Tyrell Jenkins Scouting Report
First of all, I’d like to thank the Kane County Cougars and their staff, and in particular Shawn Touney, the Cougars’ Director of Public Relations, for making this report possible. Much of the video for this report was shot from the press box, and as such what you’ll be viewing would not have been possible without their generosity. Thanks folks – I appreciate it!
RHP, Quad Cities River Bandits (St. Louis Cardinals affiliate – Midwest League)
Game scouted: June 30, 2012 – First Third Bank Ballpark, Geneva, Illinois
Background: Tyrell Jenkins is a 2010 supplemental round draft choice by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Henderson, Texas. Listed at 6’4” and 192 pounds, he was noted in high school for his prowess on both the baseball diamond as a pitcher and the football field as a quarterback, earning himself the opportunity to play both sports at Baylor University. He never made it to college, choosing to go pro in baseball out of the prep ranks after being drafted 50th overall. After a promising if mildly erratic first full pro season in the Appalachian League, Jenkins has had a rough Midwest League campaign in his introduction to full season baseball.
Jenkins is one of the more impressive physical specimens that you’ll find on any baseball field, with the sort of natural evident athleticism that is typically seen only in tools-laden outfielders and shortstops. In describing his physicality it is easy to fall back on his football pedigree as a guide, but he has a fluidity and lightness to his movements that reminds me more of a basketball player. Jenkins has a high and narrow waist with LONG tapered legs, and he’s very lean with a strong core. His upper body shows signs of maturation with shoulders that have broadened somewhat since his high school days, but he remains projectable with considerable room to fill out. Indeed, Jenkins will almost certainly need to get bigger and stronger to handle the strenuous physical demands of being a major league starting pitcher, and thus far the Cardinals have seemed to implicitly acknowledge that need by closely monitoring his workload. With his build and athleticism, however, there should be no worries about this part of Jenkins’ game; the kid is a flat out stud in this regard, and he has all the physical gifts needed to mature into a durable innings eater.
This is the part of Jenkins’ game that really needs work, as his mechanics are erratic and raw even by the standards of young, inexperienced pitching prospects. He starts off nicely enough, using a smooth backstep with his hands dropping to his waist as he rotates back, then coming back up as he prepares to release the ball. He has a very pronounced and high leg kick, which he seems to repeat with consistency; it could stand to be lessened some, but at this point the kick seems to be more about timing and less about effort, so I’m not too troubled for the moment. Where things start to go wrong is in the pause that Jenkins has over the mound, causing his body to go out of sync and leading to a multitude of issues that can crop up from pitch to pitch. What should be a smooth delivery often ends up being a little herky-jerky, with inconsistencies in arm slot and release point. Between his leg kick and a relatively long arm action in back, Jenkins is prone to finding his arm coming in very late on the front side of his delivery; while he has good arm speed and is able to compensate adequately for now, which allows him to keep the ball down, this is nonetheless a serious flaw that should be addressed. When he’s at his best, Jenkins throws from a high ¾ arm slot, although it can drop at times and reduce his extension. For all this, he actually holds up okay with runners on, an observation borne out by the similarities in his peripherals between the windup and the stretch. There is a fair bit of visible effort in his delivery, particularly from the stretch, but there is time to smooth things out. I’d start by finding ways to speed up the tempo of his delivery.
Jenkins has a good looking fastball, even if the velocity wasn’t quite in line with other accounts I have seen. In this particular outing he topped out in the vicinity of 93-94 mph and worked comfortably a little less than that, in the 90-92 mph range. I recognize those numbers may disappoint some who might have been expecting a mid-90s sizzler, but there is room for that velocity to bump as he grows into his body and refines his mechanics. Even better is that Jenkins’ fastball is a lively one, with good sink. He’s capable of getting good run on his fastball away from right-handed hitters and in on lefties; lefties have not hit well Jenkins this year (.205 BAA), and with his fastball capable of inducing weak contact against them, it’s easy to see why that is the case. On its own merits Jenkins’ fastball should certainly be a plus pitch, although I’ll admit I’m a conservative one when it comes to grading and would want to see a little more before tabbing it as a future 7 offering. I did believe that his fastball played down a little, however, due to a tendency to overly aim his fastball for strikes. The result was a fastball that is much more hittable than it really should be, particularly for righties who are willing to take it to the opposite field.
The curveball is Jenkins’ primary secondary offering, and it showed impressive potential. It’s not quite a true power curve, coming in at 76-78 mph, but it has the spin and break to be at least a very good major league offering. Like most young pitchers, Jenkins doesn’t throw his breaking ball with pitch-to-pitch consistency, but this is not likely to be a long-term problem. It has remarkably good depth, and considering that it is thrown from Jenkins’ high arm slot, this 12-to-6 curve comes in on a tough downward plane. Perhaps most impressive of all, Jenkins even flashes the ability to throw his curveball in the strike zone, making it a trustworthy second pitch in his repertoire that can project to higher levels of competition. I am wary of being too effusive in my praise here, because there are certainly things to improve on, but Jenkins’ weaknesses with his breaking ball are of the type that aren’t uncommon in pitchers of his age and especially experience level. He needs to develop consistency with it, he needs to make sure he’s keeping his arm slot and arm speed in tune with his fastball when he throws it, and he needs to throw it for strikes. In other words, weaknesses that stand to resolve themselves positively with more experience.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Jenkins’ changeup lags behind his fastball/curve combo, but there is some room for optimism here. The good news is that he seems to have heard of what a changeup actually is and what it is supposed to do, which automatically puts him in relatively good standing for this level. He flashes the ability to get it around the plate and he kept it low, both of which are nice to see. Unfortunately the pitch really doesn’t do much at this point, coming in pretty hard velocity-wise and lacking the life of a quality offering. I do not believe that Jenkins’ changeup projects to be more than below-average at the major league level, but it could be useful as a show-me pitch if thrown for strikes. An optimist may take the view that with the fundamental issue of throwing strikes addressed, it may prove easier for Jenkins to add movement to his changeup down the road. For now, I’d rather err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to the volatile subject of the changeups of young pitchers.
Overall Control & Command:
I would say that Jenkins looks to have above-average to plus control, with fringe-average to average command. A lot will depend on his mechanical consistency, of course, but que sera sera. He demonstrates commitment to throwing strikes to both sides of the plate with all of his pitches, and he keeps the ball low. In fact, he does these things well enough to the point where it may actually work against him to some extent; batters seem to lock on to him fairly well, and a more “effectively wild” approach involving better use of high fastballs to keep batters off balance may help his stuff play to its true potential. It’s worth noting that Jenkins seems to miss low with his pitches (often due to overthrowing) more than he misses up. The better defenses that Jenkins will be pitching in front of at higher levels will no doubt benefit him given the number of ground balls he induces, as well. He shows flashes of solid command, but more often he displays a lack of finesse that is owed in part to his inconsistent mechanics and in part to his inexperience. I am admittedly uncertain that he can make the adjustments that will be needed to succeed, and a breakthrough does not appear to be in the near future. Lest I sound too negative, I would stress that these are simply the issues that an organization must contend with when developing a very raw and inexperienced arm. They are by no means issues that compromise Jenkins’ potential in any way.
In a way, Tyrell Jenkins is a player for whom it might be said that it is probably best to just completely shut out of your mind for the next couple of years. He is raw, very raw indeed, and barring a major injury his level of performance is not likely to be very representative of his potential – so don’t worry about it. He is still learning the basics of his craft, and while he has a lot of work to do, that is at least in part a tribute to how good he can be; optimal outcomes may very well involve breakthroughs of unexpected sorts. Of course, we are still talking about a player who could find himself struggling to get out of A ball. As such, Jenkins is an incredibly difficult player to project, but given his inexperience and the progress he has made already I think it’s just best to look at the talent and hope for the best.
A talented if erratic No. 3 starter who can out-perform that label for stretches at a time.