West Allegheny’s Austin Hendrick selected 12th overall by Cincinnati Reds in MLB Draft

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020 | 8:24 PM


With a quick left-handed swing that packs plenty of pop, West Allegheny’s Austin Hendrick was naturally a Ken Griffey Jr. fan as a kid.

They’ve now got another connection.

Hendrick, one of the top high school hitters in the country, was selected 12th overall Wednesday in the MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, a team that had Griffey in the lineup for eight seasons.

“I’m still watching him on YouTube to this day,” Hendrick said on a Zoom conference call with Reds reporters.

But now Hendrick also shares a connection with Pine-Richland’s Neil Walker and Plum’s Alex Kirilloff as WPIAL baseball players selected in the first round out of high school. Hendrick is only the sixth to join that exclusive list after Kirilloff (2016), Walker (2004), Gateway’s Tom Conroy (1978), Knoch’s Scot Thompson (1974) and Mt. Pleasant’s Bob Gorinski (1970).

A 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder, Hendrick was a standout at West Allegheny who became a star on the summer circuit and a national reputation with USA Baseball.

It was the third time in five years that a WPIAL baseball player was taken in the first round, joining Kirilloff and Blackhawk’s Brendan McKay, who was drafted fourth overall out of Louisville in 2017.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Hendrick said. “I honestly didn’t know where I was going to end up. I’m super, super excited. I’m honestly just excited to get back out on the field and wear a Reds uniform. I’m really, really pumped.”

Baseball American ranked Hendrick as the ninth-best prospect in this year’s draft class, adding that he “has the quickest pure bat speed in the class and complements it with light tower raw power, giving him arguably the best power/hit combo of any high school hitter.”

Hendrick is a Mississippi State commit, but he’ll have a seven-figure bonus waiting for him to turn pro. He was advised during his draft process by Scott Boras’ agency. The 12th pick carries a slot value of $4,366,400.

A number of mock drafts predicted that the Reds would draft Hendrick. He competed last summer at the East Coast Pro showcase in Alabama for a team sponsored by the Reds and coached by two Reds scouts.

“We’ve seen him a bunch the last two years,” said Brad Meador, the Reds’ director of amateur scouting. “You saw what he looks like. He’s a big, strong, physical kid. So from a physical standpoint, you feel he’s ready to go compete right now.”

The Reds project Hendrick as a right fielder.

He was the third high school player selected Wednesday. Robert Hassell III of Thompson Station, Tenn., went eighth to the San Diego Padres, and Zac Veen of Orange, Fla., went ninth to the Colorado Rockies. Both were also outfielders.

Meador said the Reds rated Hendrick’s bat as “advanced” — believing he’s a solid all-around hitter, not just a power hitter — and noted his ability to make swing changes and adjustments.

“All those things together plus the (mental) makeup, knowing where he comes from and how driven he is, it makes it easier to pick a high school guy you feel that good about,” Meador said.

Hendrick’s senior season was canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said he wasn’t concerned that downtime would hurt his draft stock and was mostly disappointed for the other seniors on the team.

“They’re never going to play baseball again,” he said. “This year, we were going to be really good. We were going to be in the conversation for the state championships. It’s definitely disappointing.”

Hendrick declined media interviews in the weeks leading up to the draft. He said that was to avoid distraction.

“I just like to focus on myself,” he said. “You see a lot of the mock drafts. You see a lot of speculation. I just tried to stay away from a lot of that. I didn’t want to get my head in that and worry about that.”

Reds scouts visited Hendrick’s house last fall and had a video conference call with him in recent weeks.

“We had him higher than 12 on our board,” Meador said, “so we were ecstatic to get him.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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