Tonight, the Chicago Cubs drafted Fresno State righty Ryan Jensen with their first round selection (27th overall), a guy few were expecting to go in the top 30ish picks. In a draft very light on college pitching, clearly the Cubs liked Jensen and must be projecting him to start.
That’s particularly true because many of the early takes I’m seeing on the very-hard-throwing righty suggest he’s most likely to wind up in the bullpen long-term, which is not what you’d want to be snagging in the first round. In the various rankings, Jensen ranged from as high as 55 to FanGraphs to as low as 109 at Baseball America.
More on Jensen from MLB Pipeline… pic.twitter.com/0ejlIb1umF
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 4, 2019
It’ll be interesting to see if the Cubs will be able to save a little on slot with Jensen, and, if so, how they might be aggressive later on in the draft. The Cubs have one of the smallest bonus pools in the draft, so any extra bit they can get from the first round pick would be helpful. The slot for Jensen’s pick is $2,570,100 – for what it’s worth, the 50th pick has a slot of $1,469,900.
Although the Cubs went with a position player last year (Nico Hoerner), they took a couple college pitchers in the first round in 2017. So far, Alex Lange is struggling with consistency at High-A, and Brendon Little has been rehabbing an injury after a disappointing year in 2018.
At least one eyes-on look indicated that maybe Jensen has been peaking of late:
Tuned to some of the Fresno State/UCSB game. Holy cow is Ryan Jensen dealing. His stuff is ridiculous — the mid-90s four-seamer up in the zone, the two-seamer with late life, the hammer at 84-85. He’s just stuffing UCSB, cruising with an 8-0 lead.
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 1, 2019
From the Cubs’ release on the selection:
“Ryan is an athletic and competitive righthander with a big arm,” said Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod. “He features a heavy sinker along with a swing and miss type fastball, and he closed out his junior season strong. We are excited to get him into a Cubs uniform.”
Jensen, 21, went 12-1 with a 2.88 ERA (32 ER/100.0 IP) in 16 appearances this season, striking out 107 batters while walking just 27. He has gone 9-0 with a 2.32 ERA (17 ER/66.0 IP) in his last nine starts, leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA regional final tonight vs. Stanford. He was named a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, as well as the Mountain West Pitcher of the Year and Mountain West Tournament MVP.
The six-foot, 180-pound righty has gone 17-7 with a 4.42 ERA (104 ER/211.0 IP) in 63 appearances, including 27 starts, in three seasons at Fresno State. He has struck out 208 batters, while walking 99, in 211.0-career innings pitched.
A native of Salinas, California, Jensen graduated from Salinas Union High School where he posted a 2.75 ERA in 40.2 innings as a senior in 2016. He was ranked as the 16th-best right-handed pitcher in the Class of 2016 in California by Perfect Game.
Much more on Jensen soon. Interestingly, the Cubs were apparently close to taking one of the top high school arms in the draft – so close that Jeff Passan mistakenly thought they had – but it fell through at the last moment:
The Chicago Cubs are expected to take Florida high school right-hander Matthew Allan with the No. 27 pick in the MLB Draft, sources tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 4, 2019
The Chicago Cubs were indeed extremely close to taking HS right-hander Matthew Allan, but signability concerns pushed them to Fresno State right-hander Ryan Jensen, sources tell ESPN.
Horse shoes and hand grenades, etc.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 4, 2019
Jensen’s Bulldogs, by the way, are trying to play their way into the College World Series right now:
Cubs fans should be Fresno State fans tonight, as the Bulldogs have a winner-take-all Regional finale on ESPNU tonight.
A FSU win would mean we could watch Jensen in a Super Regional this weekend.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) June 4, 2019