Position: Right-handed Pitcher
The Tigers selected Jensen in the 14th round of the 2006 draft, as a four-year college player from the University of Nebraska. Prior to joining the Cornhuskers, Brett spent a year at Iowa Central Community College where he logged an 11-1 record, pitching nine complete games with a 2.79 ERA. Such an impressive season earned him 1st Team NJCAA All-American honors, along with a 45th round selection by the Baltimore Orioles.
As a sophomore for Nebraska, Jensen worked primarily in middle relief, notching a 7.33/1.80 line. Starting with his junior campaign, Jensen took on the closer's role for Nebraska, combining for 19 saves over his final two seasons, and posting ERAs of 1.96 and 2.56 in his junior and senior seasons, respectively. During his junior campaign, Jensen set the Cornhusker record for saves in a season, with sixteen, and was named 2nd Team All-Big 12 and a 23rd round selection by the Washington Nationals. As a senior, Jensen was named a preseason All-American by multiple publications, and ended the year as a 1st Team All-Big 12 member. After setting the single season saves record in 2005, Jensen's career total of 31, ranks first in Husker history.
Jensen debuted with Oneonta of the New York-Penn League, and he promptly seized control of the O-Tigers closer role and saved 17 games, good enough for 2nd in the league. His 25 appearances (T-9th in NYPL) and sub-1.00 ERA were enough to take home the TigsTown Oneonta Pitcher of the Year Award. Continuing his professional closing career with West Michigan in 2007, Jensen was outstanding in the late innings for the Midwest League champs. Even once you get beyond his 1.79 ERA, Jensen was superb, walking only eight batters all season, while ranking second in the League in appearances (56), and third in saves (23).
A tall, lanky pitcher, Jensen slings the ball from a very low three-quarter to side-arm slot, and his long limbs come flying at batters from all angles. His fastball sits in the 88-90 range, but can be more effective when worked in the 85-87 range with plus riding life. He spots his fastball well, and consistently works down in the zone, where his arm angle can make things exceedingly tough on right-handed hitters.
His change-up is sporadic, and must improve for him to remain effective against lefties as he advances. While he wasn't poor against left-handers in 2007, it was still evident that the consistency of his change-up will be crucial to his long term success. His second-best pitch is an above-average slider that moves in a "saucer-like" fashion, darting across the plate in one plane, with occasional sink. Because of his side-arm delivery, Jensen can sometimes come too far under his slider, causing it to spin without much movement. He must remain on top of the slider in order to adequately compliment his fastball.
Brett has the consummate closer mentality, with a desire to dominate his opponents, and a very short memory. He is aggressive on the mound, attacking the strike zone with quality pitchers, forcing hitters to be aggressive in high pressure situations. Without some improvement in his change-up, Jensen likely profiles as more of a set-up guy or situational reliever.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Jensen has yet to experience any significant arm injuries, and he is able to repeat his funky mechanics surprisingly well, considering his lanky frame. His durability in 2007 was a nice sign, and as the organization starts to take the reigns off of him as he heads upward, it will be interesting to see how his stamina and ability to bounce back on short rest develop.
Despite numerous pleas from fans to skip Jensen to Erie for the 2008 season, that move is unlikely given prior evidence of the Tigers promotion patters. With an exceptional spring, he could have a chance at Double-A, but as of now I have him penciled in as the stopper in the Lakeland bullpen.
Jensen doesn't have the power stuff that is going to scream closer as he moves up the ladder, and he will have to prove himself at every level with excellent performances. I expect him to get some time at Double-A before the end of the upcoming season, and he could see Detroit sometime late in 2009 if he continues to perform at a high level.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.