This is going to be a new feature we do here on Rotoprofessor, where two writers will take opposing sides and make their case for which player is the best option. To kick things off we will look at Desmond Jennings and Starling Marte. Who is the better option for 2014? Let’s see what the writers think:
Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor) – Desmond Jennings
Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I’m still a believer that Jennings can put it all together. Overall last season was a disappointment, but Jennings actually took some positive steps compared to 2012:
- Decreased strikeout rate (19.1% vs. 21.3%)
- Increased walk rate (10.6% vs. 8.2%)
What he needs to do is stop trying to hit home runs, because he’s not likely to be a 25+ HR hitter, but staying in the 10-14 HR range would be plenty. Overall his popup rate was 12.2%, not what we’d want from a speed option, but a lot of that came in the second half (18.2%). Couple an improvement there (in other words just posting his first half mark) with better luck (despite a 17.1% line drive rate, with his speed we’d expect a better BABIP than .295) and the average will improve.
The stolen bases struggled, but he was banged up and moved around the lineup. A healthy Jennings should be able to contribute like he did in the first half (15 SB) as compared to the second (5 SB). So, we get the potential for 10/30 and an improved average?
Marte is a similar player, though he’s shown more speed (41 SB). However, he owns a 25.1% strikeout rate in the Majors and it’s hard to bank on him replicating a .363 BABIP. There’s actually a good chance Jennings posts the better average.
While Marte will have the SB edge, where else is he a lock to outproduce Jennings? Jennings has the RBI advantage, playing in the AL with the DH and deeper lineups. Both should push 85+ runs, hitting atop their respective orders, and Jennings likely has a slight advantage in the power department.
Jennings is hardly a lock, especially given his track record, but there’s too much upside for me not to favor him.
Ray Kuhn – Starling Marte
Of course there isn’t an easy, simple and clear answer to this question. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t be asking and answering it.
Both Desmond Jennings and Starling Marte have pedigree. They have talent and have been highly ranked prospects. Maybe my answer to this is biased from being burned by Jennings not living up to expectations in the past, but I would take Marte if I had a choice between the two outfielders for 2014.
Regardless of what your position on Jennings is, you can’t argue the fact that so far in his career he has failed to live up to expectations. While the chance for a breakout is still there, I am willing to venture that what we have seen from the Tampa Bay outfielder is what we can expect this season. The last two seasons saw Jennings produce these stat lines: .246/13 HR/85 R/47 RBI/31 SB and .252/14/82/57/20 respectively. Not bad, but that still leaves fantasy owners wanting something more, as he struck out about 20% of the time and saw his line drive rate drop from 20.1% to 17.1%.
Marte has one season to look at when he batted .280 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs while stealing 41 bases. However, he also did this while striking out 24.4% of the time and having a .363 BABIP (so we know there was some luck involved). Even if we knock Marte’s average down 30 points to .250, he is pretty much in line with Jennings. Since he bats leadoff he does lose few RBI, but that is made up for with the stolen bases. Factor in another few home runs, and 15/35 is very possible. Add in the fact that you can probably get Marte later in your draft, and that is who I prefer for 2014.
In a way they are the same player, but Marte still comes out on top for me if you factor in a regression because at this point I have a hard time expecting more from Jennings.
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: