With the 50th overall pick of the 2010 MLB Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected Tyrell Jenkins, a right-handed pitcher out of Henderson High School in Texas. Blessed with significant upside and a flame-throwing right arm, Jenkins found his name on national top 100 prospect lists prior to both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. However, a tear in the latissimus muscle of his right shoulder required season-ending surgery last year and subsequently knocked him off all pre-2014 prospect lists. Less than a calendar year after the surgery, the 21-year-old righty has been effective in four starts for the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals and will likely begin popping up on prospect analysts' radars again soon, if he hasn't already.
Let's take a closer look at his pitch grips...
In his own words: "93-95 MPH, but sometimes up to 96-97 MPH. I use it on the corners and up in the zone to keep hitters off my sinker."
My thoughts: Tyrell's ability to reach back to 96+ MPH will be huge at the next level, especially when he's in need of that put-away strikeout pitch. With the emergence of his sinker, I do not see this as his primary pitch anymore, like it was before the shoulder injury. The switch to an increased emphasis on his sinker will lead to lower strikeout rates, but the trade-off will be his ability to pitch deeper into games.
In his own words: "91-93 MPH. This is my go-to pitch when I need a ground ball or contact early in the count. Also, it is sometimes a strikeout pitch if it's really eating (has a lot of sink) that day!"
My thoughts: When a pitcher uses the term "go-to pitch" to classify one of his pitches, it shows just how much confidence he has with it. Given his ability to pump the sinker up to 93 MPH, combined with late movement, I cannot help but compare it to Lance Lynn's heavy sinker, which is a huge compliment. Tyrell uses this pitch for early-in-the-count, ground ball contact, but I would not be surprised if it also led to a decent amount of swings and misses going forward.
Modified Circle Change:
In his own words: "Not sure on the velocity here, but I assume 82-84 MPH. It's kind of a custom grip I came up with over the past year or so with my thumb resting on my index finger to really take velocity off the ball. I have a great feel for it most games, and it really keeps hitters off my fastball early. I usually go FB-CH to start games and don't use my curve ball until I have to show it."
My thoughts: First and foremost, I have no idea how he is able to throw this pitch in the strike zone on a consistent basis. Sure, it is pretty similar to most circle change grips, but it seems like his is even more exaggerated, with his thumb resting on his index finger, instead of stabilizing the bottom of the ball. Admittedly, Tyrell has told me that it "gets away from him" every once in a while, but he will likely grow out of this as he gains comfort with the pitch. As he climbs the ladder toward the big leagues, much of Tyrell's success will come from the explosiveness and effectiveness of his fastballs. The ability to throw a change up in any count will make those pitches even more effective.
In his own words: "74-77 MPH. At times, it can be a hard curve with great break. I'm starting to get the feel for it more and more with each start. I can throw it whenever I need a strike, but I also use it as a strikeout pitch. I throw it with a 12-6 break 98% of the time, but I can show a different look to lefties with a slurve-type break."
My thoughts: The curve is Tyrell's least-developed pitch at the moment. Given his extended time off last season, this is completely understandable. I truly believe his other three pitches are good enough to be successful at the major league level, but his ability to develop a more-than-serviceable breaking ball will determine the extent of success he can have on the big club.
I am extremely grateful for the time Tyrell took in taking these pictures for Viva El Birdos. As he progresses through the minor leagues on his journey to the majors, it will be nice to have this post available as a reference, especially once he hits Double-A Springfield, where his games will be streamed live on MiLB.TV. The timing of this post could not have been any better because Jenkins is on the mound tonight at 6:30 PM EST, facing the Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia affiliate). Unfortunately, the game will not be streamed online, but you can listen to it for free through the Palm Beach Cardinals website.