In 1982, the Oakland A's built Heritage Park, a home for the Albany-Colonie A's. The team was bought out by the New York Yankees, and became the home of the Albany Colonie Yankees from 1985 until 1994. This is a spot where dynasties were born. Manager Buck Showalter cut his teeth with the team, and Deion Sanders, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams all spent time with the team. The stadium was demolished in 2009, leaving behind an abandoned place where legends once roamed.
Even when the Albany Colonie Yankees were at their peak, the team was one of the best kept secrets in baseball. The Yankees sent their top prospects through the club before moving them to their Triple A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. Here, not far from Cooperstown, legends were born. The core players from the Yankees' run of World Series championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 spent at least a part of their formative years as players in Albany, at a site that is now forgotten by nearly everyone.
Baseball is a contingent sport where a single game, hit, pitch, or season can leave a permanent impact on the history of the league. Her best young prospects are often hidden in plain sight. Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, and Williams all played a short drive away from Cooperstown in a location that is now forgotten. Jeter and Rivera will soon return to the area to be permanently enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Today, legends are born in other places, but major league talent will always be out there, waiting to be discovered.
One such place is San Diego State University. Here, within driving distance of three major league franchises, is where today's best kept secret in baseball is cutting his teeth, improving his craft, and waiting for opportunity to strike. 6'5 shortstop David Hensley has steadily honed his craft, in the process propelling himself from fringe player to one of the top talents in the college game. Not all of Hensley's talents translate into counting numbers; he has been a strong contributor on defense in every position but catcher, but simple statistical numbers do not show that. He has emerged as a leader in the clubhouse and on the diamond, but again, numbers alone do not show that. When one looks at the numbers, David Hensley has the talent to be a special player at the professional level, yet here he is, an unsung senior hiding in plain sight. Although he is not yet a household name, Hensley will soon emerge on the national scene as teams and broadcasters become aware of his talent. David Hensley is, simply, the best kept secret in baseball.
David Hensley played high school ball near SDSU, at Patrick Henry, just across I-8 from the campus. As a freshman, he was a fringe player who fought hard to make the team. He has emerged as a versatile, integral part of the San Diego State University baseball team. A team-first player, David Hensley is willing to take the team wherever his teammates need him. His transition from right field to shortstop, for example, has made him a more complete player. In the process, he developed into an extremely patient, intelligent player capable of seeing the complete picture rather than simply viewing himself in a vacuum.
This is perhaps most notable in his emergence as a clubhouse leader for the Aztecs; as a player who has played every defensive position but catcher for San Diego State and who has emerged as a consistent, effective hitter, Hensley has an ability to simplify the game. He is able to make the most of every at-bat or fielding moment, and works hard to teach younger teammates to do the same. As a mentor, David Hensley clearly takes pride in preparing underclassmen for bigger roles on the Aztec baseball team. This bodes well both for the future of San Diego State baseball, and for Hensley. He is clearly a team-first player who cares more about the success of his team than about personal accolades, and will anything in his power to help his team. Hensley is not known for making big media splashes, so he is often overlooked in the national press. However, he regularly makes a huge impact on the field. Ultimately, the picture that emerges of David Hensley is one of a high-character, team-first player who will be an asset to any professional baseball team that drafts him.
David Hensley's production in the field is the type of thing that legends are made of. He was extremely successful as a right fielder as a junior. However, rather than focus on the position as a senior, he transitioned to shortstop to help his team. In the process, Hensley learned a new level of attentiveness that will benefit him wherever he plays at the next level. His footwork has clearly improved throughout his collegiate career, especially following this transition. He continues to improve as a fielder, and given his experience playing across the diamond, he has a deep, thorough understanding of the anatomy of an at bat from a defensive perspective that cannot be easily replicated.
In fact, Hensley has even proven effective as a pitcher. Although most known for his ability as a hitter, Hensley recorded a save in an appearance as a relief pitcher for the Aztecs. His career numbers are solid as a pitcher; Hensley has thrown for 6 innings allowing 1 hit and 1 walk while registering 4 strikeouts, a save, and a 0.00 ERA over five appearances. This speaks to his versatility; not only can he contribute in multiple positions in the field, but he can also pitch as needed. This experience as a pitcher likely contributes to his uncanny ability to extend at-bats and put balls into play. While Hensley will not necessarily wow scouts with pure power as a batter, he is extremely capable as a hitter and always seems to find open spaces in the field when batting. This ability likely stems, at least in part, as a direct result of his versatility as a defensive player. Hensley has an intimate, deep understanding of the game that stems from playing almost every defensive position on the field. He uses this knowledge to get on base on an extremely consistent basis. This level of understanding is one intangible that contributes to Hensley's status as the game's best kept secret. To me, David Hensley is an extremely high-ceiling player who will make a MLB roster by any means necessary, and push his teammates to grow and improve in the process.
