It wasn’t surprising the Cubs took two college players with their first two picks in the MLB Draft last night, but it was surprising who they took, and in what order. Chase Strumpf was considered a possibility in the late first round, while Ryan Jensen wouldn’t have been a surprise in the second. The Cubs just decided to do it vice versa.
But if you didn't like Jensen in the first but would have liked him in the second, then just mentally flip these two picks and go to bed happy.
Basically, the Cubs got two guys they probably considered first rounders.
— Luke Blaize (@ltblaize) June 4, 2019
For the second straight year, the Cubs went California heavy, with a Northern California player way down the rankings with their late first-round pick. With how foolish Nico Hoerner made Draft Day Takes look, I promised myself to try and be pragmatic. Luckily, ESPN still has the archive of Jensen’s regional win on Friday.
What jumps out from the first pitch is Jensen’s athleticism and arm speed. He’s listed at six-feet even, and that might be an inch or two generous. His delivery is slow (perhaps we’ll see a tempo change in pro ball), but he leans back, builds momentum and then the elite arm speed does the work. Jensen touched 98 mph on the ESPN gun on his third pitch. However, in my opinion it’s not the velocity that stands out for Jensen, it’s the ridiculous armside run of his two-seam fastball.
Ryan Jensen 95 mph 2-seam fastball on Friday, drawing a sword from the batter. This thing has some late life, huh? pic.twitter.com/yVRAqRXuZU
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) June 4, 2019
There were many similar examples in the start that looked just like that. Jensen was 92-95 mph with the two-seam, holding the velocity and movement all the way through his 110-pitch outing. He throws two-seam what appears (and was said by the broadcasters) to be about 70-80% of the time. He’s comfortable trusting a comeback two-seam when down in the count, and he’s super comfortable jamming hitters inside.
The slider flashes plus, but it’s a pitch that should improve with pro instruction. By my eye he spins it well, but his hand gets underneath the ball. Early in his outing he threw a lot of “back up sliders”, and at the end of the start it got a little loopy on him. However, Jensen used the pitch a lot in his second time through the order successfully, showing good depth and command to the 82-86 mph offering.
I was encouraged by what Jensen showed with his change-up on Friday, as you’ll read elsewhere that it’s a distant third pitch he doesn’t throw often. I counted six in his outing, including on Pitch #110 for a strikeout. It has a little run, and at 85-89 mph, is enough of a change of pace from his fastball. He commanded the pitch down in the zone effectively, and his arm speed didn’t slow too noticeably. I would anticipate the work will be to increase the arm side run to better mimic his two-seam, but the pitch should develop just fine.
If you want to follow every pitch from that outing, here’s the thread on my Twitter feed. Overall, I’d say the Cubs got a good one here. His command and feel seemed good, though I understand that’s not always been the case. His Fresno State Bulldogs lost their winner-take-all Regional finale last night, so Jensen’s college career is effectively over. Expect that he will sign in a couple weeks and likely tack on about 10-20 innings in Eugene from late July to late August. After, of course, a stop in The Lab.
It wasn’t all bad news in Mondays Regional finales, however, as second-round pick Chase Strumpf’s UCLA Bruins won 6-3 over Loyola Marymount thanks in large part to a 3-run bomb by their second baseman. I know Brett posted this yesterday, but let’s repeat it:
The Cubs drafted Chase Strumpf while he was on deck. He followed up with this pic.twitter.com/odCGLnTAG0
— Teddy Cahill (@tedcahill) June 4, 2019
What you see in that video, that translates to his scouting reports: incredibly short and easy to the ball. His hand path is phenomenal, shows consistent ability to backspin the ball, and a strong two-hand finish. Strumpf saw his home run total drop from 12 last year to seven this season, but I’d bet his sophomore year is a better indicator of his future power: he’s going to hit his share.
Strumpf is an extraordinarily patient hitter, with a career 14.5 BB% that is up over 17% this year. You can really see Strumpf track the ball in this video:
I am a little surprised by his 20.7 K%, as his simple swing mechanics and strike zone judgment both would have me guess lower. However, he’s played as difficult a schedule as anyone in college baseball the last three years, and if we look at his 2017 summer spent in the wood bat Northwoods League, the strikeout rate was just 12.4%. I’d be surprised if he struck out much against A-ball pitching, but it will be his ability to keep his hit tool at elite levels that will determine his Major League ceiling.
It’s impossible for me to offer a nuanced opinion of Strumpf’s defense, but I can pass along that there isn’t any clamoring out there to find him a new position. Limited arm strength and no obvious speed should keep him at second base, and we will have to see if he can be an average defender at the keystone.
Strumpf and UCLA will be favored to win their Super Regional over Michigan this weekend and head to the College World Series in Omaha. From there, he’s expected to not be a problem to get signed, and will likely quickly get to Eugene. Like Hoerner last year, it could then be a quick move to finish the season in South Bend, but his play will have to determine that.
The Cubs are back on the board this morning. Their actions today will likely speak to whether Ryan Jensen will sign a below-slot deal, giving them some freedom on a couple high school players in the middle rounds. I expect that to be the strategy, but if we know anything, it’s that you can’t predict this scouting department.