POTD Steven Hensley

BaseballHQ's minor league fanalytic can be ordered here.  It might be even better than their major-league Forecaster.  Not sure I've seen a better source, for the material it covers.  Infallibility isn't the bar; the bar is Baseball America, and IMHO, Minor League Baseball Analyst clears the bar by quite a ways.


=== 7C Steven Hensley, SP ===

7C being, as you know by now, a 50% chance at becoming an average major-league pitcher.  That's a lot of chance of doing a lot in professional baseball.  Indeed, they project him as a #4 starter or a middle reliever.

Gordon and Deloney have Hensley's estimated Safeco arrival time as ... wait for it ... 2010.

Huh.  In 2008 Hensley had some elbow problems; in 2009, he was healthy, resulting in the following rollercoaster season:

  • Started in low class A, fired 20 shutout innings with no walks!
  • Promoted to AA, got rocked in 3 starts
  • Demoted to high class A hitter's paradise High Desert, settled in as a rotation star

At High Desert, Hensley started 20 games, essentially fanning 9 per game, walked 2, and kept homers well under control for the conditions.

He was called up to Tacoma at the end of the year, not appearing in a game, but lending some credence to BaseballHQ's prediction that he'll be a Mariner in 2010.


=== Toolbox ===

The essentials, per HQ:

  • Tall, aggressive, high 3/4 arm slot, throws downhill (sinks his weight and gets extra angle on the pitch - DrD)
  • 87-93 fastball gets "extra dive and sink"
  • 81-84 slider is a swing-and-miss pitch
  • When he does not get on top of the ball, pitches lose their life
  • Changeup is quality and change-curve is developing

Hensley, despite his rep for throwing downhill with a diving fastball, isn't a groundball pitcher.


=== Flashes ===

This article by Baseball America featured Hensley as 'one of baseball's hottest prospects' in July.

They pointed out that in July, if you gave Hensley one mulligan, then in 5 consecutive* starts he went 4-0, 1.75 with 40 strikeouts and 4 walks in 36 innings.  That's the kind of edited stat we used to run on Randy Johnson before he jelled.


=== Comps ===

Many pitchers fit the template described above.  Among many SP's with downhill FBs and swing-and-miss sliders was Black Jack McDowell.  Black Jack had Hensley's body type, lanky but not thin.  I couldn't find any vid on Hensley, but FWIW, the pic above shows an approach not dissimilar to McDowell's, too.

McDowell's key to maximizing his toolbox was outstanding command of the sinking 92 fastball, along with the swing-and-miss slider.  McDowell was a 20-game winner type for several years, before getting booked and slowly drifting into mediocrity.

Which is offered as sort of the best-case scenario in the template.


Dr D


200tang's picture

Glad to see someone reference BaseballHQ.  I just got their Baseball Forecaster & Minor League Analyst in the mail in the last week along with a subscription to the site.  Besides that though, great writeup :)


Interesting that we get some fellow HQ junkies trafficking by.  Good to see you Tang.
Wonder what HQ's subscription base is :- )

M's Watcher's picture

Hmmm, shows how little I know of our minor league pitching prospects.  Not even on my radar.  Wouldn't we all love a Black Jack clone in our rotation.  He seems a bit green to make the rotation out of ST, and I wouldn't expect they give him a spot in the pen either.  He's one I'll be looking for when I check out a few games down there next month.  If he's thought to debut in 2010, then more reasonably might expect to see him starting in Tacoma.


And as far as the 2010, am sure that HQ is thinking that if Hensley gets a look in Safeco it will be after a strong season in AA/AAA at some point when the M's need a little reinforcement, to get Hensley's feet wet, a la Randy Messenger's dropin last year.  Messenger of course being a journeyman, but y'know.


Hensley bandwagon picking up more passengers!
One of the things I discovered (and this applies to Robles, too) is that the High Desert playoff run is not included in the regular-season stats.
So Hensley's run looks pretty nice, but you have to add his two playoff appearances:
9/12/09 -- 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K
9/17/09 -- 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
If you do that, his run looks pretty darn dominant -- effectively a repeat of what he did in low-A at the start of the year.  So he had two stretches of wiping out the opposition without walking (hardly) anyone.

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