SF Giants sign free agent prospects Brett Auerbach and Wil Jensen
After a slow start to the undrafted free agency signing period, the San Francisco Giants have made a couple of substantial additions over the last couple of days.
Wednesday, news broke that the Giants had officially inked Alabama super-utility player Brett Auerbach and Pepperdine right-handed pitcher Wil Jensen to nondrafted free-agent contracts. The Giants have now added six undrafted free agents to their organization since the conclusion of the draft.
Auerbach and Jensen are by far the two most significant post-draft additions and each rank as better prospects than the Giants fifth-round pick Ryan Murphy. Both were legitimate candidates to be drafted and would have certainly been drafted in the first ten rounds during a non-pandemic cycle.
In fact, in the leadup to the draft, I noted Auerbach as one of my favorite potential Day 2 prospects. While he just completed his senior year, Auerbach is still just 21 and seemed like an ideal underslot target late in the draft.
In speaking with a number of industry sources, Auerbach's name was consistently mentioned as one of the better available free agents. His positional versatility drove a heavy demand for his services. Twenty other teams were interested in Auerbach before he chose to join the Giants organization, according to one industry source.
Auerbach is capable of playing catcher but has played across the infield and outfield as well. One industry source added he "can play a solid CF," which significantly increases his value. Auerbach's bat has never profiled as a carrying tool, but it has heavily progressed during his collegiate career. Listed at just 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Auerbach's slight frame limits some of his upside. The source noted "he produced above-average exit velocities," but also speculated that a "lack of loft in the swing probably prohibits him from having everyday ceiling." The source concluded, "he’s got a good chance to be a useful super utility type."
Still, Auerbach consistently gets rave reviews for his makeup and constant effort. If there's anyone who will outperform expectations, it's a prospect with a work-ethic like the one those familiar use to describe Auerbach. Our own Jeff Young compared Auerbach's swing to former Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia and it's hard not to see the similarities.
Via another source, Auerbach focused on improving his approach prior to the season and it paid huge dividends. This spring Auerbach walked at an absurd 22 percent rate, more than twice as often as he struck out, while producing a .388/.506/.642 triple-slash line. His stock was definitely heading upward when the season was called.
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His dedication to the game is probably most obvious on the basepaths. Not an elite sprinter, Auerbach has dived into the nuances of getting good jumps and reads. In just 17 games this spring, Auerbach recorded 12 steals and had been caught just twice.
It's fair to have concerns about the underwhelming offensive numbers as a junior and on the Cape, but if his defense holds up he doesn't need to be an exceptional hitter to contribute. His collection of talents are good enough to earn him a solid 35 future-value grade as a prospect. He'll have to carry some of this spring's production into the lower professional ranks before he can be viewed as more than just a depth piece, but he should receive that opportunity.
Jensen has a much riskier profile than Auerbach. His upside as a potential big-league starter make him a nice addition to the organization's depth, but his projections come with minimal room for error.
One of the oldest players eligible this cycle, Jensen will turn 23 in less than three months. In his college career, Jensen threw 160.1 innings across 28 appearances and held opponents to a 3.01 ERA. However, Tommy John surgery prematurely ended a dominant sophomore season and cut into his junior campaign.
Jensen returned to school after the Oakland Athletics selected him in the 28th round of 2019's draft and was putting together his most dominant spring yet when the pandemic ended the season. After primarily pitching to contact in his first three years, Jensen was striking out over a batter per inning while maintaining low walk rates.
None of Jensen's pitches project as plus, but his slider, curveball, and changeup are all usable and mix well with his low-90s fastball. Listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, he might have some room to add a bit more velocity, but his frame appears to have a naturally lanky build that might make adding weight difficult.
Without any standout pitches its unclear whether Jensen has a path to the majors out of the bullpen, so his ability to manage pitch counts and work deeper into games will likely have to be his calling card. Given his previous elbow injury, it's easy to see why no teams pulled the trigger in the draft.
With all that said, Baseball America still ranked Jensen as the 236th best prospect available in the draft. His extended track-record of success when healthy earns him a 35 future-value grade right alongside Auerbach. The fact is as fewer pitches are able to work deeper into ballgames a player with Jensen's profile has the potential to make significant big-league contributions.
The MLB Draft was only five rounds this year, but the Giants have now added 13 players between their seven-player draft class and six undrafted free agents. Yesterday's acquisitions of Auerbach and Jensen, so far, are the two highlights of the team's undrafted free agent crop.