Baseball Prospectus has concluded it’s extremely interesting “Top Tools” series, which looked at prospects throughout baseball with some of the best individual tools. Cubs prospects showed up in force throughout the series, including Power, Makeup, Infield Defense, and Outfield Defense.
If you notice something missing, it’s probably something you expected: all of those tools belong to position players. Of course the pitching-bereft Cubs system has no top pitching tools.
Actually! Yes, the Cubs have a pitching prospect with one of the top pitching tools in all of the minors: Kyle Hendricks.
The 24-year-old righty, whom the Cubs picked up from the Rangers in 2012, has the best command in the minors, according to Baseball Prospectus. On the top man, Hendricks:
It’s difficult to find minor-league pitchers with true command, a skill that comes with experience and polish, but Hendricks has it in spades. Hendricks displays exceptional command of his entire arsenal, particularly his fastball, which he moves around the zone with ease. His knack for hitting spots and even moving the ball outside of the strike zone at will has enabled him to become a more highly regarded prospect than his raw stuff would suggest, and it might be enough to carry him to the big leagues.
More than just the ability to throw strikes, command is more like the ability to throw all of your pitches where you want to throw them when you want to throw them. It should be no surprise, then, that the top all-time command tool goes to Greg Maddux. (That doesn’t mean you should start comparing Hendricks to Maddux, who had better natural stuff and had already reached the big leagues by the time he was 20. Maddux is among the best five pitchers in baseball history. Just let that be.)
Hendricks figures to head to AAA this year after being the Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2013, posting a 2.00 ERA over 166.1 innings split between AA and AAA, with a very nice 3.76 K/BB ratio. Although he doesn’t project to be a stud in the big leagues, most believe he does have a big league future, even if only at the back of the rotation. Having superlative command, as BP indicates he has, can only help.