Name: Chris Jensen
A native of the Phoenix area, Chris Jensen pitched for three seasons for the University of San Diego before being selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by the Colorado Rockies. Jensen began his career with USD as a reliever, but he gradually transitioned into the starting rotation and was primarily a starter as a junior. That season, he posted a 3.95 ERA and a 73:36 K:BB in 82 innings. Jensen allowed just one homerun. Jensen was a teammate of current A's starter A.J. Griffin for two seasons at USD (2009 and 2010) and was a teammate of current A's prospect Dylan Covey in 2011 with the Toreros.
The Rockies sent Jensen out to the Northwest League for his pro debut season in 2011, and he pitched well out of the Tri-Cities starting rotation. In eight starts, he had a 2.65 ERA and a 28:10 K:BB. In 2012, Jensen was assigned to Asheville in the Low-A Sally League, and he would spend the entire season in their rotation. In 25 starts, Jensen had a 12-3 record and a 4.28 ERA. He struck-out only 95 and walked 50, but he allowed just 14 homeruns in 145 innings.
Jensen made the jump to the High-A California League in 2013, where he suited up for the Modesto Nuts. The Nuts share a division with the A's Cal League affiliate in Stockton, and the Ports saw plenty of Jensen during the 2013 season. Jensen made six starts versus the Ports in 2013. In 34 innings, Jensen posted a 4.24 ERA. In all but six of those starts, Jensen went at least 5.2 innings and allowed three runs or fewer. In the one poor start, he allowed seven earned runs in 2.1 innings. Jensen struck-out 30 and walked eight Ports.
Overall, Jensen made 28 starts for the Nuts and had a 4.55 ERA with a 136:39 K:BB. He allowed 15 homeruns in 152.2 innings and he had a 3.56 FIP. His K:BB was nearly 3.5 and he didn't walk more than three batters in any outing during the season. Jensen was one of the pitchers on the California League All-Star team in the annual California League-Carolina League match-up. He threw a scoreless inning in that game, which also featured recently acquired A's prospect Billy Burns and Stockton All-Stars Drew Granier and Max Muncy.
The A's have drafted several pitchers out of the USD program in recent years, including Griffin, Covey, Matt Thomson and Trevor Bayless. Many of those pitchers share similar characteristics with Jensen – tall right-handers with good fastball command. Like many of those aforementioned pitchers, Jensen threw both out of the rotation and out of the bullpen in college, thereby coming into pro ball with a relatively fresh right arm.
Jensen has an over-the-top delivery that includes a bit of a jerk at the top that creates some deception for the hitters. His fastball is his best pitch. He is able to locate the pitch well to both sides of the plate and he can touch 95 while sitting comfortably in the 91-93 MPH range.
Because he was a reliever for a big portion of his collegiate career, Jensen could rely mostly on his fastball while with USD. His secondary pitches are behind his fastball, in terms of development, as a result. Jensen has two secondary offerings that he uses most often – a slurvy slider that has almost a curveball break and a split-finger fastball that he uses as an off-speed pitch. The A's will more than likely have Jensen work on a change-up, as well. Whether he can develop a useable change-up will likely determine if Jensen ultimately becomes a starter or a reliever in the big leagues.
At 6'4'', 200, Jensen has the frame to handle a lot of innings. He has been durable thus far during his pro career. Jensen has a tendency to give up his share of flyballs, but he has done a decent job during his pro career of keeping the ball in the park. Jensen will be 23 throughout the 2014 regular season.
Jensen didn't dominate the Cal League, but he more than held his own in a difficult environment for pitchers. He should receive an opportunity to start for Double-A Midland in 2014. Depending on how the development of his secondary pitches goes next year, Jensen could start to be in the conversation for a major league spot sometime in mid-2015.