Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: Desmond Jennings

Desmond Jennings, OF Tampa Bay Rays

This week we look to the future, at one of the games highly touted prospects. Desmond Jennings has appeared on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospect list for 4 straight years, reaching as high as #6 in 2010. Despite his 5-tool potential, the Rays waited 4 months into 2011 to call him up. So far, it's fairly safe to say the wait was worth it, and many are left to wonder why it took so long to call him up in the first place.

Jennings stats don't look like someone that is having a hard time adjusting to big league pitchers. His line, thus far (8/22/11), is below.

It's remarkable that with this kind of production, right out of the gate, Jennings was held in AAA so long. Many scouts have long proclaimed that Jennings bat was pro-ready for about the year, so why the wait in bringin him up? His main competition, who himself was involved in numerous trade rumors (related to Jennings future with the team?), is B.J. Upton. In the last 30 days, take a look at the comparison of their production.

It seems as though if Desmond Jennings isn't "pro-ready" then his fellow 24-year old outfielder Upton certainly is not. Jennings has outperformed Upton in every category, fantasy or otherwise. If this doesn't give the Rays incentive to shop Upton in the off-season, I'm not sure what does.

So, with the potential that Jennings will be a full-time outfielder for the Rays next season, what can we expect from him next season, and for years to come? It's obvious that his speed is elite, and his bat appears to be ready for the battering ram that is major league pitching. Perhaps his minor league stats will give us a glimpse into the future.

Jennings most coveted skill should help you immediately, and the others wont necessarily hurt you either. Even his power, which is theoretically the least developed of his skills, has shown some exciting potential. Doubt his power potential? I submit to you exhibit A, B and C.

I realize there is no way to quantify a pretty swing, but Jennings is smooth and fluid, exactly what you like to see in a hitter.

It's hard to predict his future numbers, as he's already 24 years old. When you hear highly touted prospect, most people think of someone who is nearly half a decade younger, and will need some time to adjust and mature. This isn't necessarily the case for Jennings, as he's already the same age as Upton, who's been a mainstay in the Rays outfield for the last 5 years.

So lets quickly analyze each of his counting stats, and where we can realistically expect them to be in the near future.

R: His speed definitely helps here, as does playing for the Rays, a team that regardless of highly paid players or all-world talent, always seem to compete (at least under Joe Madden). Looking at his minor league numbers doesn't really help here, so lets simply compare it to another player in the same system with elite speed. Upton has averaged about 85 runs a year in the previous 4 seasons, so this is a reasonable expectation should Jennings be given a full time gig.

HR: This might be the toughest of the bunch to predict. It's obvious that he will never be an elite power hitter, but his bat does have some pop (See exhibit A, B and C again if need be). Jennings current numbers translated into a full season, would make him a 28 HR hitter. I don't think you can expect him to ever eclipse that total, but 20 HR in a season, perhaps even 25 could be obtainable. Realistically, I think he could be a mid-teen HR threat for the majority of his career, occasionally touching the 20 HR mark. This type of production isn't something you would expect from a Jose Bautista type, but it certainly isn't going to lose you any points in the standings either.

RBI: Jennings past performance doesn't bode well for great RBI production, only eclipsing 39 RBI in a season once. But do you really expect more than 70 RBI from a leadoff hitter, which is what many project Jennings to be? I think that 65 RBI a season is a decent expectation, and again, it's not going to hurt you.

SB: This is where the future shines just a little brighter. Any time you can legitimately expect 50 SB from a player in a full season, roto combatants salivate. With the elite speed he has, and the tendency of Joe Madden teams to play small ball and run, 50+ SB in a season is not only reasonable, I dare say expected.

AVG: Another category he won't kill you in, but your not necessarily drafting him for upside. Despite his torrid pace this season, I think he projects as a .275 career hitter, possibly posting the occasional .300+ season (but also the inevitable sub .250 season). It's going to be hit or miss, and I expect a great deal of regression next season in his average. Near future, I think he's a .250-.260 hitter (still better than Upton).

So, lets put that all together and see what we get. In the hypothetical full season, possibly a year or two down the road, we're looking at 85 R, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 50 SB and a .275 average. Using last years ESPN Player Rater, Desmond would have ranked as the 18th best player overall, and the 9th best OF. How's that for potential? Keeper and Dynasty leagues beware.

Have a question or comment? Want to suggest the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Leave a comment below or drop me a line on Twitter @SillyLittleGame.


  1. Jennings isn't the same age as BJ Upton

  2. Thanks for pointing that out.
    Upton is 27. Jennings is 24.