Austin Henry has grown up in Dell Rapids, South Dakota, a town of about 3,700 people. Henry, a senior at Dell Rapids High, appreciates the small-town atmosphere and friendliness of the community.
Henry is the starting quarterback on the varsity squad and the star pitcher on the baseball team. His athletic ability has caused locals to speak highly of the prep two-sport star. But lately, individuals have taken notice of Henry’s skills, especially his baseball talent, from all across the country.
Over the last six months, Henry has received interest from professional scouts in preparation for the 2022 MLB draft. Henry is one of the top prep pitchers in the country and a potential early-round pick in the 2022 draft.
Henry’s draft status is unique for a South Dakota baseball player. He likely will make history as the state’s highest-ever draft pick in 2022.
The state has never produced a first-round pick, as first baseman Edwin Maras (1966) and right-hander Wade Adamson (1978) are the state’s highest draft picks, both going in the fourth round out of South Dakota State University. Right-hander Keith Halgerson is the highest-drafted prep player in state history, as the Cincinnati Reds drafted him in the 12th round in 1972.
“The thing that’s crazy is no one has really done it before, so I can’t really ask anyone for advice,” Henry said. “I have had to kind of figure it out on my own. I have been going with the flow and doing what I do. The scouts have been great. I have talked to them. It has been a fun experience.”
Henry is a 6-foot-6, 210-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup from a high three-quarters arm slot and long arm action. He is athletic and consistently throws strikes.
His top two pitches are his fastball and curveball. His fastball sits in the low-90s. It generates plenty of swings and misses due to its rising action. Henry tunnels his curveball well off his fastball.
Henry’s curveball is an above-average offering that he’s improved over the last year. His curveball initially sat 2,600 to 2,800 revolutions per minute, but after he adjusted the grip on his curveball, it experienced an uptick in revolutions per minute.
Henry now stacks his pointer finger on top of his middle finger, he said. He controls the pitch well and possesses more confidence in it, he added. His curveball sits 3,200 to 3,300 revolutions per minute and drew high reviews on the summer showcase circuit.
“My curveball is my biggest strength,” Henry said. “I have heard that it’s pretty elite. I’m not trying to be cocky, but it’s a pretty good pitch. I get a lot of swings and misses with it.”
Henry relies heavily on his fastball, curveball combination. His changeup is his third pitch. It sits in the low-80s and features some movement. Henry plans on refining the pitch in preparation for his senior season.
“I want to get that changeup going too, so I have a third pitch,” Henry said. “My changeup will be my main focus this offseason.”
Besides his status as a top draft prospect, Henry also is a Wichita State commit. The Shockers coaching staff boasts a plethora of professional experience, which stood out to Henry during the recruiting process.
Eric Wedge, a 10-year MLB manager, is the head coach and Mike Pelfrey, a 12-year MLB pitcher, is the pitching coach at Wichita State.
Henry committed to Wichita State on Jan. 26, 2020, shortly after attending a recruiting camp. He selected the Shockers over interest from Kansas, Kansas State, Creighton and Minnesota, he said.
“They have done what every kid that goes to their school hopes to do,” Henry said. “They have done it, so why wouldn’t you want to be around two people who have done exactly what you are looking to do, which is have a successful pro career. That side of it is just unmatched compared to the rest of college baseball, in my opinion.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.