This week I wanted to profile and highlight a guy that won’t show up on the prospect lists for a few reasons, but definitely warrants someone to keep a close eye on. Reliever Ryan Hendrix was dominant in 2018 for the Daytona Tortugas. He posted a 1.76 ERA and racked up 12 saves in 44 games pitched. He totaled 51.0 innings, allowed just two home runs, and he struck out 79 batters. The numbers stated above certainly suggest a quality prospect, maybe even a very good one. But, he was also 23-years-old and in Advanced-A, and he struggled with his control at times, too – walking 26 batters in his 51.0 innings.
Control has been the wart on the scouting report for Ryan Hendrix since he was selected out of Texas A&M in the 5th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft. The stuff, however, has always jumped out at you. The managers in the league named his as both the best reliever as well as the pitcher with the best breaking ball in the Florida State League. And while he didn’t get the nod for best fastball, it’s certainly a plus offering in it’s own right and has touched triple-digits.
The stuff is among the best in the system when it comes to a 1-2 pitch offering. As noted, though, the control and ability to throw strikes is what has given him some issues in his career. In his first 24 appearances this season he walked 19 batters with 42 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. Tons of strikeouts, but also tons of walks. But, he worked around the control problems and posted a 1.52 ERA in that span. Still, it didn’t project well forward thanks to a walk rate of 14.8%.
But something changed midway through the year with Daytona for Ryan Hendrix. In the final 20 appearances of the year he walked just seven batters. And he struck out 37. That came in 21.1 innings. He nearly cut his walk rate in half, lowering it from 14.8% to 7.8% from his first 24 games to final 20 games. And he did so while keeping an insanely high strikeout rate. In face, it went up. He struck out 41.1% of opposing hitters in those final 20 games after striking out 32.8% of them in the first 24 games.
We are clearly working with a small sample size with Ryan Hendrix and his 2018 season here. But if the guy that took the mound in those final 20 games is what you can expect to see moving forward, not only is he going to fly through the minor leagues next year, he’s a guy that could be in the Majors in short order. Control will be key, but if he can manage the walk rate, his stuff is going to play no matter what level he’s pitching at.