Austin Hendrick's development in 2023 is key to the Reds rebuild

Team Howard outfielder Austin Hendrick (12).
Team Howard outfielder Austin Hendrick (12). / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Hendrick flat-out launched his first hit of the spring during the latter part of the Cincinnati Reds exhibition game against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday afternoon.

Hendrick's first hit of the Cactus League was a two-run big fly that landed on the berm in right-center field and gave his team a 10-7 advantage. Cincinnati would go on to win their fourth consecutive game by a score of 10-9.

The score is meaningless in spring training, but the development of Austin Hendrick in 2023 will be key to the Reds rebuild. Cincinnati cannot afford to swing and miss with another first-round draft pick.

Austin Hendrick's development in 2023 is key to the Reds rebuild.

Austin Hendrick has been somewhat of a punching bag since the Cincinnati Reds took the Pennsylvania high school star in Round 1 of the 2020 MLB Draft. Remember, most high schools and college teams played little to no baseball in 2020, and that years' draft was shortened to just five rounds.

Hendrick was seen as a high-upside pick with plenty of power. Most scouts would have told you that Hendrick was the best power-hitter among all prep prospects in that year's draft, and arguably the best power-hitter in the entire draft.

Hendrick's first professional season could not have gone much worse. The outfielder slashed just .211/.380/.388 in 63 games at Low-A Daytona. In fact, Hendrick's performance was so poorly thought of that he dropped off the map in most scouting circles; you struggled to find his name among the Top 20 prospects in the Reds farm system.

Last season didn't prove to be much better for the former first-round pick. While Hendrick began the season at Low-A Daytona, the Reds did finally promote the slugger to High-A Dayton. Hendrick combined to hit just .217/.306/.433 and struck out 165 times. But, Hendrick did smash 21 homers.

It also seemed like things started to click for Austin Hendrick over the final month or so of the 2022 season. In his last 10 games, Hendrick hit .265 with seven extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, 10 walks, and 12 punch outs.

It's a small sample size, but according to FanGraphs, those final 10 games saw Hendrick post a wRC+ of 184 with a 1.069 OPS and 22.2% walk-rate. That is the type of production that Hendrick can produce when he's locked in.

It is essentially that Austin Hendrick develop into the player that the Cincinnati Reds thought he would be when they took him with the 12th-overall pick in the draft - an athletically-gifted corner outfielder with power and speed.

If the Reds rebuild is to be successful, having a player like Hendrick develop into a regular contributor is key. Cincinnati has yet to receive the production they'd hoped to see from Nick Senzel, but Hunter Greene, Jonathan India, Nick Lodolo, and even Matt McLain all look the part. The Reds need Hendrick to develop into the latter, not the former.

Next. 3 ways to get Christian Encarncaion-Strand on the Reds roster. dark