(Photo via The Wichita Eagle, seen here)
Greyson Jenista was selected 49th overall by the Atlanta Braves in last night’s draft, a player defined by a broad skill-set to match his imposing frame. At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, Jenista has played all over the outfield and at first base for Wichita State. At the plate in 2018, he posted a .309/.446/.475 slash line with nine home runs and 38 RBI. Jenista and third baseman Alec Bohm, a second team All-American, helped lead WSU to their best record since 2010.
Jenista, a Eudora, KS native, was projected to be selected near the end of the first round or in the subsequent compensation rounds, as evidenced by Fangraphs and Perfect Game. MLB Pipeline did not have Jenista being selected that early in their mock drafts, but the site still rates him as the 59th best draft prospect, with compares well with his 49th overall selection. MLB Pipeline puts his overall future value on the 20-80 scouting scale at 50, showing that Jenista can become a regular player on a Major League roster, presuming that he stays healthy in the minors and continues to develop.
The 2018 campaign was not when Jenista exploded onto the radar of MLB organizations. That occurred last summer when he tore up the Cape Cod League and won their prestigious MVP award. Past MVP winners include Jason Varitek, A.J. Pollock, and Evan Longoria. Against above-average college pitching that summer, Jenista hit .310 with three homers & nine stolen bases, all while transitioning effectively to centerfield.
This spray chart from the Cape Cod League’s website shows all of the fly balls and line drives that Jenista hit during his breakout summer. This hitting prowess in the Cape was amplified by the fact that he used a wood bat, as is the custom. The ability to utilize all fields and hit for power with a wood bat can be a tough transition for college hitters, but Jenista proved to evaluators that he is up to the task.
Fortunately for Wichita State, this gap-to-gap approach that he exhibited in summer ball was brought back home for his junior season. From my observations at numerous WSU games, Jenista consistently barrels the ball, knocking it all over the field. And while his power isn’t as prodigious as Bohm’s, Jenista hit nine homers this season for the Shockers, many of them no-doubters. He has the potential to have legitimate 65-grade power in the MLB.
Check out Jenista’s head position during these swings, the latter of which was an opposite-field home run. His head stays very still, enabling him to not lose track of the pitch as it comes in. This is part of the reason why Jenista has advanced knowledge of the strike zone, as evidenced by his 50 walks in 2018. Mechanically, he creates really pronounced separation between his hands and front leg, which generates his power. I also like the hustle Jenista shows immediately out of the box. Even though he doesn’t possess elite speed, Jenista has the ability to use his athletic body and turn singles into doubles.
In this video, Jenista does a great job of keeping his hands close to his body. Many college hitters are not able to hit inside pitches well, but Jenista’s hands are quick enough to poke this pitch into right field. I’m reminded of Lucas Duda’s swing when watching Jenista from this view because their specific finishes are remarkably similar.
Not only does Jenista have solid contact and power skills that should translate well to pro ball, his approach is outstanding and has developed into one of his biggest strengths. Jenista led the American Athletic Conference in walks, drawing 50 free passes in just 56 games. This led to a high OBP of .446, which was slightly higher than Bohm’s and ranked fourth in the conference. One weak spot at the plate is that Jenista often chases offspeed pitches that travel down and out of the strike zone. Obviously, this wasn’t a huge issue in the AAC because Jenista still walked more than he struck out, but it is a common issue for young hitters and one that his new organization’s hitting coaches will look to address. However, sometimes when Jenista is fooled and his front side leaks, he is still strong enough and his hands are good enough to make solid contact.
Personally, I think that Jenista’s build and profile projects best at right field because Jenista has both the arm strength and athleticism to be at least average in that position. When throwing, Jenista really gets behind the ball and his throws carry to the infield. Also, his ability to possibly fill in at center or left field shows off his tremendous athleticism and versatility, which is especially rare to find in a big-bodied player. Jenista also quietly stole 12 bases in 2018, providing additional value. First base is another position that Jenista has experience at, although I would try him in the outfield before exploring first base as an option.
Jenista will provide lots of overall value to the Braves, primarily because of his high floor and large frame. Like all baseball players, Jenista has small facets of his game to improve, but there are no major flaws in any of his skills. All five of his tools are at least average, with his power evolving into his greatest strength. Jenista’s unique positional versatility and above-average approach at the plate should serve him and his team well into the future.