Henderson was a 26th-round draft pick by the dearly departed Montreal Expos in 2003. He spent 2006 at Class-A Potomac of the Carolina League and appeared in 24 games in relief for the Washington Nationals affiliate.
In 52 innings with the P-Nats, Henderson struck out 56, walked 22 and yielded 44 hits while compiling a 4.50 ERA. He spent almost two months on the disabled list with shoulder tendonitis beginning in late June.
Potomac pitching coach Charlie Corbell describes Henderson as a sinkerball pitcher that increased his velocity this past season.
“He was a kid that kind of worked to make our club and ended up being a strong right-handed guy out of the bullpen with a couple of spot starts,” Corbell told Inside The Ivy during a telephone interview on Thursday. “He really stepped up velocity-wise this year and throws a real heavy sinker. I was pleased with his progress.”
Corbell, who has spent the past five years in the Nationals/Expos organization as a pitching coach, said Henderson had previously pitched around 84-88 mph with his fastball, but said that his velocity had “jumped up five or six miles per hour” at times this year.
Henderson pitched from a starter’s role in 2004 and ’05, but was used almost exclusively from the bullpen with Potomac. Corbell said he could envision the Canadian-born pitcher returning to a starter’s role in the future.
“I could very easily see him making that transition,” Corbell said of Henderson. “He’s a groundball pitcher and can miss bats. Those are the two things that to me really endure a guy to a manager. I think it would be better for his development (to return to starting). He’s an older kid in terms of age, but he’s young in terms of baseball.
“The sinker is his best pitch. He throws anywhere from 88 to 92 (mph) and probably has gotten as high as 93 or 94,” Corbell added.
Cubs area scout Keith Stohr witnessed Henderson’s progression with the Potomac team and is the primary scout credited for helping bring the college product of Tennessee Wesleyan to the Cubs.
“A couple of things that stood out right away were number one, he was a Canadian kid,” Stohr said of Henderson, a Calgary native. “Some times, those kids tend to develop a little later on in their careers because of the climate up there. And the kid is 6’5” and 190 pounds with a good body, a lanky, slender-type build that still has some projection as far as filling out.”
Stohr said Henderson showcased “two average pitches and a changeup that could be a very usable pitch in the future.”
“He’s got enough – I’m going to use the word – funkiness to his delivery that I think added a little bit of deception to his stuff,” Stohr said. “He’s got pretty good sink to his fastball and he keeps the ball down in the zone. I think he’s got a chance to be that groundball pitcher as long as he stays down.”
Henderson features the sinking fastball, the changeup, and what Stohr called a hard breaking ball in his repertoire.
“His curveball was 80 to 83 miles per hour,” Stohr said. “I think some times he gets around the ball a little bit, but when he stays on top of it, it’s got a sharp, late depth to it to have the potential to be an out-pitch at times.”
Said Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken, “When I see an average breaking ball on a guy that’s somewhat slender and still putting his body together, even though he’s 24 or 25, I think there’s some projection there.”
Henderson is one of two minor league pitchers recently acquired by the Cubs. The club got right-hander Kevin Hart from Baltimore over the Winter Meetings in the trade that sent Freddie Bynum to the Orioles.
Don’t look for the Cubs to add more minor leaguers any time soon.
“This time of year, we are always looking to tinker with our rosters to have enough depth and create competition,” Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita said. “Presently, we feel like we are real close to being done.”