Cubs Kyle Hendricks 2017 Fantasy Baseball SP Rank

Sep 12, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) pitches to St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jedd Gyorko (3) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. The Cubs won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) pitches to St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jedd Gyorko (3) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. The Cubs won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Kyle Hendricks has pitched like one of the best pitchers in MLB for the Cubs this season. But, where will he rank amongst SP heading into 2017?

The Chicago Cubs can seem to do no wrong this season, and they look poised to make a deep October run. While Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo serve as the backbone of the team, something has to be said for the efforts from Kyle Hendricks in 2016.

Kyle Hendricks currently leads MLB in ERA, and is right in the running for the NL Cy Young Award. Hendricks has flown under the radar for the past few years, but his performance this season has earned him the limelight. Fantasy owners that took Hendricks as a mid-round upside selection this spring, have walked away with an ace, making his value heading into next season all the more compelling.

It is hard to find a negative in a, 15 W/ 2.03 ERA/0.960 WHIP/152 K/3.37 FIP line, yet fantasy owners are forced to dig deeper to access his value. If taken at its face value, Hendricks stat line ranks him among the best of the best heading into the 2017 season, but should he be targeted as so next spring?

The only real “knock” for Hendricks, is his lack of high-end K numbers. His 7.9 SO/9 are just a tick above league average, but even in a career season, they are down nearly a strikeout from 2015. It is a matter of nitpicking, but heading into 2017, it is important to take all peripherals into consideration.

The real key to Hendricks’ brilliant campaign, is his ability generate soft contact after attacking hitters early in the count. Looking at his pitch mix this season, the biggest change in his game is the elimination of the cutter, and the nearly 6% increase in his changeup usage. Hendricks really throws two types of changeups, one that fades and one that more so sinks, resulting in the 31% Whiff rate forced with the pitch this season.

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Even though his fastball tops off in the low-90s, his ability to pound the zone early, truly serves as the base of his emergence. Hendricks’ F-Strike% this season is 68%, which is a 5% increase from last season. This benefits of this more aggressive approach can further be evidenced by the 10% SwStr rate that he has posted, easily the highest rate of his career, showing that he can force batters to chase his change after falling behind in the count.

It would seem that with more early strikes thrown, a diverse pitch mix, and the surrendering of less solid contact, that Hendricks’ value heading into 2017 would be at this highest. But, there are some signs that owners need to know before ranking him among the best of the best.

The biggest concern lies in his Strand, or LOB rates. Recent examples of Zack Greinke and Dallas Keuchel have shown owners that maintaining high Strand rates are one of the hardest stats to repeat, and can be an indicator of a statistical fall off. For the season, Hendricks’ LOB% is 83%, a 13% increase from 2015. While his improvements on the bump are surely a cause for such an uptick, that is a very high rate to maintain.

Therefore, if he can not supply high-end K numbers, forcing his true value to lie in his W/ERA/WHIP production, there could be some reason for concern. Regression is a popular term that fantasy pundits like to throw around, and too often that not, it scares owners off a guy. But, the threat of regression is overblown.

Kyle Hendricks currently ranks as a top-10 fantasy SP. After looking at his peripherals, and seeing both the great signs and potential detractions, Hendricks can safely be looked at as an early round SP. The Cubs will more than likely be very good next season, so the Wins will be there regardless, but the ERA/WHIP numbers should also stay solid.

Posting another sub-2.10 ERA is nearly impossible, ask Jake Arrietta, but that does not mean he can not be a low-end SP1 or tremendous SP2. Personally, the reason I am in on Hendricks next season, is that we have tangible proof in his change in pitching approach to believe that he can continue his success.

If he was having the same season, but featuring the same repertoire as he had in 2015, I would be more inclined to think that his line this season would be more of a fluke. He may not wind up with 200+ K, but something in the 165-175 K range is more than adequate and achievable.

Next: Corey Seager Top Shortstop in 2017?

In 2017, Hendricks should be ranked as a top-12 SP. There are going to be those that are scared off of him because his career season, and overlook him because of the abundance of high risk/high reward SP in the top-tier, but astute owners should not fall for the concern. Hendricks is here to stay, and will only continue to build his resume moving forward.