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Prospect Preview: Tyrell Jenkins

Feb 26, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Tyrell Jenkins (29) delivers a pitch during workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
Feb 26, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Tyrell Jenkins (29) delivers a pitch during workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Tyrell Jenkins - SP - Cardinals - Drafted in the supplemental first round out of high school, Jenkins turned down a football scholarship and the chance to be on the receiving end of passes from Robert Griffin III to sign for $1.3 million. Coming into the organization Jenkins was as raw as he was athletic, but showed progress during the 2011 season. The Cardinals have chosen to move deliberately with Jenkins, avoiding the temptation to put him into full-season ball until this season. While he's showed the requisite control to move faster than that, Jenkins remains understandably crude for a US high school pitching prospect.

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Jenkins accumlated 56 innings in 2011, striking out 55 while walking 13. His control of his repertoire is as consistent as one could hope, as Jenkins didn't walk more than two batters in any outing last year. His ERA was perfectly fine at 3.86, but that was misleading as his FIP stood at a sparkling 2.79. As the youngest player on the Johnson City roster, it was quite an accomplishment. He's carried that success into 2012, posting a stellar 1.96 ERA at Lo-A in 23 innings while striking out 23 batters. His walk rate has been elevated in a small sample this year, more than doubling from 2.09/9 IP to 4.30/9 IP. Despite this, Jenkins has been able to succeed, though that is due in part to an unsustainable .228. All that said, he has the natural talent to keep his ERA and other numbers where they are now, and adjust the peripheral numbers as opposed to the other way around.

Jenkins has an ideal pitchers frame, standing 6'4/180 lbs, and he likes to use all of it in his delivery. All leg kick and arm when he entered the pros, the Cardinals have done well to tone down his delivery, and make it a bit more conventional. He still features a high leg kick, but is able to stay on line to the plate, with good extension. His extension allows his fastball to get on the hitter quicker than they'd expect. His fastball rests in the low-90s but he can reach back for more when he needs it, reaching as high as 97 MPH. Jenkins junked his slider in 2011, going instead with a 12-to-6 curveball that he's shown good feel for. His curveball is already above-average and he has room for growth given the short time he's been throwing it. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches with "developing" often being the tag thrown on it, though he has made strides with it. Jenkins is fearless on the mound, enough so that many an announcer will use the phrase "due to his football mentality" once he reaches the majors. While the Cardinals have helped Jenkins develop, much of the credit goes to the man himself. He has shown a willingness to mix his pitches, and doesn't show any effect if he makes a mistake. While Jenkins has exemplary control (throw the ball in the strikezone), he can still use work refining his command (executing his pitches within the strikezone).

Featuring a plus fastball and above-average curve with a developing change, Jenkins profiles towards the top of the rotation. If he can continue his progress with his curve and his change, he has legitimate number one upside, both based on stuff and his mentality on the mound. He will not be a fast mover, likely moving one level at a time for the next few years, but he will be well worth the wait. I would buy in on the ground floor while you can because he will be leaping up prospect charts starting next year.