Reds optimistic about prospect Hendrick

January 4th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Since he became a pro player, Reds outfield prospect Austin Hendrick has been trying to catch up to where his development should be.

Ranked No. 4 in the organization by MLB Pipeline, Hendrick was taken 12th overall in the 2020 Draft out of West Allegheny High School near Pittsburgh but had no senior high school season to speak of because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He spent his first pro summer at Cincinnati’s alternate training site.

“Probably more than anyone in our organization, he was punished the most for COVID,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said. “He was a high school kid from the Northeast. He was getting limited at-bats, anyway, compared to other guys. He loses a whole year because of COVID, shows up.

“We sent him to the alternate site, but he was such a young kid. There were no real games. He went to instructional league and had very limited games. Really, he never had a Rookie [level] season.”

At the Reds’ alternate training site, the majority of players were at the Double-A level and higher.

Back among players closer to his own age during his 2021 season at Low-A Daytona, the 20-year-old Hendrick struggled. He batted .211 with a .767 OPS, seven home runs and 29 RBIs in 63 games. He missed the final month with a left wrist sprain.

One glaring number: Hendrick’s 100 strikeouts over only 266 plate appearances, which means he went down on strikes 38% of the time. On the plus side, he had a .380 on-base percentage while drawing 51 walks.

When the Reds selected Hendrick, the left-handed hitter was viewed as having the best raw power of the Draft class. The club liked his quick hands and bat speed. One poor season hasn’t soured the organization on his potential.

Defensively, Hendrick played most of his games for Daytona in right field. He was a center fielder in high school.

“His first entrée to pro ball was a full season when you count the league he was in,” Pender said. “I’m not surprised that he struggled a little bit more than any of us expected. We’re very hopeful we’ll see a significant change this year once he gets himself comfortable again.”

The plan is to have Hendrick repeat at Daytona to open the 2022 season.

“He should have been in a Rookie-ball scenario the year before, and this transition to the Florida State League would have been easier,” Pender said. “We didn’t have that, so he’s just a little click behind. I think this will be a big year for him to catch up. The goal would be, start him where he was before and give him a chance to have a better start because he’s comfortable with the scenario and see how it plays out.”