The 2013 injury bug that plagued the New York Yankees was not merely limited to those on the major league roster. No, this bug was far reaching and took down key players throughout the entire system. One of the victims was 2012 first-round draft choice Ty Hensley. The Yankees took the 6-foot-4, 220-pound righty with the 30th pick, making him the first pitcher the team had taken in the first round since missing out on Gerrit Cole in 2008 (through no fault of their own). After a fairly typical debut for the Gulf Coast League Yankees (5 G, 4 GS, 12 IP, 14 K, 3.00 ERA), the discussion in the offseason was whether the organization would be aggressive and start him at Low-A Charleston in 2013 or hold him back in Extended Spring Training.
While the Yankees already knew about a “shoulder abnormality” that was discovered in a physical before Hensley signed, the young righty maintained that he was without pain and the team felt comfortable enough to agree on a below-slot bonus and buy him away from Ole Miss. What they didn’t know about was a hip condition that Hensley had been pitching through for most of his life. It began in spring training, when we heard that he would be held back a bit to start the season because of a pulled ab muscle. It turned out the abdominal injury was caused by a bone impingement in his right hip that would require surgery and keep Hensley out for two to three months. Predictably, this two to three months turned into Hensley missing all of 2013.
After entering this season as one of the most promising prospects, Hensley is now one of the biggest question marks. While it’s certainly a positive that it wasn’t an arm injury, we still don’t know how this will affect him going forward. Before we go any further, you should really let Ty and this excellent interview with him done by the folks over at Bleeding Yankee Blue explain the injury for you. Basically, his hip condition didn’t allow him a full range of motion when rotating his hips. You can imagine why this would be troublesome for a number of reasons. For a pitcher, that hip rotation is where velocity happens. And while Hensley was still getting up to 97-98 with this condition, the problem was manifesting itself via the abdominal strain. (Seriously, read that interview. It’s fantastic.)
At the time of his selection, Hensley was viewed as a power arm with the possibility for three above-average pitches, including a fastball that reportedly sits in the mid-90’s and a knockout 12-6 curveball. What everyone loved about him was his workhouse build and his athleticism (he was a switch-hitting outfielder when not pitching in high school). If the hip surgery (it’s actually surgeries, as Hensley also had surgery to repair a torn hip labrum on his left side) doesn’t have lingering effects, I’m not sure why that outlook changes. According to Hensley, he finished physical therapy at the end of September and is officially done rehab, so yay for that.
I am very excited to see a healthy Ty Hensley in 2014 and surely I’m not alone. I would guess he’ll be held back in Extended Spring Training while he re-acclimates himself to the mound, but the good thing is we haven’t heard anything about him not getting back on a mound next year. Hensley’s recovery and development are crucial to the Yankees, who are in dire need of young starting pitching. Aside from that, Hensley seems like a genuinely awesome guy. I’d recommend following him on Twitter (@TyHensley17) and keeping a close eye on him as he works his way back.