Seedlings to Stars, Fansided’s source for minor league and prospect news, has chosen Twins pitcher Liam Hendriks as the 80th best prospect in baseball. They started with #100, and they’ve been counting down one player per day for the past three weeks. So far, Hendriks is the first player from the Twins system to make the list.
The Australian righty, who was recently named the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second year in a row, was called up to the Twins in September. He made a few starts down the stretch, going 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA. Hendriks is just 22 years old, and he pitched most of the season at AA, so fans shouldn’t read too much into those stats.
His minor league performance is much more positive. Hendriks blew away Eastern League lineups with a 2.70 ERA in 90 innings. He also struck out 81 batters in 90 innings – not bad for a control artist without an overpowering fastball. He was promoted to AAA Rochester for nine starts, and was not nearly as dominant, with a 4-4 record and a 4.56 ERA. But Hendriks is still young, and he was at Low-A Beloit at the beginning of 2010, so he has plenty of time to develop. International League hitters were tough for Hendriks this year, but next year he’ll be more experienced, and he should know a little more about how to attack them.
There’s about a 99.9% chance that Hendriks will start 2011 at Rochester, where he could use about a half season of work before he’s truly ready to be a Major League starter. Of course, it’s a virtual certainty that he’ll end up with the Twins at some point in 2012. The injuiry to Kyle Gibson means that Hendriks is the closest to a Major League-ready starting pitching prospect that the Twins have. In any given season, at least one starting pitcher will suffer an injury, and Hendriks should be the first guy called up to replace him.
Don’t expect Hendriks to ever be an ace, or even a #2 starter. But that’s okay – not every pitcher can be an ace. Hendriks could be a very useful innings eater, something the Twins have had in very short supply lately. His ability to induce ground balls will come in handy if the Twins ever shore up their infield defense, and that could make him a solid #3 guy. This is just a personal opinion, but I think he’ll end up somewhere between Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker. Blackburn had two solid seasons as a full time starter, and I think Hendriks can at least equal that accomplishment. I foresee at least one season in the near future where Hendriks wins at least 12 games, pitches 200 innings, and keeps the ERA under 4.00. He’ll never win a Cy Young, but he should help the team nonetheless.
Make sure you read the Seedlings to Stars writeup of Hendriks. They’ve been doing a pretty good job on each prospect they’ve profiled so far, and unless you’re a minor league expert, you’re guaranteed to learn something new about each one. There’s a new prospect profile every day, and we’ll be following along here if and when any more Twins make the list.