After being a 1st round selection in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, Austin Hendrick had to wait until May of 2021 to make his professional debut due to the cancelled 2020 season. The first week didn’t go well for the outfielder as he went 1-14 with four walks and eight strikeouts for the Low-A Daytona Tortugas. But starting on May 12th he went 3-4 with 2 doubles and a walk, kicking off a 6-game hitting streak that included five doubles and eight walks. As hot as he got in that second week, he cooled off just as quickly, going 1-10 over the next four games, but he would find himself on the injured list with a groin strain for the next three weeks.

When he returned on June 13th he slumped hard. Over the next five weeks he played in 18 games and went 8-61 (.131) with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts. He did pick up his first home run on the 17th and added a second one on July 2nd.

On July 20th Daytona began a series against Fort Myers and Austin Hendrick put up four 2-hit games and hit two homers in the five games he played. He kept on hitting for the next three weeks, culminating the hot stretch with a 4-4 game that included a double and a home run against Jupiter on August 12th. But from the 13th through the end of his season on the 31st he played in 12 games and had hits in just four of them, going 5-41 with 23 strikeouts.

Austin Hendrick Stats

For all 2021 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).

Austin Hendrick Scouting Report

Position: Outfield | B/T: L/L

Height: 6′ 0″ | Weight: 195 lbs | Acquired: 1st round (2020)

Born: June 15, 2001

Hitting | It’s a below-average hit tool and one that players lower right now due to the inability to make contact.

Power | Plus raw power is there thanks to elite bat speed.

Speed | Hendrick is a fringe-average runner now who might lose a step as he matures into his 20’s.

Defense |  He’s a solid defender in right field and should have no issues remaining there long term.

Arm | He’s got an above-average to plus arm.

The strikeouts. There are far, far, far too many of them. Austin Hendrick struck out 38% of the time he stepped to the plate in 2021. The problem wasn’t so much a lack of understanding the strikezone as much as it was simply making contact. That can be both good and bad. On the good side he’s drawing a ton of walks because he does know what a ball and a strike is and can see it early enough to lay off of it. On the bad side when you know the strikezone well and still struggle to put the bat on the ball it leaves open a lot of questions about just how much improvement you can make to make more contact.

One of the big things brought up when talking with scouts who saw Hendrick play this year, and even as a high schooler, is the uppercut in his swing that leaves the barrel of his bat in the zone only for a short period of time. Leveling out the swing a little bit could lead to more contact and more likelihood of being able to use the hit and power tools more frequently in games.

In order to reach the big leagues, Hendrick is going to need to make a lot more contact than he made in 2021. He, along with the other hitters that came through Daytona in 2021 were at a bit of a disadvantage compared to anyone else in the minors. The league utilized the automated strikezone during the season, but Daytona’s home ballpark was the one spot in the league that didn’t have it. So the Tortugas dealt with home games where an umpire called the zone and then road games where the zone was automated. The two zones are not the same. Then there was the change in the automated zone midseason after getting feedback from the players in the league that made the zone wider, but shorter. Three different zones during the season probably helped no one.

The upside for Hendrick remains high. If he can make the needed adjustments that leads to more contact, he’s got a chance to be a 30 home run, quality defensive right fielder that you can hit somewhere in the middle of the order. But the downside is that he never makes enough contact and doesn’t reach the majors. There’s a lot of in-between with those outcomes, but the contact issues in his debut are very concerning and historically not something that tends to be overcome when they are at this level.

Austin Hendrick Spray Chart

Austin Hendrick Spray Chart

Interesting Stat on Austin Hendrick

During the week (Tuesday through Friday), Austin Hendrick hit .272/.418/.507 in 170 plate appearances. On the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) he hit .096/.313/.164 in 96 plate appearances.

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21 Responses

  1. Tom

    He likely needs a lot of reps and a lot of coaching support. Still a young guy with a bright future. Not eager to see him pushed through the system just because he’s a 1st rounder.

    • MK

      Agree, really think he should have played at Complex League team to begin with. Hope they let him repeat Low A next year.

  2. Stock

    I think it is that predicts he will be the Reds #1 prospect this time next year.

    I agree with Doug in that reducing K’s are normally not something you see often. That is why I have Jay Allen ranked ahead of Elly De La Cruz. But Hendrick may be an exception. Usually when you have a high K% it comes with a low BB% (see Elly De La Cruz). But in Hendrick’s case the problem isn’t that he is a free swinger (see 19.2% BB%). From reading this post Hendrick’s problem is he has a bad swing plane. This is an easy adjustment. Players do it all the time. J.D. Martinez was the first player I remember doing this. His offensive WAR went from -10.1 in 2013 to +28 in 2014. Christian Yelich did it. Many others have since J.D. had success. I could see the Reds working with Hendrick this winter and him being a new player come April.

    In short this does not appear to be a hit tool problem most players with a high K% have but rather a need to correct the swing plane. If this adjustment has been made this winter I would start him in Dayton in 2022 and watch him blossom into a star.

    • Optimist

      Some interesting issues at play here. 1 – I’ll defer to the experts (any HS coaches or former college players?) as to how fixable the swing plane is – it seems obvious and basic that this is something professionals would deal with efficiently, as your examples detail, but is that so? 2 – as to the eyesight issue, the huge disparity between his average/K% and his OBP indicates, as Doug note, he clearly sees the strike zone just fine. But as Doc notes below, is the issue myopia and ability to follow breaks? The question, though, is shouldn’t the scouting/FO evaluation staff had all the physical records available to determine if that is also a correctable issue? Is there a Dr. in the room when the #1 pick is made?

      Again – 2 issues that take a bit more sophistication to address than simply choosing which bad reliever to bring in for the bottom of the seventh.

  3. Old Big Ed

    I was skeptical of Hendrick from the first picture that I saw of him, because he wears glasses. It may be harsh, but hitting at the MLB level is the ultimate test of hand-eye coordination. Bad eyes are a big handicap, especially at pitch identification. Jim Rice at age 25 had a staggering 406 total bases in 1978, but by age 34 he was washed up with bad eyesight. (In the 48 seasons from 1949 to 1996, Henry Aaron’s 400 TB in 1959 was the only other 400+ season.)

    There are some corrective measures to be taken, and I’m sure the Reds and Hendrick are doing so, but he isn’t ever going to be able to see like Ted Williams or Joey Votto.

    I hope that I am wrong and that swing-plane adjustments will address the strikeout issue.

      • Old Big Ed

        Jim Rice always wore them. Like glasses, they don’t correct sufficiently to give a person elite vision.

  4. Doc

    The problem with glasses is that the greater the myopia correction the more what you see gets flattened. I was a severe myopic and I could read a putting green much better with my feet than with my eyes. Contacts revealed slopes I had never seen, and subsequent vision correction surgery helped even more. One would expect to see this affect his splits against various pitches depending on the amount of break. My baseball playing career ended at 13 when Pitchers started throwing breaking balls, but the flattening effect of the glasses didn’t allow me to see break. At least in golf the ball wasn’t curving until after I had hit it! My myopia was a severe case; without glasses I could not distinguish individual fingers at the end of my arm, nor any toes on my feet in the shower. If I could see something at 20 feet, a person with normal 20/20 vision could see it at 1,400 ft, or a bit over a quarter of a mile away.

    I don’t buy the strike zone difference excuse unless the stats clearly show home/away splits to be far more favorable for away games in Hendricks case, or league-wide for all hitters at Daytona versus at all other parks. Without an automated strike zone you have a different strike zone with every umpire and every game and you don’t see the same umpire enough to learn each individual umpire’s zone. That is multiplied when you are moving from level to level and what you learned about umpires at one level doesn’t help that much when the umpires are different at the next level. In Hendrick’s case, for half of the games he was seeing the same strike zone, or two at most but still just one before the adjustment and a different one after the adjustment. The zone would be the same for each game of a road series and each road series was the same as each other road series.

    I think going from automated strike zones in the minors with all the uniformity would be a bigger hindrance when reaching an upper level where there was no automated strike zone and suddenly you are trying to hit against the whims of individual umpires, especially those like Angel Hernandez who don’t know the strike themselves, nor remember the one they called the last time they were behind the plate.

    • MK

      It’s funny I was teaching a class on sports history to a Senior Citizens group and there were several people who were very casual baseball fans and they all knew the name Angel Hernandez and what a lousy umpire he is.

  5. IndyRedsFan

    Doug and all,

    The “Interesting Stat” caught my eye.

    I didn’t go back to look at the schedule to see when the games were played, but I’m wondering if the “weekday/weekend” splits are really “day/night” splits.

    It would seem that more weekend games would be played during the daytime. I’m wondering if he’s having trouble seeing the ball at night.

  6. donny

    This kid reminds me so much of another player who was also known for his quick swing and power out of high school who won the home run derby contest in Chicago’s Wrigley field and he was from a high school in the city of Cleveland .

    You guy’s know who I am talking about ?

    He is immediately who I thought of when the Reds drafted him .

    Wait for it .

    Derek Dietrich.

    • donny

      I remember being so disappointed with this pick as the reds passed on some good high school pitching prospects.

      He so so so much reminds me of Derek Dietrich , small and about the same size left handed hitter known for quick swing and power out of high school .

  7. MBS

    McLain, Siani, Cerda, Johnson, De La Cruz, Hendrick, Allen, Almonte, Confidan, Valdez

    That’s 10 guys (in no particular order) who got enough skills to be penciled into the 2024 OF, it will be exciting to see how it plays out. I think at least one of the SS listed above will be our CF, unless they move Barrero over there this year.

    • donny

      As of now, for me I would cross of Siani and Hendrick of that list of hopefuls .

  8. MK

    Wondering, with the lockout putting a stop to major league activity, could a team sign a top free agent to a minor league contract with invitation to Spring Training with minor league dollar amounts but the big dollars if he makes the big league roster?

    • Optimist

      And an insurance policy in the same big dollar amount to cover an injury/release in the interim? Sounds like a plan . . .

    • Doug Gray

      No. The players you would do that for are already “40 man” guys, even if they aren’t technically on a 40-man roster right now. They are a part of the MLBPA and locked out.

  9. RedsGettingBetter

    I think Hendrick was a candidate for playing in last AFL , I wonder why he was not selected by the Reds and be sent to Arizona. If this guy makes the adjustments to hit the ball frequently will be a elite player… Hopefully the technical staff will work on it with him…

    • BK

      We don’t typically see “Low A” players in the AFL as it would be a pretty big step up in competition for him.