How’s this for some fun news to start your day?
Last night, AAA starter Kyle Hendricks was pulled after just two innings of work for Iowa. Rather than being a terrifying moment, however, it looked like something good was going down – Hendricks was seen getting hugs, high fives, back-slaps, etc. from teammates and coaches. Were it just hugs, you’d think about a trade. But the high fives and back-slaps suggest only one thing: promotion.
Having recently dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the Cubs certainly have the rotation space to promote Hendricks, 24, and give him a shot. Further, because the Cubs filled only one of the vacated 40-man roster spots (Dan Straily), there’s an open 40-man spot for Hendricks to take. Adding to the smoke, Jesse Rogers hears from a source that Hendricks is going to start for the Cubs on Wednesday or Thursday this week. Tsuyoshi Wada is expected to also be called up to start on Tuesday.
Among the Cubs’ deep stable of back-of-the-rotation AAA types – Wada, Dallas Beeler, Eric Jokisch, Chris Rusin, Hendricks – Hendricks is generally viewed as the one with the most upside. Baseball Prospectus tabbed Hendricks before the season as the pitching prospect with the best command – in all of the minors – and the righty was the organization’s pitcher of the year last year. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he can throw a wide array of pitches for strikes, and locates well. Most believe Hendricks has a big league future, either at the back of a rotation or middle/long relief. Still, he’s a legit prospect, typically falling in the 10 to 20 range in the Cubs’ (stacked) system.
Reports this year have him adding a couple MPH to his fastball, though I’ve heard from folks who’ve watched him that he loses a bit of his signature command when he amps up the velocity. Hendricks usually sits in the low-90s, but, suffice it to say – if he could add a well-spotted 93/94 mph fastball to his repertoire, we’d suddenly be talking about front-of-the-rotation upside, not back.
On the year, Hendricks sports a 3.58 ERA (despite a .317 BABIP (well above his career norm) and a 66.4% LOB rate (well below his career norm) and a 3.17 FIP. He’s struck out 93 in 100.2 innings, while walking just 23 (4 of which were intentional). Even in the PCL, he’s not giving up many homers – just 5 in those 100.2 innings.
All in all, I’d be very excited to see Hendricks this week. If the Cubs bring him up, they clearly believe he’s got a shot to be a long-term piece, and they feel it’s developmentally appropriate to start giving him time now. Wouldn’t it be nice to know, going into the offseason, what kind of guy we think Hendricks can be in 2015? And also to get his feet wet for a half-season this year so that he’s really ready to go next year?
The more I talk about it, the more stoked I am. I didn’t expect this move, primarily because the Cubs already had Dallas Beeler on the 40-man (and he got the first, successful cup of coffee last time around), but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with it. This is a fantastic move, and says a lot about how highly the organization regards Hendricks.
One final point: For those quick to point out one of my favorite things to say about these kinds of roster moves – why give him the 40-man spot now and eat up that spot for the entire Winter? – that is inapplicable here. Hendricks was going to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, meaning that the Cubs were going to have to place him on the 40-man roster anyway. Whether that occurs this week or in November doesn’t really matter.