The San Francisco Giants have added two more players in undrafted free agency, bringing their reported total up to five.
And if you want to get excited about these two, I won’t stop you. In fact, I’ll encourage you, because they’re rather exciting signings, all things considered. Let’s dive right in.
Wil Jensen, right-handed pitcher, Pepperdine
Jensen represents a little bit of what Giants fans were clamoring for during the 2020 MLB Draft: some upside hidden behind some risk. Except I need to repeat what I keep mentioning about undrafted free agency: with teams capped at $20,000 to spend on each player, there really isn’t any risk.
There’s a ton of talent in Jensen’s arm, and it’s accompanied by one big question mark: can the arm stay healthy?
If and when it does, we’ll get to see how good he can potentially be. He made only seven starts as a sophomore in 2018 before suffering an injury that required Tommy John surgery. He returned from injury at the end of the 2019 season, but only got to pitch 5.1 innings.
That left him as a bit of an unknown quantity, but there was enough excitement in the arm that the Oakland A’s drafted him in the 28th round in 2019. He opted to return to Pepperdine for a redshirt junior season.
In 2020 he made four starts, and was quite good. He pitched 24.2 innings, and allowed 18 hits and 6 walks, while striking out 26. He finished the coronavirus-shortened season with an ERA of 2.19.
More important than that small sample size is that Baseball America ranked Jensen 236 on their list of draft prospects. Had the draft gone a full 40 rounds, pick 236 would have occurred in the eighth round. It doesn’t take too many mental gymnastics to view Jensen as a top-ten round pick.
Jensen was off to a very good start as a sophomore in 2018 until he needed Tommy John surgery. He was off to a very good start as the Waves’ Friday night starter this spring. There’s some projection to his 6-foot-3 frame and he has a potential four-pitch mix, with a fastball up to 93 mph, a changeup that has the chance to be a plus pitch, and a distinct curve and slider, all of which he’s shown the ability to command fairly well.
Well that all sounds good to me. Let’s roll some tape.
Brett Auerbach, utility player, Alabama
Auerbach can play numerous positions, but spends most of his time at catcher and third base. The Giants appear to be counting on his short senior season — in which he took an enormous leap forward — being the new normal for him.
He was fine in 2019, his junior season and first at the Division 1 level. In 250 plate appearances he slashed .270/.364/.341. He followed that up by going .297/.372/.379 in 166 plate appearances in the Cape Cod League. Those numbers are alright for helping a college team win, but unless you’re an absolute superstar with the glove you’re not likely to get on many MLB radars.
But he was a different beast in 2020, as he made more contact, found more power, and reversed his plate discipline trends. In 86 plate appearances he had 8 doubles and 3 home runs — after having just 1 home run the year before. Most impressive, however, was that he drew a whopping 17 walks in that span, while striking out just 8 times. That was a far cry from his 2019 season, when he posted 28 walks to 36 strikeouts (followed by 15 walks to 34 strikeouts in the Cape).
Add it all up and he finished the abbreviated 2020 season with a slash line of .388/.506/.642. Unlike in 2019, those are numbers that absolutely get you on an MLB radar if you can sustain them.
We never got the chance to find out if he could sustain them, though they earned him a spot on the Collegiate Baseball News All-America Second Team.
The Giants are betting on those numbers being the new normal for Auerbach, and not an outlier. That’s a bet that’s well worth $20,000.
Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of video on Auerbach, but enjoy this one opposite field home run and let your mind run wild.
Giants signed C/3B/OF Brett Auerbach (21.9Y, 5'9" 190) to a NDFA contract. He played at Saddleback CC, then transferred to Alabama.— GPT (@giantsprospects) June 23, 2020
Senior: 86PA .388/.506/.642, 9K%, 20BB%, 12SB/2CS.
Cape Cod: 166PA .297/.372/.379, 20K%, 9BB%pic.twitter.com/X8W2uQkXhM
Welcome to the Giants organization to both. May you prosper, fulfill your dreams, and make it to the Majors to recoup some of the money that you lost when MLB decided to have a five-round draft and limit your bonuses to $20,000.