Tagged: Tampa Bay Rays

Bloomberg Sports Ballpark Figures: Pennant Chase Players to Watch

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses both the American and National League playoff picture as we head towards the last few weeks of the regular season, while highlighting some of the possible key players that may help their team get into October.


Mark Reynolds, 3B, Orioles

He is trying to maintain his hot early start to September where he hit nine home runs and had 17 RBIs in only nine games. Though he still strikes out a ton, Buck Showalter will find a place for him in the lineup because of his prodigious power.


B.J. Upton, OF, Rays

In his all-important contract year, Upton has gotten very hot over his last 30 games up to Wednesday, where he has hit .292 with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs.


Torii Hunter, OF, Angels

At 37 years old, you would think Hunter would be slowing down, but he is having actually a career year hitting .309 with 15 home runs, nine stolen bases, 76 RBIs and 72 runs scored despite missing half of May with an injury. He is trying to hit over .300 for the first time in his career.


Josh Donaldson, 3B, Athletics

After starting out miserably this season with the major league ballclub, Donaldson was sent down to the minors on June 13th where he reaffirmed his potential by hitting .335 with 13 home runs in just 51 games. He quickly earned a call-up back with the A’s where he is now hitting .324 with six home runs and 17 RBIs through 28 games.


Kris Medlen, SP, Braves

This 26 year-old former top prospect missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has re-emerged this year as one of the Braves best starting pitchers. He has been especially hot as of late, winning seven straight starts since July 31st.

For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.

Fantasy Baseball Hot Topics: Greinke, Liriano, Shields, Johnson, Broxton, and League


Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports


Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the top stories about pitchers at the trade deadline.


Zack Greinke is an Angel

There were many teams vying for Zack Greinke this week. The former Brewers ace was considered the best available arm, assuming some of the other elites won’t get moved. The Angels made the most sense since they can re-sign him and had the prospects to force the Brewers’ hand. The Angels did give away a young shortstop and two top pitching prospects, but in Greinke, they now have the deepest starting rotation with Jered Weaver backed up by Greinke, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana.

In his debut, Greinke went seven strong while fanning eight and allowing just two runs to score. The Angels offense, however, did not show up with just four hits and no runs in a 2-0 loss to the Rays.

The big question is what this trade does for Greinke’s fantasy value. The answer is nothing at all. He already pitched for a decent offense with the Brewers and had the advantage of opposing fellow pitchers in the National League. Now he faces a designated hitter, has to deal with the big AL offenses such as the Rangers and has to adjust to a new team and a new city mid-season. Yes, the added adrenaline of a playoff run is exciting for him, but I think he was pumped up plenty on every fifth day in Milwaukee.


Francisco Liriano Joins the White Sox

The White Sox have been eager to keep up with the Tigers and the rest of the American League this season, and since they lack the prospects needed to get someone like Zack Greinke, they will have to roll the dice on Francisco Liriano.

The 28-year-old southpaw is as talented as anyone but he has had control issues that have plagued him the last few seasons. It’s interesting that he joined the White Sox, since he actually helped them in his final Twins start, surrendering seven hits and seven runs with three home runs on July 23 at Chicago.

This is an interesting trade for the entire White Sox starting rotation since they will now go to a six-man staff. This alleviates concerns for the innings for Chris Sale but could have a negative impact on the veterans. As for Liriano, the added run support will certainly be a positive though US Cellular is very much a hitter’s park. His career ERA at US Cellular is 5.77 in 48.1 innings.


Still On the Trading Block

Rays SP James Shields will come at a very heavy price since the Rays still control him for a few years at a reasonable rate. He is 8-7 with a 4.52 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

Marlins starter Josh Johnson is injury prone and inconsistent, and his velocity is down. However, the Marlins will only trade him if they can get a major talent back in return. Johnson is 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.35 WHIP this season.

