keyboard_arrow_uptop

For those diehards who religiously follow the minor leagues, devouring the wonderful BP top-10 prospect lists and Monday Ten Packs, we’re always cautioned to be careful of player comps. Such comps place unrealistic expectations on player development and don’t allow for minor leaguers to carve out their own niche. They categorize and label guys in a way that’s not always productive and is sometimes unfair.

I do believe statistical comps can be useful for fresh-faced major leaguers, though, in terms of fantasy baseball. Minor-league scouting reports paint a picture of what a player could become if everything clicks; however, it’s always important to take a step back from the painting and consider where it fits in the larger fantasy landscape. That is to say, statistically, what type of player could [Player X] become and what does that look like for fantasy owners.

I’ve been thinking about Kyle Hendricks this week, ever since Woody emailed me following last week’s article on Pineda and asked me to delve into the Cubs’ right-hander’s fantasy value. He tiptoed onto the scene last season. Hendricks posted a 2.46 ERA in 80 1/3 innings (13 starts) and even chipped in seven wins. That all sounds great until one realizes that he’s throwing 88-89 mph with a mid-80s cutter and high-70s secondary pitches. Furthermore, his 5.27 K/9 strikeout rate isn’t skyrocketing his draft stock.

So, what could he become? We’ll look at it in today’s installation of The Buyer’s Guide.

Going forward, if you want to have three minutes of fame like Woody and have us look at a specific player’s fantasy value, you have three options: (1) drop a line in the comments, (2) email me via the button below, or (3) tweet me at @JP_Breen. Each week, I’ll select one of our recommendations and feature him in this space. We’ll determine if fantasy owners should buy, hold, or sell that specific player.

Anyway, enough housekeeping. Let’s do this.

*****

Hendricks throws in the upper-80s with a sinker and heavily relies on a mid-80s cutter to work the corners. The velocities don’t match up perfectly and it’s largely a statistical comp, but Kyle Hendricks could reasonably be classified as a Mark Buehrle type pitcher.

Pitcher

FB%

CT%

CB%

CH%

Kyle Hendricks

60.14

13.64

7.87

18.36

Mark Buehrle

48.69

15.74

13.37

22.20

As the above chart illustrates, the comp isn’t just about velocity. Hendricks and Buehrle have similar pitch distributions and rely on their cutter to a similar amount. Buehrle has honed his secondary offerings to the point that he was able to throw his curve and change over a third of the time, but it seems clear to me that Hendricks is a Buehrle-esque type of pitcher—at least, in terms of his pitch mix, his velocity, and his K:BB ratios.

One of the main differences stems from that better changeup and curveball from Buehrle, which allows Buehrle to better neutralize opposite-handed hitting. The veteran has a 2.62 K:BB against lefties and a 2.58 K:BB against righties. Compare that to the 9.00 K:BB versus righties for Hendricks and a 1.67 K:BB against lefties. Thus, the Cubs’ hurler has been able to feast on righties with his sinker/cutter combo. The work against lefties hasn’t really followed suit—and his strikeout rate drops to 4.82 K/9 against lefties.

In that way, it seems easy to suggest that Hendricks is not currently to the level of Buehrle in his development or maturity. He shouldn’t be. I’m not sure comping anyone to Buehrle in terms of prolonged success or career path is even productive, but statistically, in terms of what Hendricks could be if he continues to develop, Buehrle seems to be a solid comp.

So, what does a control-and-finesse pitcher like Buehrle bring to a fantasy landscape that features dozens of flame-throwing, high-strikeout pitchers who can utterly dominate over an extended stretch? After all, Buehrle posted a 3.39 ERA with 13 wins and a 3.66 FIP. He was better than league-average in terms of run prevention.

Unfortunately, Buehrle was still outside the top 75 starters a year ago. In the 2013 season, he was the 93rd-ranked fantasy starter. He tossed over 200 innings in each of those campaigns, won double-digit games, and saw his ultimate value depend on his BABIP and home-run rate. Unless Hendricks vastly improves his strikeout rate or can sustain an abnormally low BABIP with a batted-ball mix that mirrors Buehrle’s, I don’t see Hendricks being able to annually threaten the top-75 fantasy starters. His arsenal, his philosophy on the mound, nor his statistical profile appear to support a guy who will consistently warrant drafting in 10- or 12-team mixed leagues.

BUYER’S ADVICE: Sell

This isn’t to suggest I think Hendricks cannot be a successful major-league pitcher. If he continues to develop his changeup and his curveball, he could carve out a career as a useful back-end starter. That’s simply more valuable in real life to the Chicago Cubs than it is to fantasy owners who are chasing fantasy championships. Perhaps there’s a Cubs fan who believes Hendricks is a legit number three or a rebuilding squad in your dynasty league who covets younger players. Sell while people are intrigued by an unknown quantity. A couple months into the 2015 season, I’m not so sure they will be anymore.

Peruse previous articles:

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
qwik3457bb
3/24
I have Hendricks at $4 in a dinosaur 4x4 Rotisseries, 13-team NL only league. Should I still look to sell? Will he not return $4 in value?
matty24
3/24
Thoughts on Shane Greene perhaps.