In 2020 when the Cincinnati Reds drafted Austin Hendrick 12th overall, he was considered the best high school bat in the draft. With the ability to hit, and hit for power, the West Allegheny High School prospect seemed destined to be a big-time prospect for years to come.
Unfortunately for Henrick and the Reds, his career in the minors has been less than ideal. In fact, for some fans, they may have forgotten about the once standout prospect all together.
The year Hendrick was drafted, there was no minor league season due to the coronavirus. His first taste of professional baseball would come the following spring of 2021 in Low-A Daytona.
Reds prospect Austin Hendrick is quietly having a bounce-back season.
During the 2021 season, Austin Hendrick struggled mightily. Only hitting .211, he was still able to produce a 119 wRC+, per FanGraphs, due in part to his 16 doubles and seven home runs.
The downside that season, would prove to be the downside of his minor league career so far - the inability to stop striking out. Currently in his third season, Hendrick's is strikeout-rate in each of his three seasons has been above 35-percent.
Though his numbers may not be eye-popping to most, they are a step in the right direction. Through 43 games, Hendrick has a slash line of .244/.318/.340. The batting average and on-base percentages both are current career-highs. The slugging percentage? That has taken a dip.
It would seem as though Hendrick gave up his power in order to find his swing. The change in his swing has provided more base hits. He has a higher line drive (23.9-percent) and ground ball (26.1-percent) rate than either of the two previous seasons.
Although his power was the big tool, Austin Hendrick may have found something by not relying on it. Hendrick, much like his career, is still very young. If he can find a way to continue to put the ball in play, that'll help keep the strikeout-rate down.
No mater if he is a power hitter or not, striking out 40-percent of the time won't cut it. Maybe the ingredient for the young left-handed hitter is not to worry so much about the tool that got him to draft day, and focus on the one that can keep him around.