Righty Ryan Jensen was viewed by some as a dark-horse candidate to earn some spot starts or work out of the bullpen in Chicago after retooling his mechanics last year. He had a funky delivery with an incredibly long arm stroke that saw his right hand nearly touch the mound on the back side, so the Cubs placed him on the development list last May to tighten things up. The new move appeared to have aided his control issues, spurring the Cubs to place him on the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
It didn’t hurt that Jensen’s fastball approached triple digits to set up a power slider and decent curve that led to 169 strikeouts in 151.1 minor-league innings. The strikeouts were still there for Jensen this season, as he sat down 40 batters in 32.1 innings for Double-A Tennessee and then 26 in 20.2 innings with Triple-A Iowa. The walks, however, became an even bigger problem than before as he advanced.
He handed out 22 free passes with the Smokies and 24 more with the I-Cubs, good for a very unsightly 17.6% walk rate. That’s why the Cubs were willing to risk losing him by placing him on waivers. Remember, this isn’t a pre-2019 world in which waiver trades still exist. The Mariners claimed Jensen on Tuesday, which means the 27th overall pick from the 2019 draft has left the organization with nothing coming back in return.
Well, the Cubs do open a much-needed 40-man spot that can be used for a late-season promotion or to protect one of a large number of Rule 5-eligible prospects this winter. It could also pave the way for Brad Boxberger’s return from the 60-day IL. It’s just a little surprising that they’d essentially give up on Jensen at this point, though maybe they thought he’d clear waivers and they could keep him around.
This is another blow to the team’s 2019 draft class after DJ Herz was traded to Washington as part of the Jeimer Candelario deal. That was the last draft presided over by former executive Jason McLeod, who moved from VP of player development to a player personnel role later that year before leaving the organization at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
At the risk of oversimplifying things to say the current regime doesn’t value the players from the McLeod era, the Cubs have completely overhauled their pitching infrastructure and development philosophies over the last few years. McLeod himself admitted that they’d screwed up pretty badly in that regard, so some of these moves we’re seeing are simply the long-tail effects of those greater organizational shifts.
Regardless of all that, I hope Jensen is able to discover with Seattle what he couldn’t with the Cubs and that he shoves for years to come.