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Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #29 Chad Jenkins

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After Moises Sierra, who hopefully bounces back in 2011, at #30 comes last year’s 1st-round pick at #29…

#29: Stephen Chadwick Jenkins

Pitcher / 23 years old / 6′4″ 225 lbs

Born: December 22nd, 1987 in Chattanooga, TN

Bats: Right Throws: Right

High School: Cherokee H.S. (Canton, GA)

College Team: Kennesaw State Owls

Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (20th overall) of the 2009 First-Year-Player Draft

Jersey Number: #18 for the Dunedin Blue Jays

Quick Facts:

  • Was a position player in high school
  • Grew up in Atlanta, so he admired John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine at a young age
  • Prefers pitching to wooden bats in professional ball over aluminum bats
  • Says his best baseball moment so far was April 2009, when he strung together an impressive scoreless innings streak
  • 2010 MID Mid-Season All-Star
  • 2009 Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year
  • 2009 Atlantic Sun Conference All-Star SP

Off the diamond, Jenkins has been credited for being quite intelligent and being able to use that in the mental side of the game:

  • Majored in Accounting, and had he not pursued a baseball career he would have been an accountant
  • CoSIDA Second Team District All-Academic honors in college
  • Graduated in the top 5 percent of his high school class
Year Age Level W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 K/9
2010 22 A/A+ 7 10 3.94 26 26 141.2 160 62 11 31 106 1.348 10.2 2.0 6.7

Dunedin Blue Jays Team Stats Ranking for Chad Jenkins:

  • Tied for 1st in complete games (1)
  • Tied for 3rd in losses (6)
  • 4th in home runs allowed (6)
  • 5th in starts (13)
  • 7th in earned runs allowed (30)
  • 8th in hits allowed (73)
  • 10th in strikeouts (42)

Interviews:

Pre-game interview with Lansing Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler:


Extra Information and previous experience:

Physically, Chad Jenkins is a presence on the mound, drawing comparisons to Joe Blanton with his 6’4″, 225-pound frame. Scouts see his body as a durable asset, especially if he keeps getting in better shape. Jenkins tried his best to do so prior to his professional debut in 2010, when he dropped ten pounds off his previous weight of 235 pounds.

Jenkins attended Kennesaw State University, along with another acclaimed hurler Kyle Heckathorn, in the relatively unknown Atlantic Sun Conference. Heckathorn was the pitcher to see at Kennesaw State, until scouts really started taking notice of Jenkins’ phenomenal final year in college. Overall, Jenkins went 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, and 1.5 BB/9 in 92 innings. Jenkins’ 8-1 record and ERA were tops in the league, and he finished the year with five complete games, including 2 shutouts. The thing that really caught the eyes of scouts was his 41 inning scoreless streak, and a 24.2 inning streak without giving up a walk.

Jenkins headed into the 2009 draft strong, and was pegged by Baseball America to go somewhere in the top 20 picks. There was some skepticism about Jenkins’ numbers in the Atlantic Sun Conference, which wasn’t as highly profiled as other conferences potential first round draft picks pitched in.

Then-Blue Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde had this to say to Baseball America during the draft about the level of competition Jenkins faced in college:

“Stuff is stuff, whether you’re pitching in the Southeastern Conference or Sunday slow pitch. It would have been tougher if you’re evaluating a hitter from that conference, but we really love Chad’s stuff.”

What stuff was Lalonde talking about?

Jenkins, who throws from a three-quarter arm slot, boasts a four pitch repertoire, with three of those pitches being above average. His signature pitch is his 90-93 mph sinker, which is nastier towards right-handed hitters. Instead of placing his index and middle fingers along the ball’s seams for his sinker, Jenkins keeps those two fingers together and puts them between the seams of the baseball, which results in a nasty sinker that Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill compares to “hitting a bowling ball”. Jenkins also has the ability to touch 96 mph with his four-seam fastball, and 86-87 mph with his plus slider. He has the ability to throw an average changeup as well, which he’ll likely improve more as his professional career continues.

Needless to say, he was a guy that the Jays were keeping an eye on, and when he was available when the Jays were selecting at #20, they took him. Jenkins signed two months later for a recommended slot amount of $1.359 million.

After selecting Jenkins with the Jays’ 2009 first round pick, Jon Lalonde added this about Jenkins:

“Chad is, in a lot of ways, everything we look for in a young pitcher. He’s big, he’s physical, he has a big, durable body. We love the fact that he throws a ton of strikes, he sinks the ball, his velocity is consistently in the  90-94 range, he works comfortably in that range. He locates to both sides of the plate, he has a plus slider that’s 86-87 miles an hour and a feel for a changeup. Probably one the of the most important things is that he’s a great competitor—he was the conference pitcher of the year. We love pitchers that throw strikes and that’s what he is. But he’s not just a strike thrower, he has power stuff and he really embodies everything we look for in a young pitcher.”

As a result of him signing later than expected, Jenkins did not pitch professionally in 2009 . He made his professional debut with Class A Lansing this past season, where the Jays opted to have him skip Lo-A Auburn altogether. Aside from getting hit harder than the Jays must have expected, Jenkins pitched fairly well with Lansing going 5-4 with a 3.63 ERA, and 13 walks, 64 strikeouts, and 87 hits in 79.1 innings (13 starts). He pitched one complete game there as well, and demonstrated good control with his low walk rate.

The Jays had decided they had seen enough of Jenkins with Lansing, so they promoted him to finish the year with Hi-A Dunedin, where he made 13 more starts. The results weren’t spectacular, as he went 2-6 with a 4.33 ERA in 62.1 innings, with a 1.460 WHIP, 10.5 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 6.1 K/9. This could have been due to fatigue near the end of the season, as Jenkins never pitched in short season ball and was thrown right into full season ball in his first professional year instead.

Expected 2011 Team: Hi-A Dunedin

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: #3-4 MLB starter

With his first professional season under his belt, Jenkins can recover and train this offseason to get ready for a successful 2011 season. The Jays are likely cutting him some slack, considering it was his first professional season in 2010, but surely they want to see better results out of their 2009 first round pick in 2011. Providing Jenkins makes adjustments and comes out strong with Hi-A Dunedin, it’s not unrealistic to think that Jenkins will make some starts for Double-A New Hampshire before the end of the 2011 season.

Jenkins’ spot on our Top 50 Prospects list might be quite low to some, but Mat and I just felt that his less than dominating numbers in 2010, combined with the influx of impressive and high-ceiling pitching talent to the Blue Jays Minor League system, justify this position. That being said though, now that Jenkins is accustomed to full season professional baseball, he could make a lot of improvements in 2011 and find a higher spot on our Top 50 Prospects list next year.

-JM

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UPDATE 01/16/2011

Courtesy of Batter’s Box, here is a quote from Jays’ Minor League pitching coordinator Dane Johnson in June, when he was asked about Jenkins not exactly being dominant with Lansing:

Well he did  a nice job at Lansing after he made some adjustments.  When you move up a level you try and make adjustments when you probably shouldn’t make them and overall if he sticks to what he was doing in Lansing Chad should be fine.  He got the ball up a little bit but he was getting his groundballs still and that’s what we want out of Chad.  He is going to be a groundball guy, some will go for hits but some will turn into double plays.  If he sticks to his gameplan he will be the same as he was in Lansing.

Here’s another quote from Johnson via Batter’s Box, this time in October 2010, when asked if Jenkins was a better pitcher at the end of the year than he was at the start:

Absolutely, no doubt about it.  He is still in the process of learning, he is heading in the right direction, I personally like what he is doing.  He is down in Florida now to work on his slider.  When he is down at the knees with his sink he gets the ground ball, gets ahead in counts.  It’s all about putting guys away and finishing them when he is in those counts.  The change-up is there, there is pitchability in there that needs to come out but he is headed in the right direction.

It should be interesting to keep an eye on Jenkins in 2011, and to see if the Jays expose him to Triple-A Vegas or not, providing he earns the chance after successful stints with Hi-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire.

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Tags: Aaron Hill Chad Jenkins Dunedin Blue Jays (AA) Lansing Lugnuts (Lo-A) Moises Sierra New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA) Ryan Heckathorn Toronto Blue Jays

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