For Reds' top pick Hendrick, 'it's just a start'

June 11th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- As with so many high school seniors, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Pennsylvania baseball star Austin Hendrick from celebrating some big milestones the normal way. There was no senior season of baseball or even a regular graduation ceremony.

But on Wednesday evening, Hendrick was able to enjoy a thrill that no strange times could damper. He celebrated at home with his family upon being the 12th overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft by the Reds.

“It was an awesome moment,” Hendrick said. “It's something you work for. For me, it's just a start. I'm ready to get out there and prove what I can do.”

An 18-year-old left-handed hitter and thrower, Hendrick is a 6-foot 195-pounder that was picked out of West Allegheny High School (Imperial, Pa.), just outside of Pittsburgh. Although he played center field, he was taken as a right fielder. Hendrick is committed to Mississippi State.

The slot bonus value of pick No. 12 is $4,366,400.

Despite no season this spring, the Reds had plenty of opportunities to see Hendrick play over the past two years. During the 2019 East Coast Pro Showcase, two of his coaches -- J.R. Reynolds and Tyler Gibbons -- were scouts for Cincinnati.

Scouting supervisor Jeff Brookens followed Hendrick’s progress – including his winning the Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field during the All-America Game festivities, one of the premier events of the annual baseball showcase circuit. Scouting reports have been high on his bat speed and potential power.

"Jeff is a veteran scout, a little bit of an older school guy who typically doesn’t stand up and really push for high school kids. When he does, you want to pay attention,” said Reds director of amateur scouting director Brad Meador. “He signed Chris Heisey. He signed Devin Mesoraco. He’s been around for a long time. He knows what he is looking at. He knows what it takes. He knows the makeup. He knew the family. He knew where the kid came from.

"Put all of that together and it makes it easier to take a kid like that.”

Only two players picked before Hendrick were high schoolers, and the Reds had him higher than No. 12 on their board.

“We just really liked what he could be and what his potential is,” said Reds general manager Nick Krall. “We just felt comfortable that, look, ‘This isn’t about what you did right now. It’s about what you can become.' We think he can become a solid Major League player.”

“From a physical standpoint, you feel like he’s ready to go compete right now,” Meador added. “He doesn’t need to add a bunch of weight or get a lot stronger to be able to compete and move fairly quickly. We think it’s an advanced bat.”

Last summer, as he played in the different showcase games, Hendrick made a change to his swing and approach. He eliminated a toe tap, which helped increase his bat speed some more.

“He was working on it while facing some pretty good competition and still succeeded and was able to incorporate that,” said Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams. “I think this year, had he played more than the one game and people had seen him, he would’ve been right up there at the top of everybody’s board in terms of potential.”

Hendrick’s goal was to simplify his approach and get the barrel on the ball more often.

“I was very happy with what happened,” he said. “Over this whole pandemic, that's what we've been working on, just simplifying, and so right now I honestly feel like it's better than it was this summer. I'm very happy with that and will keep working on that.”

Hendrick – who grew up cheering for former Reds star Ken Griffey Jr. as one of his favorite players – had a Draft celebration limited to a few family members, much like his recent graduation.

“They took five families, five kids at a time, they called us in [the gym] and we got our picture with our cap and gown,” Hendrick said. “They did it really nice, the best they can.”