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How does the trade of Tyrell Jenkins impact the Cardinals' farm system?

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Losing any high ceiling prospect is a loss of opportunity, but given the state of the Cardinals farm system, this loss is one that isn't likely to have a huge overall impact.

MLBProspectPortal.com

Monday's trade caught me a bit by surprise: Not so much that the Cardinals were able to acquire a young potential superstar via trade, but that the trade itself made so much sense given the current talent in the organization. With the tremendous depth of high ceiling arms in the lower minors and at the MLB level, trading from that stockpile for a position player with a high ceiling bat (the one thing our current farm system lacks) was a no brainer if the opportunity presented itself.

Mozeliak saw an opportunity in Jason Heyward and jumped in with both feet to get a deal done.

Per this report last week, the Braves were interested in adding a couple of starting pitchers to the fold, since Ervin Santana turned down the Braves qualifying offer and Aaron Harang filing as a free agent. Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and are anything but certain to be rotation pieces in 2015. Shelby Miller certainly will help fill out the back end of Atlanta's rotation next year (while offering top-of-the-rotation upside) and Tyrell Jenkins is the high upside pitcher the Braves currently lack at the top end of their farm system after graduating Beachy, Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Alex Wood to the majors in the last few seasons.

Taken in the supplemental round (50th overall) of the 2010 draft, and signed away from a football scholarship to play quarterback for Art Briles' Baylor Bears, Jenkins' possesses resident VEB amateur prospect analyst Red Baron's favorite quality for pitchers: Above average athleticism.

Unfortunately, most of the time Jenkins spent in the Cardinals farm system has encompassed various setbacks. The first couple of years were mostly related to having a whole shed full of tools and few refined skills. Jenkins came into the organization raw: Developing a consistent and repeatable delivery that would allow him to harness control over his mid-90's fastball and solid secondary offerings was the first task, and one that would take two full years in the minors to complete.

When Jenkins had finally started to put things together in the summer of 2013, reeling off a string of quality starts for Peoria (including a 3 hit shutout) he suffered a muscle injury near his throwing shoulder that required surgery that would cost him 12 months of development time when the clock was already beginning to tick on his prospect status.

The injury and subsequent rehabilitation left Jenkins with a lot of prove in just over half a season in 2014, his fifth since turning pro. Coming back from injury with sharper, more repeatable mechanics, improved command, and the same mid-90's fastball and sharp breaking ball he exhibited in the low minors was certainly encouraging, but the results were mixed: Excellent ground ball rates and a diminished walk rate combined to lower Jenkins' ERA, but a guy with this type of stuff certainly should be striking out better than 13% of the hitters he faced, creating a wide gap between the lowered ERA and Jenkins' middling FIP.

Sent to the Arizona Fall League in October to bank some innings, Jenkins flashed brilliance at times against some of the better hitters in the minor leagues as Joe has detailed in a couple of posts the last month or so. That was enough to get the bloom back on the rose a bit in the eyes of more than a few scouts (the AFL is a heavily scouted league due to the fact that there's not much other baseball being played in October) and what likely led to his inclusion in yesterday's trade.

Realistically, there are higher upside arms within the current organization including Shelby Miller's likely replacement in the rotation, Carlos Martinez, and a number of young pitchers in the low minors: Alex Reyes, Rob Kaminsky, and Jack Flaherty.

Where this does leave the Cardinals a bit short is on high upside arms in the two top levels of the farm system. Chris St. John's JAVIER metric likes Boone Whiting and Tim Cooney more than just about anyone else I've talked to, and while both can likely contribute to a major league rotation they lack the raw stuff that Jenkins possesses and, therefore, the top-of-the-rotation upside.

Most of the other Cardinal starters slated to start the season at AA and AAA in 2015 profile as fourth or fifth starters (Petree, Mayers), AAAA pitchers (Heyer, Greenwood, Lyons), or are probably better suited to the bullpen (Petrick). That depth is nothing to sneeze at (it's certainly better than what the Braves have), but it lacks the panache and pedigree that we've become accustomed to from pitchers in the high minors of the organization the last half decade or so.

That said, none of those B-/C+ prospects likely bring back Jason Heyward, and if I had to choose one of Kaminsky, Reyes, or Jenkins to fill out this deal, I'm shipping Tyrell Jenkins every day of the week and twice on Sunday for a couple of reasons:

  1. Reyes and Kaminsky are just more talented than Jenkins is and are a couple of years younger with better results in A ball at roughly the same age.
  2. Jenkins would need to be added to the 40 man roster after the 2015 season due to being eligible for the Rule 5 draft, something Reyes and Kaminsky aren't eligible for until after the 2018 season. Being that the 40 man is pretty crowded already, this is an added bonus of moving Jenkins now and avoiding that roster crunch at the end of 2015.
Additionally, if we're being honest, this is also probably a good career move for Tyrell Jenkins. There's certainly a better chance of snagging a rotation spot in Atlanta the next couple of seasons than there is of doing the same thing in St. Louis and the Braves have been turning out quality pitching prospects from their farm system for much longer than the Cardinals have so he won't suffer from a lack of developmental skill in that organization either.

Good luck with your career, Tyrell. I hope you impress the lads and ladies over at Talking Chop as much as you've impressed VEB and Future Redbirds with your talent and accessibility the last few years.