At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, lefthander Sam Hentges is hard to miss. To reinforce that point to the big league coaching staff, he threw three hitless innings this spring with three strikeouts.
“He’s really an interesting kid,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s got size. He’s lefthanded. He looks like he’s got some poise.”
The Indians drafted Hentges in 2014, taking him in the fourth round out of high school in Arden Hills, Minn. He spent last season at high Class A Lynchburg and recorded a 3.27 ERA in 23 starts while ranking third in the Carolina League with 122 strikeouts.
The 22-year-old Hentges reported to Double-A Akron this season but had been hit hard through four starts, going 0-3, 8.62 with a 2.30 WHIP.
“Like a lot of young guys, he just needs some repetition,” Francona said. “He needs to refine the things he’s doing. But he’s got a bright future.”
Hentges’ progress was interrupted in 2016 at low Class A Lake County when he had Tommy John surgery. His only injury blip since then was a shoulder strain in 2018 that cost him the final two weeks of the season. The Indians added Hentges to the 40-man roster following the season.
Hentges has the fastball to match his size, averaging about 93 mph, and occasionally touching 97. His offspeed pitches need further refinement, with his curveball showing plus potential.
Last year at Lynchburg he pitched a career high 118 innings, so continuing to stay healthy will be key. While he had struggled initially in the Eastern League, Hentges faces a big developmental year as he pushes his workload and is challenged by better hitters at Double-A.
The Indians haven’t developed a significant homegrown southpaw in their rotation since CC Sabathia came up in 2001 and remained in Cleveland until 2008. Hentges could be a candidate to end that drought.