A draft-eligible sophomore at Louisiana State University (LSU), Cole Henry made four starts for the Tigers, going (2-1) with a 1.89 ERA, six walks (2.84 BB/9), 23 Ks (10.98 K/9), and a .231 BAA in 19 innings pitched before the coronavirus pandemic ended the 2020 season in mid-March.
Going into the 2020 MLB Draft, the 20-year-old right-hander was ranked 45th overall by the MLB Pipeline scouts, who noted that Henry missed time as a freshman while dealing with a stress reaction in his upper arm and sore right elbow, raising health concerns for a pitcher who did, however, already possess, “three solid to plus pitches,” had showed improved mechanics as a sophomore, and projected as a, “durable mid-rotation starter,” provided he could, “prove he can stay on the mound.”
After he was selected 55th overall by the Washington Nationals in last week’s draft, Henry talked about the mechanical changes he made to try to avoid the injury issues which kept him off the mound as a freshman at LSU.
He still managed to put up solid numbers in his freshman year though, with a 3.39 ERA, 18 walks (2.78 BB/9), 72 Ks (11.10 K/9), and a .226 BAA in 14 games, 11 starts, and 58 1⁄3 IP.
“Last year, I kind of battled some injuries throughout the season, and once I was about 3⁄4 of the way through the season, I came home for the weekend and me and my dad kind of sat down and thought about what’s making these injuries occur,” Henry explained.
Henry’s dad, a one-time prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system, worked with his son to try to fix his mechanics so he could stay on the mound.
“And so we talked to a couple of our good friends,” Cole said. “And some guys that are really knowledgeable with pitching deliveries and certain mechanics of pitchers, so we started reaching out to people and just trying to figure out what in my delivery is putting all the pressure on my arm to cause these injuries or whatever it may be.
“We started going to work and found out that my arm was actually really long, and was kind of dragging behind me in my delivery so we went straight to work, started working on just trying to shorten up my arm path a little bit, trying to take some stress off my arm, and it worked out great for me.
The changes he made, Henry explained, allowed him to stay healthy in the lead-up to the 2020 Draft, though the coronavirus pandemic ended up keeping him off the mound after four starts this year.
“Really haven’t had any issues with my arm,” he said.
“Was able to pitch throughout the Fall and into the Spring, until the season got cancelled, and then I threw all throughout quarantine and up until now. So, it’s been a great change and I’m glad I did it.”
Though he had some first-round buzz going into the Draft, The Athletic’s Keith Law noted, Henry fell to the Nationals on Day 2, “... possibly on concerns about his durability after he missed some time with elbow soreness.”
“He shows an above-average curveball and 50/55 fastball from a high-effort delivery,” Law wrote. “He could be a back-end starter, with considerable reliever risk.”
Nationals’ Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline was excited that Henry fell to the Nats at No. 55 overall in the 2nd Round.
“The Friday night starter at LSU,” Kline said.
“Really good delivery. Command guy, big fastball that touches 97. He’s got life down in the zone. He shows the makings of a plus curveball. For Cole I think he has the ability to spin it, he needs to learn how to commit to each one. And I feel it could be an above-average pitch. The changeup is above-average now.
“It’s just a solid overall package. I see him as a quality No. 3 with the potential to be a [No. 2 starter].”
Though Kline seemed to enjoy his time in the Tigers’ rotation, and has remaining eligibility, he did say he planned to sign on with the Nationals, with a slot value of $1,307,000, he will have plenty of motivation as far as turning pro rather than returning to college.
“Obviously LSU is one of the best programs in the country and I was really blessed to be able to play there and compete in one of the best conferences in the nation,” Henry said.
“Obviously it’s a big deal to be the guy for LSU and Louisiana,” he added.
“That’s kind of their professional baseball team. There’s no professional baseball team in Louisiana and so that’s everybody’s biggest baseball team and they’re there in full force every single time we play.
“It’s pressure-filled and it’s awesome and I’m really grateful for my couple of years there at LSU.”
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind of emotion right now,” he said, “but I think my plan is to sign.”