Kyle Hendricks is probably going to be the fifth starter for the Cubs come the end of Spring, but nothing is guaranteed.
At Cubs.com, Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses Hendricks’ good start to the spring and chances of making the rotation, but doesn’t commit to the young righty as the Cubs final piece of the rotation.
Despite finishing last season with 3.4 WAR and a 3.25 xFIP over 180 innings, Hendricks is still technically battling for his spot with guys like Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Travis Wood, and Clayton Richard.
But so far, he’s done everything he can to secure that spot and Joe Maddon has taken notice. In his first three outings of the Spring, Hendricks has combined to throw nine innings, giving up just one run on five hits with one walk and eleven strikeouts.
[adinserter block=”1″]Although the total package has been encouraging (health, velocity, stuff and results), it is the strikeouts that have been something of a revelation. Hendricks has never never a typical strikeout style pitcher, but he turned that around in 2015. Across his 32 healthy starts at the major league level last season, Hendricks struck out more batters (22.6%) than he did throughout his minor league career (21.3%). It was his excellent change-up (his only real plus offering) that did most of the damage, and it reportedly looks strong once again this Spring.
In all likelihood, Hendricks will be the fifth guy, behind Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel, but consistency will be his ticket in the majors, and that’s something he is working on right now:
If Hendricks can learn to pitch consistently throughout the entire season and extend each outing by just a little bit, he’ll have the chance to explode into the next tier of starting pitchers. He was never ticketed as a 4.0+ win pitcher, but it looks he can reach that level if he continues his breakout into 2016.
The first step, of course, will be winning a spot in the rotation.