Why Did the Twins Let Liam Hendriks Go?
Image courtesy of © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY SportsHendriks originally signed with the Twins in early 2007 as a teenager out of Australia. He’d make his professional debut with the GCL Twins and post a 2.05 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP while striking out 52 batters in 44 innings. That winter, he pitched for Australia in the final Olympic Qualification Tournament, but then he needed back surgery that cost him the entire 2008 campaign.
In 2009, he returned to the mound and the majority of his starts came at Low-A where he was nearly two years younger than the average age of the competition. For the season, he made 14 starts and posted a 3.55 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP. He was limited to fewer than 84 innings, but he struck out 75 and only walked 16 batters.
The 2010 season was his coming out party as he dominated both Low- and High-A on his way to flying up Twins prospect lists. He pitched over 100 innings for the first time in his career while posting a 1.74 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. Hendriks posted career bests in strikeouts per nine, walks per nine, and hits per nine. At season’s end, Seth and I ranked him as the team’s third best pitching prospect even though he had yet to make his Double-A debut.
Minnesota didn’t mess around with Hendriks during the 2011 season and that was easy to do when the club was on their way to losing close to 100 games. The bulk of his innings came at Double-A and he was successful at that level by posting a 2.70 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. From there, the Twins pushed him to Triple-A and he allowed 25 earned runs in just over 49 innings. September wasn’t going to be pretty for the Twins, but Hendriks was still pushed to make his big-league debut. In four starts, he allowed 16 runs in 23 1/3 innings with a 16 to 6 strikeout to walk ratio.
Hendriks was still only 23-years old, so there was plenty of promise in his right arm. He dominated the next year during his time at Triple-A with a 2.20 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. However, that performance didn’t translate to the big-league level as he struggled to post a 6.43 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. As far as his time as a starter, it was getting close to being sink or swim time.
As a 24-year-old, Hendriks was not nearly as successful at Triple-A, but it was going to be hard to live up to his 2012 numbers. The 2013 season wound up being his final year in the Twins organization. He bounced around between Triple-A and the big leagues throughout the season even though the Twins were on their way to losing 96 games. Minnesota’s rotation that year included Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, and Sam Deduno. Hendriks struggled, but it’s not like the team had a lot of big names blocking his path.
The Twins never gave Hendriks a shot in the bullpen and they designated him for assignment in December 2013 while he still had minor league options remaining. Minnesota was in the midst of a terrible run of baseball where the club lost 92+ games in six out of seven seasons. Maybe the front office thought he would sneak through waivers or maybe they didn’t think he could be successful in the bullpen. Either way it looks like the Twins missed out on one of baseball’s best relievers.
It’s not as if the Twins were the only organization that missed the boat on Hendriks. He spent the next few years bouncing between multiple organizations. The Cubs claimed him from the Twins and 10 days later the Orioles claimed him. He didn’t pitch for either of these organizations as he was claimed by Toronto in February 2014. He’d pitch parts of the next two seasons with the Blue Jays and the Royals before finally finding himself, literally and figuratively, in Oakland.
It’s hard to predict what path Hendriks would have taken had he stayed in Minnesota. Perhaps being designated for assignment that many times put a chip on his shoulder. He also might have needed to end up in Oakland for that club to find his magic spark on the mound. Either way, it seems like he will be causing headaches for Twins fans in the years to come.
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