Michigan pitcher Tommy Henry may be a top MLB draft pick despite rocky season
CORVALLIS, Ore. — One of the many mysteries heading into the MLB draft this week is where Michigan left-handed pitcher Tommy Henry will be selected.
If the draft was at the end of March, when Henry was 6-1 with a 0.76 ERA, he might have been a first-round pick.
If the draft was right before the Big Ten tournament, after Henry surrendered 10 hits and five runs against Minnesota to conclude an eight-game stretch in which his ERA nearly quintuple, he might have been a third-day selection.
“We haven’t lost confidence in him,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “He’s obviously a tremendous pitcher, a fantastic pro prospect. He has great stuff and when he’s on, he’s as good as anyone in the country.”
U-M pitching coach Chris Fetter has worked with Henry for the past two years and has seen him add weight, maturity and lower body development and strength to become a more polished pitcher. That should translate well to the upcoming draft, Fetter said.
“I’m expecting him to go on Day 1, and after that it’s all speculation,” Fetter said.
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Consistency has been an issue for the 6-foot-3 junior from Portage, but when he’s right, there are few college teams that can touch him.
He had a 10-strikeout performance over six innings in the win over then-No. 2 UCLA on March 8. He also had a one-hit, 13-strikeout gem against the Citadel on Feb. 22 and pitched eight scoreless innings and 12 strikeouts against Cal State Northridge on March 1.
Henry was tabbed by Perfect Game as a midseason first-team All-America selection.
“What he showed the first half of the season was a dominant college left-hander that looked to be at the top of the draft class,” Bakich said.
“He still might be. Sometimes those guys just need to see flashes to know it’s in there.”
Henry reportedly saw an uptick in his fastball velocity at the beginning of the season that has since tailed off. An ability to command his low-90s fastball, slider and changeup produced favorable counts, frequent strikeouts and few walks. But during Henry’s rough patch in the middle of the season, Big Ten teams pile up runs against him.
“He has already hit 94 (m.p.h.) a bunch of times this year and I don’t see any reason (that won’t continue) as he continues to get stronger and older. That guy is barely shaving,” Bakich said. “The kid has such a bright future and we’ve certainly enjoyed coaching them these last three years.”
Henry seemed to return to form hin the Big Ten tournament, holding Maryland to five hits and two earned runs while striking out seven in six innings on May 24, his first win in 20 days.
Consequently, Henry’s only NCAA tournament start before the draft starts on Monday may carry more weight in his draft positioning than any outing this season. He is scheduled for a chance to improve on his 9-5 record and 3.61 ERA on Sunday.
At one point, Baseball America pegged Henry as a second-round pick while MLB Pipeline, during Henry’s slide, predicted that he’d be taken in the seventh round.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know not to predict the draft,” Bakich said. “It seems like maybe with this year’s draft class and left-handers being at a premium like they always are, he’d be a very safe pick because he has credentials, a three-year college resume.
“He has a lot of value to major league teams, a strike thrower with a three-pitch mix, plus makeup and command. He’s a pitcher that still has projection in his body and room to improve. Apply the growth that he’s had at Michigan over the last three years to the next three years and the fact that he is really getting into his real man strength that come in his mid-20s, he has a chance to be a major league pitcher much sooner rather than later.”
Fetter said that he’s talked to scouting representatives from each MLB team about Henry. Two things in Henry’s favor are his fastball and his deceptive delivery.
“He has all the makings. Now, it’s up to the right team to see where he goes,” Fetter said.
There are very few certainties when it comes to the MLB draft. Henry will have to make the decision if his draft position is worth forgoing his senior season.
Junior right-hander Karl Kauffmann, who has moved past Henry to the top of the Wolverines’ starting rotation, could also be selected. His performance on Friday shouldn’t hurt; he threw 8⅔ scoreless innings against Creighton in U-M’s 6-0 NCAA regional win at Goss Stadium.
“It’s not going to surprise me to see him go in the first four rounds as well,” Fetter said.