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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Rob Henkel

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 8/3/78, Age: 24, Height: 6’2’’, Weight: 210, Bats: R, Throws: L. Acquired: Marlins - Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2000 Draft (UCLA). 2001 Stats: (Rookie - GCL Marlins) 1-3, 1.52 ERA, 30 IP, 17 H, 11 BB, 38 K; (Sseason-A - Utica) 0-0, 4.32 ERA, 8 IP, 7 H, 6 BB, 11 K; (Low-A - Kane County) 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 4 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 2 K. 2002 Stats: (High-A - Jupiter) 8-3, 2.51 ERA, 75.1 IP, 55 H, 4 HR, 22 BB, 82 K; (AA - Portland) 5-2, 3.70 ERA, 56 IP, 45 H, 4 HR, 22 BB, 57 K, 2 K.
   Rob Henkel is the Marlins’ best, and arguably only, left-handed pitching prospect. Drafted in the third round of the 2000 draft, Henkel battled through an injury-plagued first season in the organization, but seems to be putting together a healthy season here in 2002. After having his velocity jump all over the board (from 78 to 90) last year, Henkel is now throwing in his normal range, which is 89-92. He has added a sinking fastball to his normal four-seamer this year, both of which set up his devastating knuckle-curveball. He also throws a changeup on occasion, but it definitely falls behind the curve in both usage and effectiveness. The fastball/curve combination is certainly enough for Henkel to become an above average strikeout pitcher in the majors. His control is probably never going to be outstanding, but his stuff is good enough to overcome that, much like his Marlin counterpart, A.J. Burnett. The main concern with Henkel is his health. Henkel’s mechanics are not smooth at all, with a Kevin Appier-like sling in his motion. Of course, Appier has pitched a few thousand innings in that style, but most arms cannot handle that strain. Henkel has already dealt with mysterious velocity drops from time to time, and the weakened joints, and thus the delivery, are the likely culprits. With Tommy John surgery and shoulder weakness already in his rearview mirror, Henkel’s chances for big league success are certainly smaller than you would expect from his repertoire. Most pitchers have trouble handling a full season of pitching at the beginning of their career, but the odds are definitely against someone with this much trouble at age 22 and 23.
      With A. J. Burnett, Brad Penny, and Josh Beckett already hanging around in Florida, the front part of the rotation should be set for many years to come. Michael Tejera is also up and young (and left-handed), and Justin Wayne is fairly close to being ready as well. However, Burnett could be seriously injured right now, Penny and Beckett have spent time on the DL this year, and you can never have enough pitching, so Henkel will get his chance if he can remain healthy. Then again, the Marlins are without a “pedigreed” closer right now, so Henkel could lay a hand on that job. It’s hard to say whether that would be more or less stressful on his arm, which just illustrates how little we all know about keeping pitchers healthy. How many pitches on normal rest are equal to a certain number on short rest? How many 90% effort pitches equal one 100% effort toss? Answers to those kinds of questions could provide the largest achievements in baseball in the 21st century. As for Henkel, I imagine he will remain in the rotation until (if) the next injury befalls him. Henkel has Barry Zito’s level of stuff, but a little less command and a lot less confidence. He has a high ceiling, but my expectations are low for a healthy beginning to his career. I think he will end up in the bullpen long-term, but there is a chance (maybe 20%) of him becoming a great fourth starter for Florida.  


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