the primary reason why he is very adept at keeping the ball in the yard. The other part of the smart move to the bullpen is Henn may be able to rediscover his higher velocity from his younger days. Once able to reach the high-90's, now that he will only be throwing an inning or two per appearance, he could rear back and let loose a little more rather than saving himself for more innings as a starter.
Other Pitches. The frustrating part for Henn moving to the bullpen must be seemingly scrapping the advancements he made with his changeup. Once considered a below average pitch for him, he made significant progress with it and it became a pretty reliable pitch for him. It should still be a good weapon for him though against tough right-handed batters. But now in the bullpen for good, Henn can make better use of his slider, which can be downright devastating for left-handed batters. It wasn't a true plus pitch this past season however as he was primarily working on his changeup. But as was the case with his changeup, he worked very hard to make it a reliable weapon and it can be a plus pitch at times.
Pitching. In some regard, Henn has developed into a left-handed reliever version of Chien-Ming Wang. He primarily uses heavy sinking fastballs in the lower half of plate to become a pronounced ground ball pitcher and it has allowed him to prevent home runs. He gave up just one home run in 2006 and he had nearly twice as many ground ball outs as fly outs. His slider allows him to neutralize left-handed batters and his changeup can be very effective against right-handed batters.
Projection. We've been saying for over three years that Henn projects better as a left-handed setup man than a starter. With left-handed starters at a premium, you can't blame the Yankees for trying to keep him in the rotation, but the combination of injuries and limited repertoire were too much to ignore. His plus fastball should allow him to be a solid left-handed setup man - also a premium position at the big league level - especially if he can further develop the consistency of his slider.