- Rating: 5.22
- 2022 stats: 9 G, 9 GS, 47.0 IP, 47 H, 28 R, 28 ER, 10 HR, 21 BB, 36 K, 5.36 ERA, 5.88 FIP, 75 ERA+, -.2bWAR
- Date of birth: July 29, 1997 (25 years old)
- 2022 earnings: prorated league minimum
- 2023 status: On 40-man roster, last seen on the 26-man roster
How He Got Here
Tommy Henry made a bit of name for himself as a pitcher for the Xichigan Wolverines (I live near THE Ohio State University - it’s a must) in 2019. He notably became the winning pitcher against UCLA in the deciding game of the NCAA Super Regional on June 9 of that year. He then went on a tear in the College World Series with a 3-0 record, 31 strike outs and only 8 Earned Runs in 31.2 Innings for an ERA of 2.27. Unfortunately Henry wasn’t quite enough and Vanderbilt beat the Wolverines in the Championship Round.
However, that phenomenal stretch happened just after the draft, where the Arizona Diamondbacks made Henry their seventh of eight picks within the first 100 in 2019. He slid a little bit, having been ranked by MLBPipeline as the 59th overall prospect; Arizona made him the 74th overall pick. He signed on July 2 for $844,200, just under $100K more than pick value, but significantly less than he could have earned at slot 59. This was because he was viewed as very streaky and volatile with sometimes solid secondaries that played well off his fastball in the low 90’s, but things fell apart when the fastball velocity dipped into the 80’s.
Arizona took advantage of his volatility as well a massive bonus pool to sign him as their fifth pitcher taken. The fact that he made the Majors as a starting option is a pretty solid “win” in general, although his overall MiLB numbers are fairly bleh (relatively speaking). From 2019-2022 (obviously there are no stats from 2020), he pitched to a tune of 4.51 ERA with 242 strikeouts and 98 walks in 231.2 innings pitched. These are perfectly fine numbers, especially when you factor that he got better every year and at every level.
In 2022, Henry began the season at AAA Reno, having had an iffy albeit ok showing in AA Amarillo in 2021. If you are unaware, both Reno and Amarillo are among the worst MiLB parks for pitchers, so take every statistic coming from those places with grains of salt. But Henry persevered and the team rewarded his performance with an MLB Debut on August 3, a day after the trade deadline.
That debut came in Cleveland (I actually almost went to it, but it was my review and I’d just gone to the game the night before - Cleveland is 2 hours away one way...). Not debuting against the Padres, Henry didn’t have the magic some other rookie pitchers did in their debuts, but he was serviceable enough going 5 innings giving up 4 runs. He stayed serviceable for nearly a month before the league adjusted to him. Between August 3 and August 26 he never pitched less than 5 innings and gave up 3 runs only once (in Colorado, so does it really count?). Against Pittsburgh, St Louis, and Southern Chicago, he allowed a single Earned Run each.
The warning signs were there though. With the exception of the St Louis game on August 19, he never struck out more than 3 batters. And he gave up a home run in 3 of those 5 starts. And on August 31, Henry faced Philadelphia in Phoenix; the train fell off the tracks. He lasted 4 innings giving up 7 Earned Runs (no home runs though and 4 strikeouts). Then on September 7 in San Diego he lasted 4.1 innings giving up 5 Earned Runs and 3 home runs with only 2 strikeouts. The team decided to option him to Reno at that point.
He got one opportunity back down there and made the most of it with a 5 inning showing with 3 strikeouts, no home runs and only 1 Earned Run allowed against the San Francisco Giants AAA affiliate. Eight days after that he was back in Phoenix facing the MLB San Francisco team but faring no better than he had before the demotion: 4.2 IP, 6 K, 3 BB, 5R, 5 ER.
Luckily for Henry, there was one more available start. It was October 3 in Milwaukee, the first game of the final series of the year. There were no stakes for either side. Henry went 6.1 innings with 5 strikeouts and only 1 Earned Run (a homer by Christian Yelich). He did run into some fatigue in the seventh and was replaced by Sean Poppen who pitched admirably for 1.2 innings. But in fitting 2022 Arizona fashion, Joe Mantiply and Reyes Moronta then came in and blew the game. Le sigh...
Fun Fact: Throughout the ENTIRE 2022 season, Henry did not allow an unearned run. While the concept of an “unearned” run is weird and outdated, to not give one up is interesting. It doesn’t portend anything to this reviewer, but it’s definitely a thing.
Henry still has his 40-man roster spot. He ended the season on the 26-man roster. He is the young pitcher with the most experience on that roster. Theoretically this all gives him an inside track to one of the openings at the end of the Opening Day rotation. Right now there would be two spots available. But odds are good the team signs at least one more veteran starter for depth that takes spot 3 or 4 (depending how you view MadBum at this point).
That leaves only the fifth spot. Henry will be vying for it, have no doubt (barring injury of course). But I bet you are more excited about his main competition... He’ll be facing the likes of Ryne Nelson (who’s injury in 2022 made room for Henry’s second stint), Drey Jameson and Brandon Pfaadt. That only counts the Opening Day competition. There is the distinct possibility he’ll be fighting against guys like Blake Walston and Slade Cecconi (maybe even Bryce Jarvis) by September.
Barring a trade/roster decision that alleviates some of those names (or other, more experienced pieces), Henry will have competition for any/all starts he earns in 2023. I believe he will start games in Sedona Red next year. He’s proven he can. There are scenarios (both good and bad) that would even lead to him getting around or more than 20 starts in 2023. But I do believe the first half of this year will be his final chance to prove he’s an MLB caliber starter.
As I stated earlier on, getting quality MLB starts from Tommy Henry is already a “win.” His most likely future is in the bullpen as a mop-up, long relief guy. Most recently you can equate him with Caleb Smith. Even if that is his final form, there is value there. And not for nothing, but Henry appears to have a more level head than Smith, so dumb injuries shouldn’t hamper his value for the rest of the decade.