Tale of Two Prospects
Thursday night I invited myself to the Triple A debut of Kyle Hendricks. He was neither exciting nor disappointing. He is a pair of blue jeans, not a tuxedo. He is a home cooked meal, not a night on the town. He is someone we could get used to.
The highly touted are said to have electric stuff and mound presence. Hendricks’ repertoire is manually operated and he is not imposing. Maybe it works to his advantage that he strikes no fear. Subconsciously, maybe hitters’ guards come down and, next thing they know, they’ve been TKO’d by the middleweight standing opposite them.
Hendricks is things like workmanlike, efficient and methodical. Unlike so many with perhaps livelier arms he appears in command of his arsenal and to pitch with a plan.
Thursday night he was the 18th man to bat in the game and the first to reach base when he drew a walk and later scored the game’s first run. He almost robotically retired the first 12 Fresno hitters before a hit, a Mike Olt error and a barely nicked batsman resulted in the only unearned blemish against him in the run column.
As an aside, Hendricks’ opposite number, the aptly named Mitch Lively, threw a quality start in defeat, and went about his business more a la Mark Fidrych than Kyle Hendricks. Most of the time he threw from what amounted to a stretch whereby, as he came set he’d pull his hands around behind his hip as though keeping the ball away from someone trying to grab it from him. But every once in a while he’d launch into a full-blown, old school windmill windup, rearing back with both arms sometimes once, sometimes twice or more before coming home. He was funner than Hendricks to watch but, as mentioned, he was also the losing pitcher when all was said and done.
Hendricks might last, like a good pair of boots.
And then there’s Jake Arrieta.
He’s listed only an inch taller than Hendricks but, pitching the game right after him, he seems bigger, maybe because he’s heavier; stouter through the buns and thighs. On top of that he throws noticeably harder. Hendricks touched the low 90’s; Arrieta sits at 94/95.
Where Hendricks looks and feels dependable, if unspectacular, just about anything might happen with Arrieta and just about everything has. In his two best I-Cub starts combined he’s thrown 11 innings, allowing five hits, one run and fanning 20. In his three poorest, including last night, the totals are 12, 22, 13 (nine earned) and nine.
He breezed through the first last night with two swinging strikeouts. But he was gone before he retired anyone in the top of the 4th having allowed six hits, all singles, and walking as many (three) as he’d whiffed. Nobody hit anything hard off of him, he just stopped getting people out. He walked the pitcher leading off an inning, for chrissakes. How I hate when that happens. Kyle Hendricks would never do such a thing!
Arrieta reminds you of the old axiom about the kid with the million dollar arm and the ten cent head. So we’ll see about him. If he pans out the Feldman deal really starts to glow. The upside is way high. The downside is way low. Somewhere in between, steadily, is Hendricks.
Two asides from last night’s action: Denny McClain was on hand for some reason and they mingled him in with all of the birthday kids and civic hotshots tossing ceremonial first pitches. Ye gods, man! The poor old bastard, looking fat and mottled, wobbled out to the mound, drew in on the grass, and lollipopped one that barely managed to cover the remaining distance to the plate on the fly. Anyone there not old enough to remember when he was racking up 30 wins and 350+ innings per season must have had a hard time believing that this broken down shell was ever capable of such things.
The other thing I noticed as the players took the field and came to attention for the anthem was that the I-Cub outfielders numbered 2-5-3 from left to right. When’s the last time you saw a team deploy an all-single digited outfield? Struck me as unusual...
Man, this team makes you greedy. Going into Pittsburgh -- with Cole vs. Hammel Game 1 -- I was hoping for 2 out of 3. After winning the first 2 games 14-3, I now want a sweep. Same thing happened in STL. Very, very fun.
Repeating myself, but I give Maddon a lot of credit for Baez's success. Instead of talking about monster HRs and high K totals, he has talked up his defense, versatility and being a "special" player. The kid seems to have responded.
BOB: The attendance has taken a big hit since you left.
K-DUB: I think the Cubs might consider skipping Dylan Cease past South Bend and starting him at Myrtle Beach next season, especially if he gets some time at South Bend this season and pitches well there. As a southern kid with TJS history, pitching at Myrtle Beach in April is probably a lot more attractive than pitching in South Bend, but Cease can't go to Myrtle Beach if he isn't ready for Hi-A.
His story makes him someone I completely root for to succeed but it's interesting that he's not succeeding in the way anyone thought when he was just a prospect. Great defense and contact instead of power. I think failing so glaringly and getting sent back down might have been the best thing for him and his ego.
He still swings at too many balls out of the strike zone but he's making a lot more contact on them which I think is helped by the less violent swing. So we might not get all the HRs we were expecting but I'll gladly take what he's giving.
"KingKongVsGodzilla"? So - was there a winner?
Baez is looking like a pretty special player.
Love checking TCR for your writeups. Quick question - any of these 2015 positional IFAs stand out to you yet? I'm most specifically referring to Kwon, Sierra, Paredes, and Amaya, but I know there's a couple other guys from that class in EXST as well.
bored...looking at stats for the hell of it...
felix pena (26yo) moving to the pen in AAA is looking like an insanely good fit so far in a smallish sample size
13ip 4h 3bb 20K
remembering back to spring training he was regularly hitting mid-90s (though he didn't have a good spring stats-wise). as a starter in the minors he usually worked low-90s.
this could be an arm worth keeping an eye on even if he's only a 1-inning guy who was "demoted" to the pen to start the year.
Phil, historically this front office has been patient with their prep pitchers keeping their IP low and moving them one level at a time. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, and you may not be able to formulate an opinion on this, but you've seen a lot of pitchers over the years, so...
also, after tonight's loss, STL is 13-14.
also also, the wsox are 19-8.
Win tomorrow, and the Cubs would have a 6-game lead. On May 4.
Fully agree on Addy -- hope he is our SS for a long time. I'm just surprised he has 4 errors already -- the last 2 on routine plays.
Guess how many Carlos Correa has?
I would still rather have Russell, right now, than any shortstop the team has had in many years. The future is bright enough to wear shades.
EDIT: Gonzo WOULD have been my favorite, 'cepting a certain error of a double-play ball...
Hi Phil, made it home tonight safely. Looks like Cease is getting better each outing. I see Crow did ok today too. I will be reading your write_ups everyday. Great seeing you while there!
tomorrow's game is a 12:35pm EST game for some ungodly stupid reason...then it's back to wrigley field for a night game on the 5th.