4. Liam Hendriks, RHP, 23 years old
2011 stats: 12-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 139.1 innings, with 111/21 K/BB for New Britain & Rochester
Last Year's Rank: 6
Acquired: Signed out of Perth, Australia in February 2007.
Fun fact about Liam Hendriks. He has only walked 60 guys in 375.2 minor league innings. That's 1.4 an inning. That's amazing! He's also struck out 343. That's an incredible 5.72 strikeouts per walk. In a system that preaches throwing strikes, Hendriks fits the Twins mold very well. It seems many Twins prospects fit a similar mold. On #6 Adrian Salcedo I wrote, "His other numbers have remained solid, but it is disturbing how much his K rate has dropped. Has he turned into a typical Twins pitcher". On #16 Tom Stuirbergen I wrote, "Stuifbergen always has a really good walk rate (Twins kind of guy) but his strikeout rate plummeted in 2011". On #32 Pat Dean, "He has four pitches including a low 90s fastball and doesn't walk too many guys. He definitely fits the Twins mold of pitching prospects". It isn't hard writing about Twins pitching prospects, many of them have similar abilities. Having said all of the, Hendriks is the best of the bunch and the most major league ready.
The Australian hurler made his debut in the GCL at 18 years of age, striking out 52 and walking 11 in 44 innings. After back surgery derailed his 2008 season, he came back from injury and made the 2009 Australian roster in the World Baseball Classic. After the WBC, he split the season between Elizabethtown and Beloit. He had a decent year with a 3.55 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 83.2 innings. In 2010, Hendriks returned to Beloit and dominated In 6 starts, (34 innings) striking out 39 and walking 4. He also only gave up 16 hits. This earned him a quick promotion to Fort Myers. In 74.2 innings there, he struck out 66 and walked 8. Hendriks was good again in 2011 going 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA with a 81/18 K/BB ratio in 90 innings for New Britain. The remainder of the year he started 9 games for Rochester, striking out 30 and walking 3 in 49.1 innings and he also made his major league debut.
Hendriks has been good at every level in the minors. He strikes out 8 per 9 innings and walks 1. His WHIP is always around 1.1. He is the Twinsiest of the Twins pitching prospects. Hendriks has 4 pitches, but no single dominating pitch. His fastball touches the low 90s and he also has a decent curve and change-up. He did get roughed up in his major league debut. He went 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA with 16/6 K/BB in 4 starts, but he was only 22 with less than a year above AA. He has looked pretty poised in his 2 starts this year but has had trouble sustaining success throughout the games. Hendriks will be counted on a lot this season. He's only 23 and he is going to have to be fine with his pitches to be successful, but his track record suggests he should be able to do it.
Ideal Scenario: Hendriks will probably spend most of the season in the majors due to injuries and ineffective options. He will take some lumps this year, but if he can maximize his abilities and continue to control his walk rate, he could be a middle rotation starter. He may be the de facto ace going into next season with all of the turnover expected in the off-season.
Path to the majors: Hendriks passed Gibson, Wimmers and Bromberg in the pecking order of Twins pitching due to injury and ineffectiveness. He's a major leaguer.
Hendriks seems like a pretty good dude and always has that "what me worry" look on his face, so I will root for him even more. Check out Hendriks prospect adoption on TwinsDaily and check out his "singing" with James Beresford
Check out the rest of the prospects here.