By Tommy Rancel //
Although he was just called up to the big leagues for the first time
on Wednesday, Rays fans have had Desmond Jennings on
the brain for a while. Even before his breakout minor league season of
2009 – in which he hit .318/.401/.487 with 52 steals and 92 runs scored –
Jennings was regarded as the stallion-heir apparent to Carl
Crawford in the Tampa Bay lineup.
After his fantastic ’09 campaign – including being named MVP of the
Southern League (Double-A) – Jennings went from the 80th-ranked prospect
according to Baseball America to the 6th-best prospect overall. He was
invited to his first big league camp this spring, but a wrist injury
wiped out most of that audition, as well as the first part of his minor
Once healthy, the 23-year-old played in 109 games for the Triple-A
Durham Bulls. His numbers were not as impressive as they were last
season, but he still hit .278/.362/.393. At this point in his career,
Jennings has not shown much power (29 home runs in 420 career minor
league games), but he still projects as a top-of-the-order hitter,
blessed with blazing speed and advanced plate discipline.
Despite the lack of power in Durham, Jennings still scored 82 runs in
100 games. His OBP (.362) wasn’t fantastic, but it was still above
average. He walked nearly 11% of the time and struck out in less than
17% of his plate appearances. Once on base, he swiped 37 bags in 41
attempts (90% success rate).
As a September call-up on one of the most talented teams in baseball,
Jennings probably won’t rack up many at-bats over the next 30 days,
unless the Rays unexpectedly clinch a playoff berth very early. His
value to the Rays, and potential fantasy owners, will be tied to speed
and baserunning ability. Similar to Fernando Perez in 2008,
Jennings is likely to be the Rays’ primary pinch-runner and a part-time
In his MLB debut on Wednesday night, Jennings went 0-3 with two
groundouts and a swinging strikeout. We did not get a chance to see him
glide around the bases, but we did get a chance to see his speed out of
the box and his trained batting eye.
Jennings had four plate appearances, but officially only had three
(4th inning appearance negated by a B.J. Upton caught
stealing). Overall he saw 19 pitches (14 officially) and worked three
full counts. In his final at-bat, Jennings came up with the bases
loaded. He grounded out on what amounted to a swinging bunt. On the
other hand, had the force play not been on at home – and a slow runner
in Dioner Navarro at third – Jennings would’ve been
easily safe as he burned through the chalk on the way to first base.
If you have the need for some steals and runs, then Jennings is worth
a spot in (really) deep mixed and AL-only leagues. They will come
sporadically, but he should provide a handful of both. If Jennings is
available in your keeper league, though, jump on him immediately.
For more on Desmond Jennings and other September call-ups, check
out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy