Entering the 2011 season, Marlins outfield prospect Kyle Jensen wasn’t known to many, and he probably still isn’t a particularly hyped prospect. Baseball America didn’t include him on their top 30 prospects before the season and listed him far down the outfield depth chart. John Sickels omitted Jensen from his top 20, and the outfielder didn’t make his “Others of Note” either.
But now that he was recently promoted to Double-A, perhaps it’s time to take this prospect a bit more seriously.
A 12th-round pick in 2009 out of St. Mary’s, Jensen has never performed poorly in his career. He hit .280/.354/.456 for short-season Jamestown in his pro debut and followed it up by hitting .272/.342/.447 in Low-A in his first full season. However, being a college product with merely average athleticism, that didn’t put him on the map–while he had performed solidly, he wasn’t young for his levels and didn’t hit well enough to really catch any eyes.
That’s changed this season, a year that’s seen Jensen overpower the distant fences of the High-A Florida State League en route to a 22-HR power display. That homer total in just 108 FSL games is certainly nothing to scoff at, even if we’re talking about a player who turned 23 early in the season and is limited to the outfield corners.
After demolishing FSL pitchers for a career-best .309/.383/.535 line, Jensen was moved up to Double-A earlier this month and immediately has proven his power translates. In nine games, he’s already launched four more homers, bringing his season total to 26, just eight behind minor-league leader Bryan LaHair (who, like most of the other homer leaders, has played in a much easier park and league).
Jensen certainly has flaws. Speed is not a part of his game, and he’s a big guy who doesn’t move especially well in the outfield. He also strikes out over once a game, although he certainly mitigates that somewhat with his power and plate discipline (124/47 K/BB in 117 games). It’s definitely understandable that evaluators could have concerns–his bat has to carry him, and in order for that to happen, he’ll either need to keep hitting homers at his 2011 pace or cut down on his strikeouts; it’s very possible that neither will happen, leaving Jensen as a player similar to LaHair, destined to hit 20 homers in the PCL every season.
That said, if he does hold the 30-HR power or cut his strikeouts to ~1 per game, Jensen basically becomes a lefthanded Josh Willingham–an immobile defender whose overall hitting skill makes him a useful starter anyway. Imagine a more patient version of the Tigers’ Brennan Boesch–another player who registered barely a blip on the prospect radar before appearing in the majors–and you won’t be far off.
While Florida’s minor league system certainly isn’t full of impact players, Jensen is a sleeper who could end up pairing with Mike Stanton as a bigtime tandem of slugging corner outfielders.
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