Heading into the 2016 fantasy baseball season, the Chicago Cubs were lauded as one of the best teams in baseball built on the strength of good home-grown hitters and a rotation that was loaded. When it came to the rotation, the guys most talked about in terms of being the aces of the staff were lefty Jon Lester and Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Not so much mentioned was veteran righty Kyle Hendricks who while solid in 2015 (3.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 1.67 K), was far from dominant. Thus it was more than a little shocking to see that by the end of the 2016 season, Hendricks outpitched both Lester and Arrieta and was a prime contender for the Cy Young award which went to Max Scherzer. Still Hendricks was downright terrific and his numbers were ace-level no matter how you looked at them. Nearly unhittable for large stretches of the season, Hendricks finished with the following statistics:
170 K in 190 IP
No matter where you looked, Hendricks beat projections and by a mile no less. His numbers were so good that many in the fantasy baseball community have him pegged as a top 12 arm for 2017. While there is no denying how good Hendricks was, count this peanut stand as one who has Hendricks in the "BUST" tier instead. Now when I say BUST, I don't mean Hendricks will fall flat on his face and put up an ERA over 4.00. No instead I use BUST in relation to the expected high draft price Hendricks will being to the table this season and firmly believe his skill set is quite a bit below where he will be picked.
Why the knock on Hendricks? Well for one thing he is coming off a career-year and arguably one of the most sacred rules in our book is to avoid guys the year after a player goes way above his expected numbers as Hendricks did in 2016. Career-years are almost never matched and the price at he draft table always is inflated past the actual production going forward. This is where Hendricks is right now. In addition, Hendricks' rate numbers are a bit concerning as well. For one thing, his 8.05 K/9 rate last season was just a bit above average. Combine that with Hendricks' .250 BABIP and that alone is trouble. The .250 BABIP Hendricks had last season was one of the more lucky numbers in that category last season and it shows how much luck he had generating the ERA and WHIP he did. Hendricks' adjusted FIP ERA of 3.20 and his XFIP ERA of 3.59 were much more indicative of the kind of pitched Hendricks is. In fact those adjusted ERA's jive more with his 2015 numbers and are much more accurate given the mediocre K/9. Yes a 0.71 HR/9 and 2.08 BB/9 are tremendous ratios that really are pluses in the Hendricks pitching column but he is not a 2.13 ERA pitcher or even a 2.75 one.
In conclusion, while Kyle Hendricks is a very good pitcher, he is more SP 3 than an ace given the numbers were already touched on. We liked Hendricks a lot going into last season as an SP 3 and would love to draft him as such for 2017. Given that won't likely happen after his monster 2016, we are fine with letting Hendricks go off to another team on an inflated price.
2017 PROJECTION: 15-7 3.22 ERA 1.08 WHIP 173 K