The Royals would be happy to trade reliever Jonathan Broxton while his value is soaring. The Rangers seem interested, but he will no longer close if dealt. The Royals would likely turn to Greg Holland or Tim Collins. Broxton will lose his fantasy value since he will turn into a middle reliever with a contender.

The Mariners would love to get some value back from former closer Brandon League.  He got hit hard on Sunday but had been pitching well. With Tom Wilhelmsen dominating as the team’s closer, however, League is clearly expendable. It is unlikely that he will close for whichever team acquires him unless it’s a surprise team like the Mets.


For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com. 

Jeremy Hellickson: The Next David Price or Wade Davis?

by Eno Sarris // 

The Rays, as seems to a yearly tradition, have a bright young pitching prospect hitting their rotation this year. Jeremy Hellickson comes off a stellar, if short, debut, already has a scintillating nickname in “Hellboy.” But we’ve seen this story before, and with varying results. How does Hellickson stack up against fellow young Rays David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann

Take a look at the table below for a quick overview of the relevant statistics these young Rays accrued in the minor leagues and in their respective debuts. The percentage of games started is included because players always perform better in short stints out of the bullpen.

HellicksonChart2.jpgSome differences immediately step to the fore. Not all debuts were created equal. We can probably eliminate the chance that Hellickson ends up like Niemann based on a few factors, including his debut. Not only did Niemann show the worst control of the group in the minor leagues, but his strikeout rate dropped as he advanced through the minor leagues, eventually bottoming out in his debut.

But eliminating Niemann still leaves the possibility that Hellickson ends up more Wade Davis than David Price. Now, these pitchers are all different, and have varying arsenals, ages, and histories, but they all have the common misfortune of having to face the AL East from the get-go. David Price obviously did well, and Hellickson’s numbers compare favorably to Price’s. If only Hellickson used his left hand, we’d have a nice comparable player to point to.

hellickson.jpgWhy won’t Hellckson end up like fellow right-hander Wade Davis? Control is the easiest answer. Hellickson’s is elite, Davis’ average or below. Another answer lies in their comparative arsenals. Davis relied mostly on a fastball, while Hellickson has a plus-plus changeup and a solid curveball to go with his 91 MPH fastball. Bloomberg Sports has him putting up a 3.89 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, and he obviously has the upside to better that.

Given his elite control, strong off-speed arsenal, and historical record so far, Jeremy Hellickson is on track to be more David Price than Wade Davis. Expect a strong year from Hellboy, even if he hits a few bumps along the way.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com 

James Shields: Sink or Swim in 2011?

By Tommy Rancel //

On the surface, James Shields had a poor season in 2010. The Rays’ opening day starter got off to a hot start with a 5-2 record, 2.99 ERA, and 71 strikeouts in his first 10 starts.  Unfortunately, he would go 8-13 the rest of the way with an ERA of 6.31 in his final 24 appearances. Many in the Tampa Bay area soured on Shields; however, the organization, manager Joe Maddon, and progressive analysts think Shields’ traditional stats will rebound in 2011.

Shields earned a dubious triple crown in 2010 by leading the league in hits, earned runs, and home runs allowed.  He watched 34 bombs leave the yard on the strength of a home run-to-flyball rate of 13.8%. This number is two percent higher than his career average and the highest among major league starters with at least 200 innings pitched. Shields has always given up his fair share of longballs, but is unlikely to get shelled like this going forward.

In addition to the home run issues, Shields was labeled as hittable with 246 hits allowed. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .341 was nearly 40 points above the league average, more than 20 points higher than the next closest starter with at least 200 innings, and around 70 points higher than any of the other Rays’ starters. In fact, the next highest BABIP in the Rays’ rotation came from Wade Davis and Matt Garza at .272 apiece. This means Shields was extremely unlucky or was somewhat unlucky with other factors involved since he pitched with the same defense and in the same environment.


While luck was definitely involved, Shields also didn’t do himself any favors with pitch selection and location. He went to his fastball and cut-fastball far too often and in some cases left them in the nitro zone. Since it is the same fastball he has had success with in the past, a change in selection could go a long way; especially considering his change-up remains one of the premier pitches in the league.

