Jankowski was first drafted out of high school in McMurray, Pennsylvania in the 34th round in 2008 by the Astros, but he instead chose to go to college the University of Miami-Ohio. He eventually transferred to Catawba College in North Carolina, a school known to Dodgers fans for also producing outfielder Jerry Sands.
In 2012, the Astros drafted Jankowski again, and again in the 34th round, pick No. 1,029 overall — seven picks later than he was drafted four years earlier.
In six minor league seasons, the right-hander has a 3.46 ERA with 509 strikeouts and 145 walks in 421 innings. That includes a 4.13 ERA in three seasons in the Pacific Coast League in Triple-A, with 233 strikeouts — a 30.7-percent K-rate — and 81 walks in 174⅓ innings.
Jankowski, who turned 28 in May, was given a C+ prospect grade before this season by John Sickels at Minor League Ball:
Jankowski was rated as a Grade C+ pre-season, although he didn’t make the Top 20 Houston Astros prospects list for 2017. He would have ranked in the 25-30 range. He had a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings for Fresno this year before the promotion, with a 22/9 K/BB.
Listed at 6-1, 225, Jankowski is a right-handed hitter and thrower born May 17, 1989. His fastball isn’t elite, generally right at 90-91 MPH, but he can mix in a decent slider and has developed a splitter since reaching the high minors.
He’s maintained high strikeout rates and has shown he can manage the difficult Pacific Coast League. Overall he projects as a useful middle reliever.
After three years as a non-roster invitee to spring training, Houston called up Jankowski to the big club for the first time on May 22 this season. He made his major league debut two days later, pitching in relief against the Tigers.
Down two runs in the eighth, he struck out his first two batters, but then allowed a triple to Tyler Collins and a home run to Jose Iglesias before striking out a third batter to end the inning. Jankowski was understandably nervous, as he later told the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Penn.:
“I threw one of the warm ups off the backstop, and it wasn’t even close to the catcher,” Jankowski said. “I was pretty nervous, but when the game started I settled down.”
But Jankowski wasn’t the only one nervous. His wife, Jordan — yes, they have the same name — was a wonderful ball of emotions in the stands watching her husband.
Jankowski and his wife welcomed a newcomer to their family on Thursday.
Welcome Roman Reyn Jankowski to the world! Born today at 5:58am! pic.twitter.com/EBMXjAAHcd— Jordan Jankowski (@JJ_Jankowski33) August 17, 2017
Three days after his debut, Jankowski was optioned to Triple-A, but he was recalled one day later when Charlie Morton was placed on the disabled list. Jankowski pitched another game in long relief on May 29, allowing four runs in 2⅓ innings, but earned the victory in a 16-8 Astros triumph, for his first major league win.
In all, Jankowski was optioned to the minors four times this season by Houston, including after once two-day stint in June during which he did not pitch. His final time up with the Astros came this month, when he pitched in one more game, tossing a scoreless inning on Aug. 2.
In his three major league games, Jankowski allowed six runs on seven hits — including three home runs — in 4⅓ innings, with five strikeouts and two walks, for a 12.46 ERA.
Per Statcast, Jankowski’s average fastball in his brief major league time is 91.22 mph.
Just for fun, here is Jankowski in July when he was with Triple-A Fresno, signing some carpool karaoke:
Jankowski goes from one organization with the best record in the American League, to another with the best record in the majors. His description of his Houston experience makes it seem that he would receptive to his new team, too. Per the Observer-Reporter:
The Astros are known as one of the more analytically savvy teams in baseball, and Jankowski said the organization at every level has helped him improve.
“They know what they’re talking about. Those little things have helped me get where I’ve been,” he said. “It’s just mentally, when you’re out there, how to set up different hitters. What pitches (to throw) in what scenarios and show you where you succeed within the zone or what batting averages they have within that zone. Just playing the percentages is one thing we do here.”
Jankowski has two option years remaining after this season.