Tommy Henry grew up in Portage, Michigan with a father who graduated from Western Michigan and a mother who was a Michigan State alum. Henry didn’t have interest in either of those universities, though, as he instantly gravitated to the University of Michigan.
“It doesn’t really make sense, but from Day 1, I was a die-heart Michigan fan,” Henry said. “I always had this football jersey that I would wear seven days a week, and my mom would just wash it at night.”
When Henry, a left-handed pitcher, started to attract attention from college baseball programs, Michigan instantly moved to the top of his list. He developed a connection with the coaching staff and believed it would be the ideal fit for him as a student-athlete and for his baseball development.
Henry made an impact as a freshman, working out of the bullpen, before thriving as a starting pitcher the last two years. His success and potential have caused professional scouts to scurry to Ann Arbor, Michigan to catch a glimpse of the lefty in preparation for Monday’s MLB draft.
Henry has improved his draft stock throughout the spring. Despite some struggles late in the season, he will be an early-round selection in this year’s draft.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Henry on the draft starting Monday. “But I am thankful I’m on such a good team to be in a regional right now. I’m looking forward to playing more baseball and baseball for a long time. I’m glad that’s my full focus right now.”
Henry worked exclusively as a reliever his freshman season, posting a 3.19 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 11 walks in 31 innings.
He displayed growth as a sophomore when he slid into Michigan’s starting rotation. He recorded a 3.09 ERA with 77 strikeouts and 26 walks allowed in 81 2/3 innings.
Henry has built off his sophomore season this spring. He has a 3.61 ERA with 104 strikeouts and 23 walks allowed in 92 1/3 innings. He was nearly unhittable throughout Michigan’s nonconference schedule, posting a 0.45 ERA in six starts, before experiencing mixed results in Big Ten play.
Henry credits Michigan pitching coach Chris Fetter for his growth. Besides his skills, Fetter has helped Henry with the mental part of the game. The Michigan pitching staff meditates five to six times each week, depending on the practice and travel schedules, to help clear their minds.
“We have just learned, especially through mediation, how important it is to control your thoughts,” Henry said. “Negative thoughts will come into everyone’s mind but knowing how to handle those and what to do with them is important.”
Henry, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound lefty, throws three pitches from a low-effort delivery. His repertoire consists of a fastball, slider and changeup.
His fastball is his best offering. After sitting in the mid-80s last summer in the Cape Cod League, Henry’s fastball velocity increased and sat in the low-90s most of the spring. It dipped to the high-80s at times, but Henry attributes the change to “bad habits.” He’s worked on speeding up his arm speed and refining his mechanics to experience the improvement in velocity.
His slider and changeup generate swings and misses and profile as potential above-average offerings in the future.
Although he isn’t overpowering, he has solid control and command of his pitches.
“I think just commanding the zone is my biggest strength,” Henry said. “Baseball is a game where the best hitters will get out seven out of 10 times. When you limit those free passes, it makes pitching a little easier. It also allows you to go deeper into games if you are a little more efficient.”
Henry has a team-first mentality and a humble personality. He understands, especially if he signs a professional contract after his junior season, that he needs to improve his skills in order to have success against high-end hitters. He hopes to add muscle to his frame and refine his secondary pitches.
“I think there’s room to grow in every single area of my game,” Henry said. “That’s the honest answer. That’s just because no one can be perfect in any area. I can be better mentally on the mound. I can be stronger. I can develop my pitches better and find a way to command my off-speed pitches better.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.