Desmond Jennings is a player that has come with a lot of hype, though the production was not necessarily there in 2012. That’s not to say that he was bad, but with big expectations he posted the following “modest” line:
505 At Bats
.246 Batting Average (124 Hits)
13 Home Runs
31 Stolen Bases
.314 On Base Percentage
.388 Slugging Percentage
Sure, there was some power and some speed, but after he hit 10 HR with 20 SB in 247 AB in 2011 everyone expected significantly more. At just 26-years old there is obviously room for growth and improvement, but will he be able to get there in 2013?
The biggest issue, of course, was his batting average. Part of the problem were strikeouts, with a 21.3% strikeout rate. For a player who uses his speed, that’s not an ideal number and unfortuantely it isn’t an unrealistic one. While he didn’t strikeout as much in the minor leagues, back in 2010 Baseball America said the following:
“Jennings has a lethal combination of speed and power that, combined with an aggressive approach and impressive overall knowledge, makes him a true game-changer.”
While we love that quote, overall, the key word may be “aggressive”. Pitchers at more advanced levels have a habit of exploiting that, something they had started to do at Triple-A in 2011 (19.6% strikeout rate). At the same time, trying to take away his aggressiveness may hurt his overall ability and appeal. We have to hope he can improve (though he was at exactly 21.3% in both the first and second half last season), but at this point this is something we need to accept.
That said, it doesn’t mean he can’t hit for a good average. He still hit the ball well overall (20.1% line drive rate), yet posted a .298 BABIP. For a player with his speed and that line drive rate, we have to expect a significantly better mark.
In fact, the bulk of the problem came at home, where he hit .219 courtesy of a .244 BABIP. Even if he were to simply match his road numbers (.268 based on a .343 BABIP), the rest of his stats would make him more than worth it.
The fact is, the other numbers are all probably close to what we should expect. No one should’ve gone in expecting him to match the power explosion he had in ’11. Could he hit 15-20 HR? Absolutely, but with only 19 doubles and 7 triples in ’12, that may be more of his ceiling at this point.
Then again, you couple that type of number with 30+ SB and is anyone complaining? Throw a healthy Evan Longoria all year and there should be an improvement in runs scored as well.
It all comes together for the following projection:
.273 (150-550), 15 HR, 60 RBI, 100 R, 39 SB, .318 BABIP, .352 OBP, .431 SLG
The key is going to be his ability to improve his average, something we should expect (for those curious, the projection has him with an 18.06% strikeout rate). All it would take is .260 to make him one of the better outfielders, but there is still the potential for even more then that. In other words, he’s a great draft day target thanks to his tremendous upside.
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