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Four months ago no one was even mentioning the name of Kyle Hendricks (not to be confused with Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies). But now everyone is interested in the rookie that is 5-1 with a 1.48 ERA through seven starts. Obviously Hendricks isn't going to keep up that pace, so how much regression should we expect from this right handed hurler?
24 years old
6'3”, 190 lbs.
Drafted in the 8th round in the 2011 Entry Draft.
2011: Spent time at Single and Double-A (one outing at a higher level). Made 21 appearances, one of which was a start, as he went 2-2 with three saves. In 35.2 innings Hendricks posted a 2.02 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, struck out more batters than innings pitched and posted an impressive 6.33 K/BB ratio.
2012: Spent the season at High-A ball. In 25 outings, 24 of them as starters, Hendricks posted a 2.99 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 147.2 innings. His strikeout rate fell to 7.5 per nine but he continued not to issue free passes as his K/BB ratio stayed stupendous (6.83).
2013: Made 27 starts, 21 at Double-A and six at Triple-A, covering a career best 166.1 innings. Going 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He had another impressive season. Unfortunately his strikeout rate continued to regress down to a below average numbers of 6.9 per nine innings. Only issues 34 walks in 27 innings but his K/BB ratio dipped to 3.76.
2014: Worked the bump 17 times at Triple-A going 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 102.2 innings. His strikeout rate returned, 8.5 per nine, but he posted the worst walk rate of his minor league career (2.0).
Hendricks has made seven starts with the Cubs.
He's gone 5-1.
His ERA is 1.66, his WHIP 0.97.
He's not walking anyone with a 2.03 per nine mark, but the strikeouts are M.I.A (5.36 per nine).
As I noted many times above, the guy just doesn't walk batters. That's always a trait that the Oracle is a fan of. Don't beat thyself should be a motto all pitchers follow. Nothing but positive there. Kendricks does throw a slider and curve ball to keep batters on edge, and as noted he's strong in the control game (on the 20-80 scouting scale you might see him with a mark of 70). But what about the fastball...?
Some issues here. Hendricks used to hit 92-93 mph when he was in college. Where has that velocity gone? Through seven big league starts his average fastball is 88 mph. Lose the velocity, lose the strikeouts. Pretty obvious that's a huge issue here. When facing lower level competition early in his pro career he was a K per inning arm. As he moved up the chain the strikeouts started to disappear. He did rediscover a bit of that this season at Triple-A, but that simply hasn't continued in the bigs with a K/9 mark that is 5.36. That's literally two batters off the big league average. It's a terrible number. It's not just the strikeouts that are a concern, but the 7.7 percent swinging strike rate he's sporting is also a bit below the league average. His 83 percent contact rate is a bit above the league average, nothing great mind you though. Pretty average stuff there. Basically let's just say this – based upon what he has shown with the Cubs to this point doesn't lead me to believe the strikeouts are coming.
What about the ground ball then, something he will likely need if he's not striking batters out? Why yes he does do a good job there. Through 48.2 innings Hendricks has a 50 percent ground ball rate. That number was a tad higher at 52.5 percent during his minor league days. The sink he gets on his pitches, fastball in particular, should allow him to continue to generate copious amounts of grounders. Think more like Charlie Morton than Jake Arrieta though.
So what's the big concern with Hendricks? Follow me here.
(1) His K/9 rate is two batters below the league average.
(2) His BABIP is .232. We all know by now that a mark like though likely isn't sustainable (.290-300 is the big league average).
(3) Despite a league average 19.7 percent line drive rate big league hitters are batting .202 against him. He simply doesn't have the pure “stuff” to sustain a mark that low.
(4) His left on base percentage, and the big league average is about 70-72 percent, is massive at 87.1 percent. No pitcher in baseball can last a full season at that level (the best mark in baseball this year is 83.9 percent from Masahiro Tanaka). Even if Hendricks had a mark of 77.1 percent that would be an impressive season (only 22 starters in baseball are at 77 percent).
(5) SIERA (4.02) and xFIP (3.85) tell the truth, or at least get us closer to it. Those two measures say that Hendricks should literally have a mark that is more than two runs higher than his actual ERA of 1.66. That should make you plenty nervous if you're counting on Hendricks down the stretch.
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PLAYING TIME CONSIDERATIONS
He tossed 166.1 innings last season. He's currently at 151.1. He shouldn't have an innings pitched limit and will remain in the Cubs' rotation the rest of the way baring injury or catastrophic failure.
10 team lg: Can always use a streaking player in this thin format, but without the strikeouts he's far less effective than he is in deeper leagues.
12 team lg: The strikeouts are an issue here, or the lack thereof, when the runs start crossing the plate. Given that you picked him up for nothing off waivers there's no issue to continue rolling this guy out there at the moment. Expect a slowdown. You read the report, right?
15 team lg: The lack of punchouts aren't as big an issue here. The lack of elite level skills, however, are. He's been a huge addition off waivers to help teams drive to a championship, but it's highly dubious that his final starts will match the first seven.
NL-only: Ride away cowboy but note that long term Hendricks is way more likely to be a 5th starter in the big leagues than the #2 he looks like right now.