Breakout Prospect Potential: Could The Rangers’ Eric Jenkins Erupt In 2017?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

You can easily argue that we were a bit aggressive in our ranking of the Rangers’ Eric Jenkins, who slotted in #4 on our recently released Top 10 prospect list (click here to view).  There is an obvious flaw given his strikeout rate (27.4% at Single-A), which helped to deflate his average (.221).  The other skills are loud, though, and impossible to overlook.

Jenkins not only showed off speed (51 SB), but also more power than your typical speedster (30 extra base hits, including 8 HR).  There is no questioning the speed potential of the 2015 second round pick, who has racked up 79 SB in just 705 AB since being drafted.

As MLB.com recently said about him, it’s clear that he’s not simply stepping to the plate and looking to put the ball in play though:

“Unlike many speedsters, Jenkins does more than just slap and run when he’s at the plate. He has a quick left-handed stroke, feel for manipulating the barrel and some deceptive pull power. Once he adds some strength and refines his approach, he could hit for average and reach double figures in home runs.”

A 10/40 type player is within reach, and that’s got to excite us.  The question is going to be if the soon-to-be 20-year old can harness that ability and significantly cut down on the strikeouts.  This type of potential isn’t rare, as we can list both current and past prospects who have had similar upside.  The question is what type of growth did they show?

Here are a few players, with their strikeout rate at Single-A:

Keon Broxton – 28.5% in 603 PA at Single-A in ‘10
He’s a right-handed hitter, but he’s also seen his strikeout rate jump significantly higher in the Majors (36.1% last season).  At the same time he’s shown some growth, including a 22.1% O-Swing%, so there’s hope that he can learn and figure it out.

Drew Stubbs – 24.7% in 575 PA at Single-A in ‘07
Stubbs may be the most notorious type of player with this skillset, and he also was never able to figure it out (30.6% career strikeout rate in the Majors).  He did have some big seasons, with three straight 14/30+ years from 2010-2012, but he also failed to hit above .255 in any of those seasons.  Like Broxton he also didn’t chase outside the zone very much (23.6% O-Swing%).

What does looking at these two players tell us?  Not much, but it does give us an idea.  They certainly offer a fair warning sign, as Jenkins is hardly a guarantee to unlock the mystery and start making contact at a better rate.  If he does?  Some power with speed and the potential to hit .260+ would make him a Top 30 outfielder (if not even more than that).  When rolling the dice on a prospect, that puts him right on the map.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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