The struggles with home runs and hits allowed have been documented. Meanwhile, Shields did quite well last season in other areas. He posted a career high in strikeouts (187 in 203.1 innings) and gave up just 2.3 walks per nine innings. According to his 3.72 xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) – a metric that measures walks, strikeouts, and uses the leave average home run rate to further strip luck out of the equation- Shields actually had a very good season.

Shields is similar to Ricky Nolasco in a few ways. Both starters posted good strikeout rates, solid walk totals, but were bitten by the long ball. Not surprisingly, both had better showings in defensive independent metrics than their ERA. This may scare away prospective owners on draft day, leaving them as quality choices on the scrap heap.

In the case of Shields, regression to the mean will help, but he’ll also have to do a better job of mixing up his pitches and spotting the ball around the zone. He did this from 2007-2009 when he averaged 12 wins, a 3.85 ERA, and over 200 innings per season. His durability alone (four straight seasons of at least 31 starts and 200 innings) makes him a back-end of the rotation target, but the chance for regression could make him a real steal in the later rounds of a mixed-league draft.

Tampa Bay Rays Sign Manny Ramirez

By Tommy Rancel //

After watching several key players leave via free agency, and a few others moved in trades for prospects, Andrew Friedman surveyed the market and decided it was time to play. What else would you expect from the guy who is quoted in Jonah Keri’s upcoming book, The Extra 2%, as saying “I am purely market driven. I love players I think I can get for less than they are worth.”

Signing arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation to a one-year deal worth $2 million is right in Friedman’s wheelhouse. Sure, a 38-year-old Manny Ramirez is not the same Manny who dominated the American League for more than a decade. But for the bargain basement price of $2 million, the Rays are not paying him to be that guy. Better, that same 38-year-old Ramirez is still very productive.

Ramirez battled leg injuries and a hernia injury last year that limited him to just 90 games. However, he hit .298/.409/.460 and had a 141 wRC+ (an offensive stat from fangraphs.com which measures runs created by a hitter; a wRC+ of 100 is average). When he was in the lineup, he was still a near-elite hitter.

Though his home run power is not likely reach the 37 he hit in 2008, he still has enough power to belt 20-plus home runs and produce 20-plus doubles, if given 500 plate appearances. He continues to have a fantastic batting eye, which will help keep him on base nearly 40% of the time–huge in leagues that count OBP, but also helps with runs scored in standard 5×5 leagues. Batting in the middle of a lineup that features several other high-on-base hitters – including the newly signed Johnny Damon – he’ll have plenty of chances to drive in runs too.

By moving to designated hitter full-time, the concerns about Ramirez’s injuries should be eased a bit. He underwent hernia surgery in October and has been working out in Arizona in advance of spring training. (Peter Gammons Tweeted that Ramirez is in excellent shape.)

One of Andrew Friedman’s goals this off-season was to find a middle-of-the-order bat to replace Carlos Pena and team up with Evan Longoria in the heart of the Rays’ lineup. Ramirez might not replace all the power lost by Pena’s exit, but along with Matt Joyce, the Rays now have adequate pop surrounding their franchise player.

The age and injury concerns – along with the potential for Manny to be Manny – are understandable. That said, no one is counting on Ramirez to carry a lineup – real or fantasy. As an OF4 or Utility option in standard mixed leagues, Ramirez should provide plenty of value, considering the price tag should be a mid-to-late round pick.  If you show the patience of Andrew Friedman on draft day, you too will love getting a quality player for less than what he is worth.

Matt Garza’s Potential Impact with the Cubs

By Jonah Keri //

Continuing their dramatic off-season makeover, the Tampa Bay Rays were
on the verge of trading Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs as the linchpin
of an eight-player trade (none of the other players in the trade
project as worth rostering in 2011).

Opinions are split on
exactly what the Cubs are getting in the deal. One one hand, Garza’s
enjoyed great success in his three seasons with the Rays. He was the
key to another Rays blockbuster deal, coming over from Minnesota along
with Jason Bartlett as part of a six-player trade before the 2008
season. That year, Garza went 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA. In the postseason
he fared even better, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in a thrilling LCS
against the Red Sox, capped by Garza’s dominant Game 7 performance that
lifted Tampa Bay to the first World Series in franchise history.

After an apparent pullback in 2009 (8-10, 3.95 ERA), Garza enjoyed
the best season of his career from a fantasy perspective in 2010, going
15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 150 strikeouts over 204.2 effective innings.
Though he struggled at times with consistency, he also flashed the
brilliance that defined his 2008 LCS performance, tossing a no-hitter
against the Tigers in July – also a first in franchise history.

Some analysts hold a less rosy opinion of the big right-hander.
Garza’s xFIP (a stat that runs along a similar scale to ERA, but strips
out the impact of team defense, park factors, and other variables
beyond a pitcher’s control) has been fairly pedestrian over the past
three seasons, at 4.48, 4.21 and 4.51 (the 4.21 figure coming during
the season in which his more superficial fantasy stats looked worst).
His home run rates have climbed in each season with the Rays (0.93 HR/9
IP in 2008, 1.11 HR/9 IP in 2009, 1.23 HR/9 IP in 2010), just as his
groundball rates have been falling (41.7% GB% in 2008, 39.7% in 2009,
35.8% in 2010).

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs compared Garza to Aaron Harang, another
pitcher who’s eaten innings in the past (Garza’s topped 200 frames in
each of the past two seasons), owns a strong K/BB rate (2.17, 2.39 and
2.38 in the past three years for Garza) and also endangers his team
with high home run rates. With Adrian Gonzalez joining the AL East this
season, Garza would have faced an even scarier assortment of power
threats on a regular basis had he stayed with the Rays for 2011, making
those home run and groundball rates an even bigger concern.

On the other hand, Garza’s been called overrated so many times by
analysts wielding advanced stats that he may now be underrated.
Baseball Prospectus tracks 
every pitcher in the big leagues by opponents’ OPS, seeking to assess
quality of competition. Of the top 60 opponents’ OPS by pitcher in MLB
last year, just one pitcher (Madison Bumgarner) hailed from the
National League. Three of the top four hailed from the AL East.

So even if you grant that Garza has looked like another incarnation of Harang over the past three seasons with the Rays, it’s reasonable
to project significant potential improvement if and when he’s dealt to
the weaker NL Central.

But not so fast! Even if we project improvement based on a divisional
move, let’s reconsider Garza’s increasingly extreme flyball trends.
With the Rays, Garza benefited from Gold Glover Carl Crawford playing
left field, the rangy B.J. Upton in center, and underrated defender
Matt Joyce (and before him, fellow underrated defender Gabe Gross)
chasing down flyballs and line drives hit into the gaps. The Cubs
ranked just 26th in MLB at converting balls in play into outs last year; the Rays ranked 3rd. Using Ultimate Zone Rating, the Cubs ranked 18th last year, the Rays
While advanced metrics reflect relatively kindly on projected Cubs
outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd, those players rank well
below Garza’s past LF-CF tandem of Crawford and Upton. Right fielder
Tyler Colvin, meanwhile, projects as average or worse in right field.

Taking all of these factors into account, we project…fairly similar
results for Garza in 2011. He’ll post decent but not spectacular
numbers for a starting pitcher in a standard mixed league. Don’t get
too caught up with Garza’s flashes of brilliance. He’ll wield
occasional no-hit stuff. But he’s more of a #3 or even #4 fantasy
starter in standard leagues than anything approaching a #1.

