DELAND, FL- Kennesaw State righty Chad Jenkins followed Kyle Heckathorn, taking the hill Saturday afternoon against Stetson. The dynamic duo are #100 and #33 respectively in the latest PGCrosschecker rankings. It’s quite an impressive 1-2 punch for a school in only their fourth season of Division I baseball.
But like Heckathorn the night before, Jenkins was hit hard by the Stetson Hatters. He still earned the win as the Owls pulled it out 13-6, but his line was an unimpressive 6.1 IP, 13H, and 6ER. On the positive side, he struck out five and walked none.
PREGAME BULLPEN IMPRESSIONS
Both of the righties are big body guys, but Jenkins has a much different build from Heckathorn.
I eye-balled Jenkins to be 6-3, 230. He has a blocky build with thick, wide hips, and a fleshy upper-half. Despite his size, Jenkins has the facial features of a younger kid and a good amount of baby fat. I believe his body is still molding and we’ll see a much more solid build when he’s 25.
Another scout likened his body to St. Louis Cardinals reliever and former University of Miami sandwich pick (2006) Chris Perez. Jenkins is not quite as heavy or large-framed, but the shape is similar.
Warming up in the bullpen, Jenkins showed pretty good arm-action with some quickness out of a compact stroke. His delivery all-around was fair; not particularly smooth or athletic, but he had good core and lower-half strength that created a strong hip rotation. Jenkins released the ball at a three-quarter slot.
He threw a fastball, slider, and change in the bullpen, and one thing that struck me was how he threw low strikes with his heater. I was curious to see if he took it to the game.
Jenkins threw a good first inning and was 91-92 MPH on every fastball. For the most part, he maintained that velocity throughout his entire 6.1 innings of work (90-93 MPH). His command of his fastball was shaky; he threw strikes, but got too much of the plate and didn’t throw low strikes the way he did in the bullpen. Jenkins’ fastball was a two-seamer whose movement I graded out to be average for run-and-sink.
Jenkins does have some promising peripheral pitches. I thought his cutter, slider, and change all had the potential to become solid-average or better by major league standards.
Jenkins threw his slider in the 81-83 MPH range and at its best, it had a two-plane bite. He struggled with command of it and too many hung up in the zone. I graded it out as 45 present/55 future.
The cutter looked very promising, though Jenkins only threw a handful. They were in the 85-86 MPH range and broke down more then they did laterally. Cutters put more strain on the arm than fastballs, but can be very good weapons against lefthanded hitters. I graded it as 55/60.
Jenkins’ change-up has good arm-speed and a late fade. I graded it 50/55.
With such good stuff across the board, how does he give up 13 hits in 6.1 innings to Stetson?
More than anything, I think he’s a thrower more than a pitcher at this point in his development. The stuff looks good individually and grades out high, but Jenkins really didn’t work the hitters. We talk about a hitter working the count, a pitcher has to work it, too, from the other side. He has to work side-to-side, up-and-down, which Jenkins didn’t do. (It should be noted that most colleges call pitches from the dugout, which gives the pitcher less leeway in what he throws and makes pitchability more difficult to evaluate for a scout.)
A lot of casual baseball observers will use control and command synonymously and they really are completely different terms. Jenkins was a great example on Saturday, he had good control but poor command.
Control means throwing strikes, which is what he did. Jenkins didn’t walk anybody, which you can see in the box score.
There’s no way to measure command precisely in a box score. Command is throwing the ball where it needs to be thrown, with the movement intended. It might be a strike, it might be a ball, it might be down the middle, or it might be in the ribs. The pitcher has command when he throws it where he wants to.
Very, very few college pitchers have average major league command of three pitches. So Jenkins is not as far behind as it sounds. It’s something he’ll develop and to have the upside of four big league pitches, you can believe that teams will give him time to figure it out.
We have Jenkins slotted around the third round and I can still see that coming about. More so than Heckathorn, I like Jenkins as a starter because his multiple pitches. But if his command doesn’t come along in the minors, he’s a worthy relief conversion as well.
The question scouts have to ask with him and every other pitcher is where the velocity is going to go from here. The wildcard with Jenkins is his body-type and his level of physical maturity. It’s reasonable to say he’s going to get stronger and more solidly built as he matures, but sometimes that added strength on a barrel-chested kid makes his arm slower and his body stiffer. Added strength on a lanky kid is almost always good, but you have to wait and see on the bigger torso guys.
I can immediately recall two big exceptions, both of whom were also Georgia-bred: Matt Capps and Jonathan Broxton were large-framed kids drafted out of high school who threw mostly low-90s (when I scouted them) and are now closers for the Pirates and Dodgers respectively pumping in the mid-90s.
Of note to Jenkins is his experience as a high school pitcher at various Perfect Game events. As a junior and senior, he topped out at 84 MPH and 88 MPH in different tournaments. He has since gained significant physical strength and arm-speed and his velocity has been on an upward swing thus far.
Also of interest to me is that he relied heavily on a curveball at that time, which he has since scrapped completely for a slider that is much more conducive to his arm-action.
OTHER STETSON-KSU NOTES: A Stetson senior whom I think is a real sleeper is first baseman Jeremy Cruz. The big-bodied 6-0, 230 righthanded hitter has plus raw power with a strong, compact swing. He hit a very long homerun on Friday that was over 450 feet. Cruz also shows good athleticism and body life despite his thick build. There are a lot of swings and misses and he’ll need to adjust better with two strikes to hit in the big leagues, but I give him a chance…. Stetson second baseman Casey Frawley is on some pro follow lists and we have him as a Group 2 prospect projected in the 4th-10th rounds going into the weekend. Frawley is an undersized (eye-balled 5-9, 170) righthanded hitter who puts the bat on the ball and runs above-average (60). He really struggled defensively this weekend, booting a double play opportunity and struggling to get anything on his throws from up the middle. He did go 3-5 on Saturday, hitting in the three-hole for the Hatters. I don’t think every team has him in the 4th-10th rounds, but it only takes one and there’s a chance someone pops him in that range.