As many of you know, Tyler Henley was an 8th round pick out of Rice in the 2007 draft. Rice players can be tough signs, but Henley signed for an above slot bonus of $150K and has since made his way onto the FR radar in a major way, ranking as our #16 prospect. For the first half of last season at Palm Beach, Henley hit .313/.370/.531 but broke a finger and landed on the disabled list. When he came off the DL he had a couple of slow months, but he finished the season with a strong .299/.372/.458 line for the month of August.
We like him around these parts for his all around solid skill set as a CF, and for his hard-nosed style of play. Henley was nice enough to take some time to answer some of my questions over email.
This past season you were hitting the ball pretty well, and then broke your finger. Are you fully recovered yet, and how disappointing was it to have your season interrupted like that?
I am fully recovered. As disappointing as it was to have the interruption due to injury, it was just as encouraging to know I am capable of coming back. Through my entire career I have never had a serious injury that kept me out of multiple games. Baseball is all about building confidence and consistency and I think my broken finger actually helped more than it hurt.
Give us a scouting report on yourself as a hitter.
I would say that I am an aggressive hitter. I’m sometimes too aggressive, and that is something that will be worked on to find a balance of aggression and patience. I think one of my strengths is my ability to hit to all fields and one of my weaknesses is my patience and pitch selection.
How would you rate where you are as a center fielder right now?
I would say that my play in the outfield is always improving and that’s about all anyone could ask for. I spent a lot of my time last offseason working on my arm strength and I feel like it really paid off. This offseason I’ve spent a lot of time invested in my strength and speed. We’ll see how it translates into running down fly balls.
What about as a person? Are you more laid-back, or more intense?
I think I have an uncanny ability to relax. Although, my wife will get onto me about getting too intense or competitive during what should be friendly competition. When it comes to any form of competition it is tough for me to take it lightly.
One thing your scouting report at MILB.com says “If Henley were to try and hit for more power, I believe he could. But as a leadoff hitter, he has honed his skills to focus on putting the ball in play to all fields.” Are you ever tempted to alter your approach and start swinging for the fences?
I don’t think I have been tempted to try to hit more homeruns, because I’ve focused on being a good leadoff hitter. I think I will continue to do what has got me where I am until they tell me a change needs to be made.
In your opinion, what are some of the characteristics of a successful leadoff hitter?
I think the biggest asset a leadoff hitter has is his ability to get on base. That is something I struggled with at times last year because I was too aggressive, but something I am planning to work on this year. The other important aspect of a leadoff hitter is his ability to perform on the basepaths. Whether that means stealing bases or taking the extra base when the opportunity arises.
You’ve been compared to Lenny Dykstra by more than a few scouts. What does that mean to you?
It’s a huge compliment. Along with being a great baseball player he also played the game full tilt all the time. I would love to be known as someone who not only played the game well but also played it hard and right.
There are a lot of good outfield prospects in the Cardinal system right now-Colby Rasmus, Daryl Jones Jon Jay.. Does that put any extra pressure on you to go out there and perform?
Not really, because I can’t control what those guys do. All I can control is how I play so the only pressure I’ll put on myself will be based on my own goals and expectations.
What do you feel you gained from playing three years at the Rice program?
I think I gained a lot of hands on coaching in all aspects of the game. Hands on coaching was extremely important for me because I had not played a whole bunch of baseball during my high school summers. While most baseball players were playing baseball I was getting ready for the football season. Perhaps even more important than the baseball side of my time at Rice I gained a lot of real life knowledge and experience that is invaluable for my baseball career and relationships.
What is it about Rice recruiting football players to play baseball? You and teammate Aaron Luna both were very successful running backs back in your high school days back in Texas.
I know the Rice coaches like to have former football players on their baseball team because they like guys with a football mentality. They like the mental and physical toughness that typically comes with a former football player.
While we’re on football, just for fun, give me your prediction: Who wins the Super Bowl?
It’s a good thing I’m not a gambling man because I would have picked the Eagles and the Ravens to be playing in this game. And since I did such a poor job of predicting the conference championships I’m hesitant to make any guess on the Super Bowl, but I will say that I will be pulling for the Cardinals. I think it would make a great story if they were able to pull it out and they also have a pretty cool mascot.