The real-life take? The Cubs are still the 4th-best team in the NL Central. And the Rays are still a Wild Card contender, with Jeremy Hellickson poised to take Garza’s spot in the rotation and money now freed to sign a big bat at DH such as Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez. As I often note in The Extra 2%, my upcoming book about the Rays’ Wall Street-inspired approach, Andrew Friedman does not give a damn about public relations. To the Rays’ benefit.

UPDATE: Thanks to Twitter’s @AbPow for reminding us that Garza’s HR tendencies could be further magnified by Wrigley Field, which showed a 119 park factor for LH home runs in 2010 (100 is average, and Tropicana Field was below average).

Jason Bartlett to San Diego

By R.J. Anderson //

Jason Bartlett’s name popped up in trade rumors more than nearly any other ballplayer in the land. No longer will that be the case, as the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly traded Bartlett to the San Diego Padres for relief pitchers Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos.

Let’s begin with the fantasy implications for the Padres. Bartlett immediately steps in as their starting shortstop, diminishing whatever value Everth Cabrera may have held. The 31-year-old Bartlett hangs his fantasy hat on a strong 2009 (.320, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 90 R, 30 SB), when he benefited from an inflated batting average on balls in play (.364 – league average is typically near .300). His 2010 season (.254, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 71 R, 11 SB) represented a hasty step-back, one that resembles what folks should expect moving forward.

Stepping into an arctic offensive environment at Petco Park is unlikely to help. There are some slivers of good news, though: Petco is harshest on left-handed power hitters (Bartlett is neither left-handed nor a power hitter) and a bounceback in steals could be in the works (Bartlett stole at least 20 in three straight years before only taking 11 bags in 2010). A hidden source of upside with Bartlett in the National League West is the large number of left-handed starting pitchers; Bartlett typically feasts off lefties. He struggles against righties, though, and is a good bet to miss two weeks a season with a lower body injury.

In Bartlett’s place, the Rays will insert one-time top prospect Reid Brignac. A left-handed hitter with a better glove and more power potential than Bartlett, Brignac hit .256/.307/.385 with eight homers in 326 plate appearances last season. Brignac becomes an intriguing option in AL-only leagues and potentially a mixed league option if he improves on his plate approach.

As for the pitchers: Ramos is the less interesting of the two. He could be nothing more than a middle reliever or a situational lefty. However, Russell could be a sleeper candidate for saves, given that most of Tampa Bay’s bullpen graduated to free agency, including all of their set-up men and closer Rafael Soriano. Russell is a big guy (6’8″) with a mid-90s fastball that sinks. In 54 career big league innings he’s struck out 54 batters, and his minor league track record also augurs well in that regard.

Russell’s exact role will be determined later this off-season, and might not be solidified until the 2011 season has begun. But he might very well provide the most fantasy value next year among players involved in this deal.

Sean Rodriguez Waits on Deck in Tampa Bay

By Tommy Rancel //

About a year ago, Sean Rodriguez was introduced to Rays fans. Acquired by Tampa Bay in the Scott Kazmir trade – a move some saw as a white flag on the 2009 season and a salary dump – Rodriguez is helping the Bay area forget about their one-time ace.

Coming into this year’s camp, Rodriguez remained a relative unknown around Tampa Bay. However, the 25-year-old put on a power display in the spring, announcing his arrival. In addition to the pop, Rodriguez showed defensive versatility – a key to the Rays’ roster construction.

After that powerful spring that saw him rank among the Grapefruit League leaders in home runs and other categories, Rodriguez struggled early on. Through the end of May he was hitting just .224. The power we saw in spring did not translate, as he posted a .329 slugging percentage through the first two months. Not only was he lacking authority in his swing, Rodriguez was also hacking at every chance. In his first 219 at-bats, he struck out 64 times, while taking just six walks.

He’s made a charge since then, bumping his line up to he is hitting .257/.312/.411 in 351 PA. That’s while playing seven different positions for the Rays – making him one of just 36 players in MLB history to play seven positions and surpass 300 plate appearances in the same season.


Because of his positional flexibility and his smooth defensive abilities, the Rays may have granted Rodriguez more time than a player with less versatility. Their patience is paying off.