"He gets on base." -Jonah Hill, Moneyball.
Every time I look at Hensley's collegiate career, I'm reminded of the film Moneyball. No matter what the situation is, Hensley gets on base. He's not a feast-or-famine power hitter who will either swing for the fences and hit for power or will generate a huge amounts of strikeouts. Hensley hits for contact, he is patient with his at-bats, he is able to extend at-bats in order to keep innings alive, and most importantly, he gets on base. Look at his play throughout his collegiate career. A 29+game hitting streak this season, a 12 game hitting streak in 2017, hit .411 with runners on base in 2017 and .357 with runners in scoring position. Hensley gets on base, and extends innings. His strikeouts have declined every year, and every year in college, Hensley has shown improved patience leading to an increase in walks. Regardless of the situation, he gets on base. He is able to easily take the ball to the opposite field at will. Rather than take strikeouts, Hensley takes fouls to extend at-bats. He can spray balls around the field at will, and this allows him to take advantage of the holes that naturally arise on the diamond throughout defensive shifts. Ultimately, this ability will allow him to contribute immediately as a hitter at the professional level.
Long-term hitting streaks are rare in baseball, and players that can build these streaks at the MLB level often become legends. Chase Utley, George Brett, Albert Pujols, Nomar Garciaparra, Louis Gonzalez...these are special players who have made a major impact on the face of the game over the past few decades. If David Hensley can continue his success getting on-base at the MLB level, he will be in the company of greatness. While it is difficult to draw a direct, straight line from collegiate success to MLB success, Hensley shows the tools necessary to be an extremely effective hitter at the professional level.
Not only does David Hensley get on-base, he also drives runs in. This Saturday, May 12th, Hensley recorded 4 hits and 5 RBI in a single game against San Jose State. On April 14th, 2017, Hensley logged 4 RBI against UNLV. While Hensley is not known for huge home run totals, he is capable of driving in runs in huge fashion when the opportunity arises. This ability to come up big with RBI highlights David Hensley's potential as a prospective MLB hitter. In a game where one or two runs can make the difference between a win and a loss, Hensley's ability to keep at-bats alive and drive in runs will have a significant, positive impact on whatever franchise chooses to draft and develop him as a prospect. This is not a player who will flame out at the next level; instead, he will find ways to contribute and to help his team win games by whatever means necessary, both at the plate and in the field. Hensley is a patient, intelligent hitter who will be an asset as a hitter.
David Hensley is also extremely valuable as a base-runner. His speed is an asset rather than a liability. In 2017, he stole 6 bases on 8 attempts. In 2017, he stole 7 bases on 8 attempts. In 2018, he has stolen 5 bases on 7 attempts. He also regularly hits for doubles. Combined with his ability to put balls in play as a hitter, Hensley's speed as a base-runner makes him a valuable offensive weapon. David Hensley can field. David Hensley can hit. David Hensley is a capable, versatile player who is able to play nearly every defensive position in the sport, and he has the speed to be a dangerous weapon when on base. Unlike some players who do one or two things really well and lack in other areas, David Hensley is a complete player who will contribute wherever he is drafted. Hensley is quite simply, the best kept secret in baseball.
The Albany-Colonie Yankees used to be a spot where the New York Yankees could hide and develop their top talent. In a small, out-of-the-way setting close to a major highway (NYS Route 7) , Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Williams and Pettitte cut their teeth as minor league players. The team was at its prime nearly 30 years ago, and now has faded into the memories of a few local fans. Today, baseball's best kept secret, David Hensley is also hiding in wait of his opportunity as a professional baseball player. Across California I-8 from his high school, Hensley is preparing for the next step in his career as a player. Special players can mean the difference between a litany of disappointing seasons and the creation of dynasty. David Hensley is the type of player that a dynasty can be built around. From baseball's best-kept secret to a future house-hold name, David Hensley is a player who should be on every MLB scout's radar heading into the 2018 MLB Draft.--Mike B., Matt and Mike Sports.