Prospect Profile: Rob Henkel

When the Tigers shipped starter Mark Redman to the Florida Marlins, they received a trio of pitchers in return. Nate Robertson and Gary Knotts have met expectations, but the final piece (and some would argue the most important of the deal) hasn't been able to appear on the mound enough to be able to judge his future.

Rob Henkel
Position: Left Handed PitcherHeight: 6-2 Weight: 210
Born: 8/3/1978 Bats: Right Throws: Left

A third round pick of the Florida Marlins out of UCLA in 2000, Henkel came to Detroit in the Mark Redman trade of 2003. After getting rocked during his senior year at UCLA, posting a 5.70 ERA, Henkel slipped to the 3rd round. Henkel impressed enough in his professional debut to earn starts at three levels, starting in the Gulf Coast League, and ending his first campaign in the Midwest League. Spending 2002 splitting time between High-A and AA, Henkel only had injuries standing his way to stardom. Continual arm and back trouble has hampered Henkel since his breakthrough 2002 season. In his first season with the Tiger organization, Henkel posted a 3.37 ERA in 16 starts, but missed ample time due to various ailments. It appeared Henkel was healthy heading into the 2004 season, only to see him go down after three lackluster starts with a shoulder injury that prematurely ended his season, and has put his career in doubt.

Scouting Report
There is no doubt that Henkel has some of the best "stuff" of anyone in the Tiger system. He does not possess an overpowering fastball, sitting comfortably in the 88-90 mph range with fair movement, and outstanding control. Henkel makes his money with his devastatingly tight curveball, and solid change-up. Both pitches are plus pitches that he relies on to record outs. When healthy, Rob easily has the best curve in the system. A poised pitcher, who delivers the ball form a deceptive three-quarter angle, which only adds to his overall effectiveness. Injury concerns have plagued Henkel and tempered what used to be top of the rotation stuff. Injuries in college forced him to lose velocity from what used to be a mig-90s heater, and has caused him to back off on his ultra-aggressive style.
























Health Record
Henkel underwent Tommy John surgery while with UCLA, and encountered shoulder problems early in his professional career. His 2003 season with Erie was marred by persistent back spasms and some muscle soreness. Early in the 2004 season, Henkel was shut down again, this time with a torn labrum.

The Future
Rob is likely to miss a large portion of the 2005 season recovering from labrum surgery, and even if he does pitch this year, it's likely to be in the very low minors. Henkel will need to suddenly find some modicum of health to have any chance at a Major League career. The talent is certainly there, thus the reason he is still considered a reasonably valuable prospect. If Henkel can return from his latest injury, and remain healthy for some amount of time, he could quickly make his way to a Major League bullpen. At this point, I don't hold out much hope that Rob will ever pitch effectively again. If his recovery goes well, the 2006 season could be his final shot to prove not just effective, but healthy.

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