Another year has gone by and now it’s time to profile the guys most likely to break out in 2015. Last year was a “meh” year for me, going 3/6 if you’re being generous. Abiatal Avelino got hurt in the midst of his breakout season, Brad Lail definitely broke out, and Caleb Smith made it to High-A and was successful. I was clearly wrong about Brandon Thomas, Rookie Davis, and Cito Culver. Picking breakout players is a tough gig, although in 2013 I hit on four out of six educated guesses. These are players who are not yet bigtime prospects, the most difficult to predict of all prospects.
This year’s version will include some old names and some new names. The first player that made the list for breakout players is Ty Hensley. Poor Ty has had a rough go of it due to several injuries, but he made it all the way back last year, and finally appears to be fully healthy heading into 2015
Draft: 30th pick in the 2012 MLB draft out of Edmond Santa Fe High School in Oklahoma
Ty Hensley has had difficult path so far in his short career. Immediately after the draft his health was called into question when there was an MRI abnormality found in his pitching arm. Still no one knows the significance of this, but the bottom line is that the shoulder has not been the cause of his injury problems yet.
He managed just 12 innings in his first year in the program, striking out 14 with a 3.00 ERA before succumbing to his first injury, which was an oblique injury. It turned out this oblique injury was a sign of more serious hip problems, requiring several surgeries and keeping him out the entire 2013 season.
He finally got back to health about midway through 2014, and was back on the mound late in the year to throw 30.2 innings while striking out 40 and walking just 11 in the GCL and Staten Island. He managed a 2.93 ERA to go with all of that. These stats come with the caveat that he was actually not yet back to full strength, hitting the low 90’s with his fastball. This is all good news considering he has a good chance to return to full strength next season.
He has come a long way to this point, and his character has been tested many times. Each time he has passed with flying colors. He is a hard worker and he has fought back from every injury and surgery to get back to where he is today.
The fastball still has good velocity, especially considering how much time he has missed. In fact, I would say there is potential to add more given his size. When he was drafted, he would sit 92-94 and pump 96-97 occasionally. This season, he sat more 90-93. His fastball has good late movement to it, making it a difficult pitch for batters to hit. On top of that, after his surgery he has been able to have more fluid mechanics and use his legs more in his delivery. This could allow him to add even more velocity later on as he is able to derive more power from his lower body.
Hensley’s real calling card, however, is his plus curveball. Scouts who saw him in Staten Island this year saw a 12 to 6 power curveball, as noted by Aaron Fitt. His third pitch is a changeup which is still a work in progress.
His control was one of the major reasons he slipped in the draft to the Yankees, but this is yet another problem that may be resolved by the new and improved range of motion after the surgery to relieve his hip impingement. So far, the results have been encouraging in a limited sample size.
In 2015, Hensley should start in Charleston. He will look to build up his arm strength and innings. Most importantly he will look to stay healthy. This has the potential to be a huge breakout season for Hensley, as his injuries have allowed him to fly under the radar so far in his career. Having a full offseason which is not rehab focused should only help his cause. He should come to Spring Training ready to fire some bullets, and hopefully learn that changeup.
With a good season in 2015, provided that the stuff is back, Hensley should easily crack the top 10 in the Yankees’ system next season, maybe even the top five. He could put himself in the discussion for the top 100 prospects in all of baseball if he develops that third pitch.
Ty will start the season in Charleston, and if he shows the improvement the Yankees have shown they are willing to move players fast. I could see him finishing the season in High-A Tampa. He’s definitely a guy to watch out for this year and he’s one of the guys who could take this system to the next level with a big year in 2015.
Ceiling: #1-2 starter
Floor: Late inning reliever