Will Desmond Jennings Be The Best Prospect in 2010?

As we enter the 2010 season there are just a handful of prospects that fantasy owners know need to be on their radars because they will be making an impact.  Carlos Santana…  Jason Heyward…  The best of the bunch, however, could be the Rays’ Desmond Jennings.

He split time between Double & Triple-A in ’09, but he looked good at both stops:

497 At Bats
.318 Batting Average (158 Hits)
11 Home Runs
62 RBI
92 Runs
52 Stolen Bases
.401 On Base Percentage
.487 Slugging Percentage
.351 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There is no questioning the speed he brings to the field.  To get to 52 stolen bases he needed just 59 attempts, meaning he was successful 88.14% of the time.  In the Major Leagues, no player who stole 40 bases or more was caught less than 12 times.

Obviously, it’s a different game.  The catchers throwing ability at Double-A is vastly different then the catchers at the Major League level, but it certainly is still worth noting.  Just for comparison, in 436 AB between Double and Triple-A in 2007, Jacoby Ellsbury went 41-for-48.  In other words he was caught as many times as Jennings, but with 11 less stolen bases.

That speed also allows him to maintain a higher than normal BABIP.  Would I expect him to be able to duplicate his minor league mark?  Not likely, but I wouldn’t expect him to suffer either.  He does a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, with a minor league groundball rate of 50.7%, allowing him to utilize his speed.

Couple that with an ability to make contact (he struck out just 13.48% of the time in ’09) and there is a lot to like in the average department.

Obviously, you can’t have everything, so don’t expect a significant number of home runs.  That’s what you get when you keep the ball on the ground.  I’d consider him similar to Carl Crawford in this regard.  That would put him in the low-teens consistently, but with the upside of maybe 15-18.  If he’s stealing 45 bases while hitting right around .300, is anyone really going to complain about that?

The only thing standing in his way is a job and at 23-years old, how long could the Rays really keep him down?

If what others are saying about him is true, it shouldn’t be long.  Baseball America, who ranked him as the team’s top prospect, recently said:

“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. Managers rated Jennings as the best and fastest baserunner in the Southern League, as well as the best defensive outfielder and most exciting player. He has a live, athletic frame and five-tool talent that should continue to improve with experience.”

Now, look at the team’s right field situation.  Gabe Kapler and Matt Joyce?  Yes, Joyce has potential but is it anything close to that of Jennings?  I think not.  How about the DH job, where Pat Burrell is manning the spot?

The opportunity should be there, it’s just a matter of time.  That makes him a player worth stashing in all formats, if you have the space.  Chances are, in keeper leagues, he’s not available, but if he is, don’t hesitate.

He’ll likely be manning a spot in the Rays outfield by the All-Star Break at the latest.  With the type of upside he has, he could be a fantasy gem by 2011.  For 2010, he may not be the best propsect in the game, but with his speed, he’s clearly a Top Five at worst.

What are your thoughts?  How good could he be?  What are you expecting from him in 2010?

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10 comments

  1. Love this kid and hope he gets a chance early this season. Carl Crawford is a terrific comparison; Jennings could produce a nearly identical stat line, for a fraction of the price on draft day.

  2. Jimmy says:

    I love him, but he’s just not guaranteed the job, may not even get it until the end of the year, even if he’s well qualified. Heyward’s the best prospect, by far.

  3. BLAZE says:

    Dustin:

    Identical statline isnt going to happen b/c Jennings wont hit that many home runs.

  4. TY says:

    i’m with jimmy, if you’re choosing which rook to take a shot at you gotta go heyward this year….

  5. BLAZE says:

    idk Jennings is more mlb ready. I think he is less likely to struggle especially when you factor in his plate skills. Remember Justin Upton sucked for awhile b4 he turned out. Heyward’s only had 210 ab’s above A ball. How many 20 yr old’s come up and are studs.

    He’s gonna be a beast but for this year id temper expectations.

  6. BLAZE says:

    the track record of 20-year-olds in the majors is not very good. Putting ARod’s monster season aside, let’s look at:

    Justin Upton: .650 OPS in 2007, and only .810 in 2008.
    Andruw Jones: .700 OPS in 1996, and only .750 in 2007.
    Miguel Cabrera .790 OPS in 2003.

    None of these guys were particularly good until after their 21st birthday. They became superstars later, but the early call-ups didn’t help their teams one bit. ARod is the only 20-year-old in the past couple of decades that I can think of who was particularly good his first year and he was probably juicin haha.

  7. BLAZE says:

    and honestly Heyward has not really shown all that much power and hardly any speed yet. I’d be floored if he can go to the show at 20yr with 210 milb ab’s over AA and hit for power and speed. Just doesnt seem feasible.

    Santana/Jennings have excellent batting eyes. Santana will be at catcher which will help his value and Jennings has CC like skills which is always a fantasy asset. I’d take these two all day this year. Heyward though longterm he’s my guy.

  8. Rotoprofessor says:

    I somewhat agree with Blaze in that I’m not sure how big of an impact Heyward will actually make in 2010. If you are looking long-term, Heyward is one of the top two prospects in the game. If you are looking at 2010, however, his age and experience at the upper levels make him a little less appealing than some other options.

  9. Keith says:

    I think this means Crawford will be getting moved in July. Why keep Crawford there when Jennings can put up similar numbers and Crawford can get Tampa Bay something it needs? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Crawford plus prospects for A-Gonzalez move. SD needs OF help and speed and Gonzalez lets TB move Pena to DH. I think it’s a win-win.

  10. Rotoprofessor says:

    Keith, it’s a good though but there’s no way I see it happening. If the Padres can’t afford A-Gone, how are they going to afford Crawford, who if memory serves me correctly, is a free agent after 2010?

    If A-Gone goes, it’s for a bushell full of prospects in my opinion.

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