Ethan Hankins has one of the highest ceilings in Cleveland’s pitching pipeline. The 6-foot-6 right-hander possesses a first-round pedigree — he went 35th overall in 2018 — and a heater that sits mid-90s with late life. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked him 15th in Cleveland’s system last year. Moreover, he’s wise beyond his years. Still just 19 years old, Hankins is studious enough about his craft that he could reasonably be referred to as a pitching nerd.
Hankins split his first full professional campaign between Short-season Mahoning Valley and Low-A Lake County, logging a 2.55 ERA and fanning 71 batters in 60 innings. No less impressive are the strides he’s continued to make between the ears. The former Forsythe, Georgia prep may have bypassed Vanderbilt University to sign with the Indians, but his quest for knowledge has by no means waned. Influenced heavily by his off-season experiences at Full Count Baseball, it continues unabated.
Hankins discussed his cerebral approach, and the improvements he’s made to his repertoire, late in the 2019 season.
David Laurila: Is pitching more of an art, or more of a science?
Ethan Hankins: “The game we’re playing right now, with all the analytical stuff we have access to, and use — especially with the Indians — it’s starting to become more of a science. I feel like it used to be more an art. Even a few years ago. But it’s been growing into something that can be called a science, because of the average velocities, the spin efficiencies, true spin, 2D spin, 3D spin. There are all of these numbers that can be beneficial if you know how to use them in the right way.“
Laurila: It sounds like you lean science.
Hankins: “Yes, but that’s not because the Indians have thrown it in my face. It’s because I’ve taken to learning how these numbers can benefit you. Granted, the Indians help a lot. They obviously have all of this knowledge. But not everybody uses it. We don’t get pressured to use it.”
Laurila: How do you use it?
Hankins: “There are a million different ways that… oh gosh. I’d say that I’m using it to develop my offspeed, more than anything. My curveball has made a huge jump over the past year. I don’t credit that solely to the Rapsodo, or any of the other technology we have access to, but that does give you a lot of insight. It tells you, ‘This is where you are.’ From there, you’re able to say, ‘OK, I want to be here; I want this pitch to have this much efficiency. This is the direction I want.’ Read the rest of this entry »