All of you know that I'm a big fan of Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. The 25-year-old righthander, acquired from the Rangers in the Ryan Dempster deal in 2012, blew through the Cubs minor-league system, posting great numbers at every level except Triple-A, oddly enough. Hendricks actually pitched better in the major leagues in 2014 than he did at Iowa; his 2.46 ERA and 1.083 WHIP in 13 big-league starts got him some Rookie of the Year votes (he finished seventh).
Hendricks' best attribute is his ability to throw strikes and command the zone to get hitters out even though he doesn't have outstanding velocity. The 15 walks in 80⅓ innings and the WHIP noted above pretty much matches what he did in the minors (1.072 WHIP). Dartmouth-educated, Hendricks is an intelligent guy who is continually studying to try to improve his game.
He's never going to be a big strikeout guy; the 47 K's last year produced a K/9 rate of 5.3, which isn't great for a starting pitcher in the big leagues. On the other hand, if he continues to get people out with that K rate, what difference does it make as long as he's throwing strikes? With the low walk rate (1.7 per nine innings), he's not allowing a lot of baserunners and thus can go deep into games. He averaged more than six innings per start and went six or more in nine of his 13 starts. In fact, that probably would have been 10 of 13, except he was pulled after two innings due to a three-hour rain delay in this game against the Orioles.
The key to Hendricks' success this year is going to be how he handles the second or third time around the league. Teams haven't seen him enough yet to get a "book" on him, but they will. After that it'll be up to him to make adjustments. His intelligence ought to help him do that.
Best of all, with the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester, Hendricks doesn't have to be anything close to a top-of-the-rotation starter. He currently slots fourth, behind Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel. I'd say Hendricks is perfectly suited to be a No. 4 guy in anyone's rotation. I'll be rooting hard for him to succeed, this year and beyond.
And if he does, that'll be an excellent return on a deadline trade.