Name: Kyle Hendricks
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: December 7, 1989
Acquired: 2011 Amateur Draft, 8th round
The Texas Rangers dipped into the Ivy League for their eighth-round pick in last year's draft, selecting Dartmouth right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks was drafted after a strong junior campaign with the Big Green, logging complete-game efforts in four of his nine starts. He posted a 2.47 ERA while striking out 70 and walking only 11 in 62 innings.
While any Ivy League product in professional baseball often garners at least some attention due to his educational background, Hendricks began to make a name for himself on the mound with a good debut last summer. The hurler made 20 relief appearances at short-season Spokane and posted a 1.93 ERA. In 32.2 innings, he yielded only 20 hits, walked four, and struck out 36.
"I enjoyed my first season a lot," Hendricks said. "I got lucky to be picked by such a good organization, with Texas. . .I learned a lot about pitching. I thought I knew a lot, but I learned so much that I didn't know. Just being around all those guys really helped my personal game."
After Spokane failed to qualify for the playoffs, the Rangers rewarded Hendricks' strong debut by sending him to Double-A Frisco for a spot start on the final day of the regular season.
With only a couple months of professional experience under his belt, Hendricks was caught off-guard by the news.
"I was definitely surprised, being called up to Double-A like that to make that start," he said. "I was really excited. To be honest, I wasn't even very nervous. I had a lot of confidence because I had been throwing well and all my pitches had been working down in Spokane."
Hendricks held his own against the Midland Rockhounds in the start. He worked three innings of one-run ball, scattering four hits, walking two, and fanning two.
"I was on a pitch count going in," he said. "They were a little low on pitching, and they were going into the playoffs. It was actually the last game of the regular season, so they wanted to get a few innings out of me to save the arms of the other guys going into the playoffs. So I just tried to do what I could on the pitch count that I had."
In addition to making the one start, Hendricks was able to spend a couple weeks with the RoughRiders, including the final week of the regular season and the Texas League playoffs. The 22-year-old says he used the experience to pick the minds of the more experienced prospects.
"I just tried talking to a lot of them and tried to learn a lot," Hendricks said. "They really helped me out. Just the maturity level was the biggest thing I noticed. Like you said, there were a lot of young guys in Spokane. All the guys in Double-A––they're developed and they know what's expected of them and their job. I definitely learned a lot just from being in the clubhouse atmosphere up there."
Hendricks capped off his first pro season by spending a month at fall instructional league, pitching mostly in the advanced instructs games. He impressed the Rangers' player development staff with his advanced command of multiple pitches.
While Hendricks was satisfied with his performance at instructs, he was more focused on making improvements to his mechanics and slider rather than worrying about results.
"Going into instructs, the coaches tell you, ‘This isn't about stats," he said. "Nobody is out there keeping track of the game. Instructs is purely to work on specific parts of your game that you need to work on.'
"The biggest thing I was working on––there were a few mechanical things that I was working on with some of my pitching coaches. But also my slider. I'm trying to develop my slider into more of an out pitch kind of."
The California native already has good velocity and an advanced changeup, but he says his breaking ball still has room for development.
"I would have a tendency to kind of cast (the slider) almost," he said. "I would kind of hook it behind my head instead of throwing it out in front."
Hendricks entered the Rangers' organization as a four-pitch hurler, using both a slider and a curveball. He still plans to use his curve on occasion but realizes the slider has more potential to miss bats.
"I'm still throwing both the curve and the slider, but I'm trying to develop the slider more," he said. "My curveball is a little bit loopy, so I'm trying to use it to steal a strike in the beginning of a count or something.
"So I kind of need to develop more of a strikeout or a put-away pitch, and that's what I'm trying to work on with the slider. I worked on that a lot at instructs."
Although Hendricks had some success in his lone Double-A outing, it's unlikely that he'll begin his first full season with Frisco. As a relatively advanced college product, the prospect figures to compete for a job between Single-A Hickory and High-A Myrtle Beach in spring training.
Hendricks has the repertoire and command to work as a starting pitcher––especially at the lower levels––but a stacked crop of arms in the Rangers' system puts his role up in the air. The righty says he doesn't know about his role, and for now, he's just preparing for the rigors of a full professional season.
"I don't really know," Hendricks said of whether he'll start or relieve in 2012. "I'm just getting ready to go into spring training. I'm trying to be in shape and just go from there and see what they say."
Also See: Q&A with Rangers 8th rd pick Kyle Hendricks (June 10, 2011)
Tweeting Rangers Instructs (October 2, 2011)
Texas Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: Hendricks throws plenty of strikes with an 88-94 mph fastball that sits around 89-92. He touched 93-94 with some regularity at instructs and got up to 95 at times in college. He controls the fastball well and projects for plus command with more seasoning. The negative on Hendricks' heater is that it lacks movement, making his command of the pitch all the more important. Overall, his fastball is about a solid-average offering.
Other Pitches: When working as a starting pitcher, Hendricks relies on his advanced changeup––a pitch with some sink and deception created by good arm action and velocity separation from his fastball. He didn't use it very often when working in short relief in Spokane but relied on it more during his Double-A spot-start and at instructs. Hendricks' slider is currently a usable third pitch for the time being, though he'll have to tighten the break and throw it harder as he develops in order to stick in a starting role. He mixes in the occasional get-me-over curveball as a fourth offering when starting.
Projection: Hendricks earns high marks from the organization for his intelligence and the feel for pitching that he showed during his first stint in pro ball. The 22-year-old already has a good fastball and changeup, though he'll need to refine his slider as he climbs the organizational ladder. While his ceiling isn't off the charts, Hendricks has the feel to maximize his stuff. He's a relatively polished arm who could move through the system's lower levels quickly.
2012 Outlook: The Rangers are loaded with talented arms at the lower levels of the system, and that puts both Hendricks' destination and role to begin the 2012 season in question. With the deep repertoire and advanced command necessary to start, Hendricks could get innings in sort of a tandem role this season––though that's completely speculative. He'll most likely enter spring training battling for a spot at either Single-A Hickory or High-A Myrtle Beach. As mentioned, he's relatively polished and shouldn't need more than one full season at the A-ball levels.
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