Tonight, the second player acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Danny Valencia will make his debut with the Kansas City Royals. Liam Hendriks, who was brought to the Royals along with Erik Kratz, has been called up to take the place of Yordano Ventura for tonight’s outing, as Ventura is dealing with back stiffness. As Hendriks was likely to be recalled in September anyway, he has just arrived a couple of days earlier.
The question is, what can the Royals expect from Hendriks tonight? He has been dominant in the minors, posting a combined 12-2 record with a 2.45 ERA and a 0.963 WHiP between the Buffalo Bisons and the Omaha Storm Chasers. This continues his ability to perform well in the minor leagues, where Hendriks has a career 2.89 ERA and a 1.079 WHiP, striking out 613 batters against 116 walks in 723.2 minor league innings.
That success has not translated to the majors. While Liam Hendriks has looked like one of the better minor leaguers, he has been mediocre at best at the major league level, posting a 3-13 record with a 6.06 ERA and a 1.559 WHiP. Could it be that Hendriks is simply one of those AAAA players, too good for the minor leagues but not capable of performing at the major league level?
As it turns out, Hendriks may not be as bad as his numbers would indicate. According to FanGraphs, Hendriks would have a 4.65 xFIP, nearly a run and a half lower than his actual ERA. Hendriks has also seen a 15% of his fly balls leave the yard, which is a fairly high amount. To compare, the major league average for 2014 is 10.16%. Could it be that Hendriks just needed a change of scenery?
While Liam Hendriks may not be the dominant pitcher that he has looked like in the minor leagues, he could still end up being serviceable for the Royals. Moving to the spacious Kauffman Stadium, and having perhaps the best outfield defense in the game behind him, may do wonders for Hendriks’ performance. Even if it is for a couple of starts to rest either Ventura or Danny Duffy, Hendriks may end up being a better pitcher than how he had performed in the past.
Liam Hendriks is not likely to make much of an impact on the Royals postseason hopes. However, if he performs well, then he may be setting himself up for a role with the Royals in 2015, perhaps in the Bruce Chen long relief slot.