Since August 1, Rodriguez is hitting .250/.348/.425. After struggling with plate discipline early on, he walked 11 times in his last 91 plate appearances. His .227 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average), over the last 30 days ranks behind only the Pirates’ Neil Walker among second basemen.

Looking forward to 2011, the Rays are likely to have a few holes in their lineup. Without the ability to break the bank on the open market, the team will look to fill most of their vacancies from within. A full-time gig for Rodriguez could mean upwards of 20 home runs with multi-position eligibility, and some speed to boot. If you take that potential and add in his late-season surge, it would be a wise decision to start snatching up Sean Rodriguez in your keeper leagues right now.

For more on Sean Rodriguez and possible 2011 keepers in 2010, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits

Rays Add Jake McGee to Major League Bullpen

By Tommy Rancel //

Before the 2008 season started, Jake McGee was named the 15th-best prospect in Major League Baseball by Baseball America. However, in the summer of ’08 McGee took a visit to a place no pitcher wants to go; Dr. James Andrews’ office. McGee would undergo Tommy John surgery – ending his season and wiping out nearly all of 2009.

Tommy John surgery is hardly a death sentence for young pitchers these days. Yes, the rehab is long and exhausting, but most come back and continue their careers. In 2010, McGee found himself where he left off in 2008, pitching for Double-A Montgomery. Although he went just 3-7 in 19 starts, his peripheral numbers were fantastic. He struck out 100 batters in 88.1 innings while allowing just 33 walks and 3 home runs.

After making his 19 Double-A starts, McGee was promoted to Triple-A Durham to work out of the bullpen. The Rays will likely say the move was made to limit the workload – and that is partially true – but one must wonder if this will end up as McGee’s permanent home.

Even before the injury, many had McGee pegged for a role in the bullpen. The lefty owns an excellent, mid-90s fastball, but has yet to find a consistent secondary offering. One really good pitch and two fringe pitches will get you by in a bullpen, but not a major league rotation.

In addition to the lack of secondary stuff, Jeremy Hellickson has risen through the ranks of the organization during McGee’s absence/return. Not only has Hellickson shot past McGee on prospect lists, he is also now blocking him in the pecking order of the Tampa Bay rotation.

That said, it is McGee who may be the most important Rays’ pitching prospect down the stretch in 2010.


Upon his promotion to Durham, McGee was lights-out in the bullpen. In 17.1 innings, he allowed just one earned run while striking out 27 batters and giving up just three walks. Meanwhile, Hellickson has struggled in his transition to the bullpen.

Even before his struggles, Hellickson was not going to be used as your average relief pitcher. He was to pitch two or three times a week and was not expected to be brought into the middle of an inning. The rules for McGee are not likely to be the same.

With Randy Choate serving as the team’s only left-handed reliever, McGee should get some action as more than a lefty specialist – meaning coming into a game to face batters from either side of the plate, sometimes in the middle of an inning with runners on base. He will also likely to be used as needed instead of a pseudo schedule.

The one role the Rays have yet to fill this season is the one vacated by injured reliever J.P. Howell. Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour have been excellent set-up men, but neither is left-handed. In McGee, the Rays may finally have that lefty with the ability to get hitters of both handedness out.

If all goes well, it could be McGee and not Hellickson who plays the part David Price did in 2008. However, unlike Price, McGee’s time in the pen may not be temporary. There is no rush to add McGee in your single-year league right now. Indeed, McGee struggled mightily last night in his big league debut, throwing six straight balls before recording a strike, and generally looking very nervous.

But with the potential loss of Rafael Soriano as well as other key bullpen members like Benoit next season, McGee should be on your radar for fantasy bullpens of the future, and as a potential closer. He’s worth a pickup in keeper leagues.

For more on Jake McGee and the Tampa Bay Rays, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

Rays Call Up Desmond Jennings

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
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
league season.

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
defensive replacement.

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
Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy