While Shelby Miller has garnered all of the headlines in the Heyward swap, Tyrell Jenkins has put up a great season at two levels since coming over in that deal. While his early career was plagued with injuries, He has Jenkins has maintained a clean bill of health through 2015. He was once a top 100 prospect for the Cardinals, and he is looking to live up to that potential. With his high leg kick and stirrups he looks like a throwback on the mound, and he is one of the most active minor leaguers on social media. The former Baylor quarterback commit has the athleticism and the look of a big league pitcher if he can continue to put it together.
Level: Class AAA - Gwinnett Braves
Position: Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6'4" 180lbs
Born: 7/20/1992 Henderson, Texas
Drafted: 1st Round (50 overall) in 2010 by St. Louis
Acquired: Trade with St. Louis in 2014
Bats: Right Throws: Right
19 G; 6-6; 3.03 ERA; 110 IP; 47 BB, 67 K; 1.355 WHIP; 5 CG; 8% BB%; 10.7% K%;
Tyrell's 2015 season has been his longest to date - he has already thrown 36 more innings than any previous season in his career. He has gone deep in games (nearly 6 IP per start) and had taken steps forward in harnessing his control. While his peripheral aren't all that impressive he has done a terrific job of limiting damage by getting double plays and pitching to weak contact. His good work with Mississippi earned him a spot on the Southern League All Star team and a promotion to AAA Gwinnett on July 8th. He was more than up for the task, throwing seven scoreless innings while striking out seven in his debut. In his 17 innings since his call up, he has only walked six, though it has come at the cost of a decreased strikeout rate-8 in those 17IP. He has been a bit up and down throughout the season, going six innings or less and giving up four or more in 6 of 19 starts, and going seven innings with two or less runs allowed in six starts. Nearly one quarter of his runs allowed this year have been unearned, and with his high ground ball rates he will need good defense behind him to prevent bad innings.
The first thing that hops off of the page when you watch Tyrell pitch is his high leg kick on his delivery. He brings his knee all the way up to his chest, leans backward, and fires forward with an over the top delivery. He does a good job of repeating his arm angle, though he isn't as consistent with his landing spot. The most notable thing (outside of his leg kick) is his hitch right before he releases his hips. He has a pause or delay before he comes to the plate (as seen in the below gifs) that seems to be a good predictor of his control. When he keeps his hips closed before the hitch he can keep the ball in the strike zone well, but when he flies open before that pause he has major control problems. This is usually apparent when he over throws his fastball, and he opens up his hips and leaves the ball high and inside to right handed batters. His delivery from the stretch is notable different, and he pitches with an odd sort of leg lift in which he bends the knee and flattens his lower leg parallel to the ground. He is more consistent with his control from the stretch, posting a walk rate of 3.3BB/9 compared to a 4.4BB/9 from the windup. There is an even more notable difference in strikeouts-6.8 K/9 from the windup to just 4.1 K/9 from the stretch. This could be attributed to a change in approach with runners on, as he typically tries to get double plays when there is a man on first, and thus is more apt to throw the ball over the plate.
Jenkins was a three sport athlete in high school (four if you count appearances on the track team) and is one of the best pure athletes in the Braves system. This translates well to the field, as he has an easy arm action that produces premium velocity and he goes deep in games without losing his stuff. His athleticism helps him immensely in allowing him to control his body despite his funky delivery, and he does a good job of repeating despite all of the moving parts involved. He has a tall, lanky frame that allows him to get good downhill action on his fastball, leading to a high ground ball rate. He pitches to contact and allows his defense to do his work, and with the presence of very good defenders in Atlanta he should play well with the major league team. He does a good job of getting ahead of batters, but he lacks a true out pitch and has a tendency to lose batters he gets to two strikes. He would benefit from developing such a pitch, as his current off speed offering act more to get the hitters off of his fastball than to get swings and misses
Tyrell throws the typical fastball-curveball-changeup combo that many starters possess, a trio that is headed by his live fastball. The pitch comes in at the Mid-90's that maxes at 96 with huge downhill sunk and arm side run. It's a true plus pitch that he does a good job of commanding to both sides of the plate. He could project for more velocity if he were to grow into his frame, though he is basically maxed out at this point. That is not a problem though, as he has an average fastball velocity approaching 93 mph this year, and was sitting at 93.5 mph in the Arizona Fall League.
His changeup is his least effective off speed offering, though it projects to be a good weapon at the major league level. He doesn't use the pitch very much, and when he does he has been very inconsistent in his command of the pitch. It has the desirable velocity difference that you look for with a changeup, and shows good movement along the same plane as his fastball. He needs to learn to better command the pitch but it should be a nice option to help him retire left handers.
His curveball has shown plus potential at times, and when thrown properly has a sharp 12-6 movement. He has a much more advanced feel for the curveball, but like his changeup he often lacks the necessary consistency to make use of it. When it works it is a very effective pitch that should provide some strikeouts, but at times it lacks definition and tends to spin out over the plate. He is not afraid to attack hitters with the pitch, though he seems reluctant to use it early in counts or when he is behind to a batter. While it has true plus potential, the lack of consistency and command at this point makes it hard to grade the curveball better than above average
One of Tyrell's best assets is his poise and composure on the mound. While he struggles with inconsistent command he maintains his game plan and battles through every pitch. He has a humble attitude and genuinely enjoys coming out to the field and interacting with fans. He is already a fan favorite despite not having made his debut, and that will almost certainly continue up the ladder. He has an infectious attitude and work ethic, and while at times in his past he has gotten frustrated with injuries and poor performances, Jenkins does a good job of persevering through his problems. He has the heart and the presence you look for in a young player, and is not the type of player who will flame out or get an ego after having success or being rewarded with a large contract.
Tyrell is and has always been a personal favorite of mine due to his top end projectability and great attitude. At the same time, he is Realistically a fairly raw pitcher despite his success at higher levels. Worst case scenario for him seems to be a back end starter, and if all goes well he could be a number 2 or 3 starter with Atlanta. He has to improve his command of his off speed pitches, especially his curveball. He could potentially have two plus pitches and an above average changeup, though my realistic expectation is somewhat lower. I am higher than most are with his command grade, as I have seen the potential for above average command, though his inconsistencies with his hitch may prevent him from reaching that grade. I have high hopes for this young pitcher, and he will make a short splash in Atlanta this September, though injury or trade could land him there sooner. The Braves likely had originally only included him on the 40 man roster to avoid losing him to the Rule 5 draft, but his performance to this point in his career merits a call to Atlanta when rosters expand. All in all Tyrell looks to be a medium floor, high ceiling player who should land a significant role with the team in 2017
Next Prospect Write up: Mallex Smith (sorry, no choice this time)