Cubs Committed To Having Ryan Jensen Start
Righthander Ryan Jensen set his mind to reaching the big leagues within three years of getting drafted by the Cubs with the No. 27 overall pick in 2019 out of Fresno State.
That goal is still in sight, though not having a minor league season in 2020 slowed his trajectory, the way it did for most pitching prospects in the game. That journey will resume this season at High-A South Bend.
Maybe it would be tempting for the Cubs to rush the 23-year-old Jensen if they were in a different spot as an organization and trying to maximize chances to win this year. With Jensen's college pedigree and a 100 mph fastball, it’s not that hard to envision him blowing away hitters in short bursts.
But the Cubs drafted the 6-foot, 190-pound Jensen with the idea that he had the pitch mix and the athleticism to become a viable major league starter. That best-case internal projection has not changed. Letting him pitch is the best way to develop his talent.
“It was definitely weird facing hitters again at this level of competition,” said Jensen, who went 12-1 with a 2.88 ERA as a college junior and then pitched 12 innings at short-season Eugene after signing in 2019.
The Cubs are also going to give Jensen a lot of runway as a starter because they are prioritizing the future and are eager to see the results after their restructuring of the scouting and player development departments in recent years.
“He’s in a great spot,” said Matt Dorey, the Cubs' vice president of player development, who referenced Jensen as part of a group of young pitchers that also includes Kohl Franklin, Richard Gallardo and DJ Herz.
“I kind of use the analogy that it was like this super talented freshman class in 2020 coming into our minor league system, and they got it stripped away. I’m just really pumped for all of them to have an opportunity, and hopefully 120 games to start paving and carving out their own path as prospects.”
— Lefthander Justin Steele, who made his big league debut on April 12, pointed to a group of homegrown pitchers on the horizon. Steele signed for $1 million out of high school in 2014, had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and eventually earned a spot on the 40-man roster.
Like Adbert Alzolay, Steele developed a slider as a new pitch during his time last year at the South Bend alternate training site, which became a valuable resource for an organization trying to reboot its pitching methods. The Cubs see Steele as a potential multi-inning lefthanded reliever.
“We have some really good arms in our system, honestly,” Steele said. “We got people like Brailyn Marquez, who’s throwing 100 miles per hour (lefthanded) and he’s (22) years old. It’s unheard of. It’s incredible, the kind of arms we have in our system. We got a bunch of dudes. It’s just part of the business—you got to wait your turn and what not—but I would say it’s undervalued.”
— A slight delay to the start of Brennen Davis’ minor league season is expected after the dynamic outfielder was recently hit by a pitch in the helmet area. Davis, who impressed Cubs officials at the alternate site last year and during big league camp this spring, posted an April 23 message on his Twitter account that read, “Doing ok I’ll be back next week!”