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6. Liam Hendriks, RHP, 21 years old

Liam-Hendriks
courtesy: (baseballinstinct.com)

2010 stats: 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA, 105/12 K/BB in 108.2 innings between Beloit and Fort Myers.
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Signed out of Perth, Australia in February 2007. 

So, what makes someone a top prospect? Some prospects are more tools than numbers. The guys that scouts just look at and drool over the possibilities. They say, this guy will be the next.... Other guys become top prospects through hard-work and sheer numbers. Liam Hendriks is part of the latter group.

The Australian hurler made his debut in the GCL at 18 years of age, striking out 52 and walking 11 in 44 innings. A nice start to his professional career. In 2008, back surgery derailed his entire season. In 2009, he came back from injury and made the Australian roster in the World Baseball Classic. He was the roster's youngest player. After the WBC, he split the season between Elizabethtown and Beloit. He had a decent year with a 3.55 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 83.2 innings. Not a bad year for such a young guy, especially one who had missed a year of development.

In 2010, Hendriks returned to Beloit and he took off. Total Domination! In 6 starts and 34 innings he struck out 39 and walked 4. He only gave up 16 hits. That's a .59 WHIP! This earned him a quick promotion to Fort Myers. He was almost as dominant after his promotion. In 74.2 innings, he struck out 66 and walked 8. For the season, he had a 1.74 ERA, 8.75 K/BB rate and a .837 WHIP between Beloit and Fort Myers. He only gave up 2 HRs all season.These are crazy, off the charts type numbers.

He has 4 good pitches, but no single dominating pitch. His fastball touches the low 90s and he also features a decent curve and change-up. What made Hendriks so dominant in 2010 was his control. He only walked 12 guys in 108.2 innings. Coincidentally, Cliff Lee walked 12 in 108.2 innings for the Texas Rangers in 2010. While I'm not saying Hendriks can be the next Cliff Lee*, his 2010 numbers and stuff profile out to a similar kind of pitcher, albeit a right-handed one. *Lee only walked 6 in 103.2 innings in Seattle and 2 of his TX walks were intentional.

Hendriks will only be 22 years old in 2011 and it would seem he is just starting to hit his stride. The only thing slowing Hendriks down is injury. He's already had back surgery. Hopefully the nerve issue doesn't lead to something chronic. He was selected to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game but he missed the game due to appendicitis. These are two un-related types of maladies. Hopefully Hendriks is getting through a rash of random injuries early in his career and and is about to settle in for a long healthy career.

Ideal Scenario: Hendriks will probably start where he left off in Fort Myers. If he hits the ground running like he did in 2010, he should see an early New Britain promotion.

Path to the majors: Another good season in 2011 will leave Hendriks on the cusp of an MLB debut in 2012. With guys like Gibson, Bromberg, Wimmers and a decent major league staff all older and more advanced then the 22 year old Hendriks, 2013 is more realistic. If Hendriks has a season in 2011 like he did in 2010 however, the Twins might not be able to hold him back. He has middle of the rotation stuff but if he can keep his walk rate down, he could become an ace.