If health was not at all a concern, Cole Henry would be considered one of, if not THE can’t miss arm in the 2020 Draft. Unfortunately, health is a major factor for the 45th-best prospect according to MLB.com. LSU’s Draft-eligible sophomore pieced together an excellent freshman year in the SEC before injuries derailed his collegiate career. Henry was drafted in the 38th round in 2018 by the Detroit Tigers. However, this year Henry will be looking to go in the first couple of rounds.
RHP Cole Henry has the definition of a live arm when at its best. Back in his senior year of high school Perfect Game graded him with a FB Velocity of 94. The fastball gained 14 MPH after first being recorded by them. These days he consistently throws the heater between 90-94 MPH with movement. He has a quality pitch variety for a 20-year-old with a curveball (55) in the 70s that scouts have graded highly. For a velocity guy, the changeup (50) also has some potential in the mid-80s.
His success in minimal time at the collegiate level is one of the most attractive parts of Henry’s resume. After posting a 3.39 ERA in 58.1 innings with 72 strikeouts his 11.1 SO/9 was enough to earn an All-SEC Freshman spot in 2019. An elbow injury cut his season short, but he came back in a shortened 2020 with phenomenal numbers. Posting a 1.89 ERA over 19 innings with 23 strikeouts and an improved WHIP at 1.105.
You can’t back down from stating the obvious, the health is a major concern here. Henry’s most recent injury came in the super regionals of 2019 against Florida State. A median nerve problem in his throwing arm forced an early exit for the Tigers’ star pitcher. After experiencing elbow soreness earlier in the year, the team gave him the summer off in 2019. Combine this all with a stress reaction in his upper arm in the fall of 2018 and there is reason to be concerned with his history.
Now, there are positives to look at in terms of his health. Despite the shortened season, his small sample size in 2020 was very encouraging after the way he left the super regionals. Another glass-half-full view of Henry could be that the cancelled college season could be just the rest he needs to fully recover.
Back in high school, Cole Henry received some criticism about his mechanics due to the movement. He did a commendable job of adjusting these and his control in Baton Rouge to ease scouts. His frame and now much smoother delivery reminds me quite a bit of fellow LSU alum Kevin Gausman. Both pitchers are 6’4″ with lanky builds and throw fastballs in the mid-90s.
Gausman was drafted fourth overall to the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. This could have been the same story for Henry if not for the injury history. They are known for the same off-speed pitches in college with quality changeups and plus curveballs. While he now throws a splitter and slider, the changeup is still a key part of Gausman’s repertoire.
While it has not exactly panned out for his MLB comp the way he’d like it to as a fourth overall pick, Henry has the potential to blossom. As long as he is able to stay healthy, his rare combination of velocity and control will play at any level. With Cole Henry, teams are looking at a lively 20-year-old arm with college experience which is rare in the 2020 Draft. He projects as a solid, middle to the back-end of the rotation righty with the potential to be a lot more.
Embed from Getty Images