“The Friday night starter at LSU,” Kris Kline said in offering his own scouting report on Cole Henry, the hard-throwing right-handed pitcher the Washington Nationals drafted with their second round pick in the 2020 Draft.
“Really good delivery,” Kline continued.
“Command guy, big fastball that touches 97. He’s got life down in the zone. He shows the makings of a plus curveball.”
That breaking ball, the Nationals’ Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops said, was still on the come as of June of 2020 when the club selected Henry with the 55th overall pick of the draft.
“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].”
Henry went into the 2020 MLB Draft ranked 45th overall by the MLB Pipeline scouts, who’d noted that he missed time as a freshman at Louisiana State University while dealing with a stress reaction in his upper arm and a sore right elbow, raising health concerns for a pitcher who did, however, the scouting report read, already possess, “three solid to plus pitches,” had shown improved mechanics as a sophomore, and still projected as a, “... durable mid-rotation starter,” provided he could, “prove he can stay on the mound.”
After he was selected by the Nationals, Henry talked with reporters about some mechanical changes he made to try to avoid further injury issues after they kept him off the mound as a freshman.
“Last year, I kind of battled some injuries throughout the season,” Henry explained, “... 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.”
His father, a one-time prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system, had some ideas and friends they turned to for advice.
“We talked to a couple of our good friends,” Henry explained, “... 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.”
A draft-eligible sophomore in 2020, Henry made four starts for the Tigers, going (2-1) with a 1.89 ERA, six walks (2.84 BB/9), 23 strikeouts (10.98 K/9), and a .231 BAA in 19 innings before the coronavirus pandemic ended the season in mid-March.
He was limited by injuries in his first pro season in 2021 as well, unfortunately, but finished strong, with a combined 2.30 ERA, 12 walks, and 70 Ks in 11 games, 10 starts, and 47 IP between High-A and the Florida Complex League.
Henry was out of action for, “an 11-week span from May to August with elbow inflammation,” Fangraphs.com’s scouts wrote this week, in ranking the Nationals’ right-hander at No. 82 on their top 100 prospects list for 2022, but he, “put up a 38.7% strikeout rate in High-A in 2021 against 6.7% walks,” and, “when he did come back in August, he looked every bit as deadly as he had in the earlier part of the season.”
“He has been outstanding here, with his two-seam and four-seam fastballs,” former farm director and current Assistant GM, Player Personnel, Mark Scialabba told Federal Baseball from Arizona in early November, where Henry went to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and get some extra work since he had a limited amount during the season.
“His curveball has taken a new shape since he came back from his injury,” Scialabba added. “His changeup is his go-to pitch; it has good sink and fade to it. He is a fiery competitor and leaves it all out there.”
The take on Henry from Fangraphs.com’s scouts?:
“His two-seamer sat in the mid-90s, while his four-seamer was a notch faster at 95-98 mph and tunneled with a low-80s changeup with enough arm-side fade to inspire goofy swings from both sides of the plate. His arm action is still long and violent, and his head whack causes his hat to fly off so frequently we wonder if he’s angling for a shampoo endorsement. But Head and Shoulders aside, he’s improved his command over all of his offerings [and] 2022 will be an important test of his ability to stay healthy, and if he does, he could be ready for a rapid climb through the system.”
Two other Nationals’ prospects made it on Fangraphs’ Top 100 for 2022. Guess which two? Check out the full list of the Top 100 through the link below: