Scouting Yankee Prospect #28: Sean Henn

The Yankees inked Sean Henn to a monstrous $1.7 million signing bonus as a draft and follow, after being selected in the 26th round the year before. Despite past injury trouble, Henn still possesses a good fastball. He struggled in 2004 but the Yankees still believe he has a lot to offer. It's these reasons that he's our Yankee's prospect #28.

Vital Statistics
Name: Sean Henn
Position: Pitcher
DOB: April 23, 1981
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Left

Sean Henn was highly sought after by the Yankee organization ever since 1999 when he was drafted by New York, but promptly turned it down in order to continue to play his amateur career at McLennan University. The next season, the Yankees tried again and this time they successfully drafted Henn and gave him a record signing bonus of 1.7 million dollars. He had a stellar college career and was a left handed prize that the Yankees desperately wanted to land. After he was taken into the Yankee organization he was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees where he started 8 games, going 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA while giving up only 26 hits in 42 IP. Despite a very good start to his young Yankee career, the 20 year old lefty ran into elbow problems and doctors gave him the news that he needed to undergo "Tommy John" surgery. "I never felt pain in my elbow," Henn told PinstripesPlus.com. "After a start, the next day, my elbow was swollen. I told the trainer and they sent me for a MRI in Staten Island. The Yankees then sent me to Tampa where in a day or two they took another MRI. All the time I was kept in the dark. My agent Billy Martin Jr. (not related to the Yankee Billy Martin) was calling trying to find out my situation. The first inkling was when I got a call from the agent that signed me saying he heard that I needed surgery. Two weeks later I was in Birmingham, AL getting the procedure. I have to say I wasn't too worried, a lot of pitchers have gone through this procedure before and were the same or better."

In the scheme of things, arm surgery set Henn back nearly a year and a half in his career. However, this didn't demoralize Henn and he came back with vengeance in 2003. For a recipient of "Tommy John" surgery, Henn made a quick return as a result of a hard working and determined attitude. This attitude made a great impression on coaches and scouts, also. He made two rehab appearances in the Gulf Coast League after missing all of 2002 and was then ready to return to Tampa. His star prospect status did not diminish one bit after his extended stint on the DL. His return to Tampa was true to form, as he went 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA and still possessing the good fastball that the Yankees saw when they drafted him.

Despite a more than solid comeback season in 2003, Henn was not so strong in 2004. Perhaps it was the jump to AA for the 23 year old that slowed him down or simply that he simply couldn't get by primarily with his fastball anymore. Henn started the 2004 season with the Trenton Thunder, his first professional season above A ball. Thunder manager Stump Merrill said the most important thing for his young starter is to simply "visit the mound." Henn did that in 2004, making all his scheduled starts with no recurring injury problems. Throughout the year, Henn reported no pain in his surgically repaired elbow or any other part of his body for that matter. But, even though he had no health issues, that doesn't mean he didn't struggle in terms of performance. His numbers were simply OK across the board, but he is going to have to make a few more batters miss to realize the potential he had prior to his surgery three years ago. Henn is still only 23 years old (he turns 24 in April) and has a good chance to make that leap into a good pitching prospect. The hard part is out of the way considering he has shown he's at least fully healed. "My numbers aren't as good as I want it to be, but I answered the bell every start and my #1 goal in ‘04 was to stay healthy and I was," said the 23 year old lefty. Henn could be in the AAA Columbus at the start of the 2005 season. But, there is another interesting scenario for Henn that has recently been proposed by the organization.

The question is, what do you do with a guy with an above average fastball, a developing slider but not much else to go along with it? The Yankees answer to this might spell a move to the bullpen for Sean Henn. But, by no means is this a death sentence to him as a prospect. In fact, it could allow him to get to the big leagues as early as 2005 as a part of the New York Yankee bullpen. Here is what Yankees Pitching Coordinator, Nardi Contreras had to say on the issue in his interview with PinstripesPlus.com. "Henn is an interesting case," says Contreras. "He is going to come back to Tampa in January and we are going to work hard with him exclusively. His slider is going to be something that we're going to work on the most. What the goal is, is to work on him and make him real tough on lefties and possibly be in the big leagues with the Yankees next season. But, a move to the bullpen is a good possibility for him next season. It all depends how our session with him goes in January. If he shows that he can really throw a good slider to go along with a great fastball, he is going to be rough on lefty hitters. We think that he could be someone who could help out in the big league pen. But, if we don't get accomplished what we want in January, he'll probably just head to AAA Columbus to be a starter and get some innings under his belt. But, the idea of him being a lefty out of the pen is an interesting possibility for the organization. And, we're going to explore that possibility in January."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2003 GCL Yankees 1-1 0 8.0 5 1 3 2.25
2003 Tampa Yankees 4-3 0 72.1 69 37 52 3.61
2004 Trenton 6-8 0 163.1 173 63 118 4.41

Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup

Fastball. There is no doubt that Sean Henn has an above average fastball, there is no argument there. However, the reports of him throwing in the upper 90's seemed to have been slightly exaggerated. The fact is, Sean Henn's fastball is reportedly back at full strength. That full strength is around 93-94 MPH and topping out around 96 MPH now and then. But, he does throwing consistently 93-94 MPH, which is hard to come by for a lefty pitcher. Not to mention, Henn has pretty good sink of his fastball. Therefore, he has been getting a lot of ground balls outs.

Other Pitches. Here is where Sean Henn runs into his problems. He has had a difficult time coming up with other pitches to compliment an above average fastball. Over the past season he has spent an extensive amount of time trying to improve his change, but he really has not made a lot of progress in that department. However, he does have a pretty decent slider. The Yankees see that as a possible opening in which to make him into a lefty reliever. So, when he returns to Tampa in January, the coaching staff will be working long and hard to make that into much more of an out pitch.

Pitching. When the Yankees first drafted Sean Henn, they projected him to be much more of a strikeout pitcher. However, with all the time he has spent on the shelf due to injuries, he has not developed a second above average pitch to compliment his fastball. Now, he has begun to throw more sinkers and become more of a ground ball pitcher. He still throws very hard so he can put the ball past a batter when he needs to. Henn is a hard worker, so no one can count him out on anything. He has a strong lower body and he uses his legs a lot in his motion. The Yankees have tried to get him to throw a little more over the top and it has helped him command his pitches better. At this point, he is, in a way, a project because he still shows flashes of total domination and brilliance. However, if the Yankees can harness his raw arm and build it into what they thought it could be is the ultimate question.

Projection. Considering his lack of pitches in his repertoire, it seems far fetched to think that Sean Henn will remain as a starting pitcher. However, his value could be sky high as a left handed relief pitcher. If his January session goes well, we could see him in the Yankee bullpen as early as next season.

ETA. Late 2005. This ETA is quite dependent upon what role Sean Henn takes on in 2005. So, if his January session is a success, the lefty could make the Yankees out of spring training. However, if it doesn't go according to plan, Henn will be part of the 2005 Columbus Clippers rotation. If he performs well there, he could be in for a late season callup to the show.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories