It’s never too early to look towards the minor leagues to see if there is any potential help on the horizon. Let’s take a look at three prospects who have a chance to make a fantasy impact in 2011 and see how they are faring:
Desmond Jennings – Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays were supposed to already have Carl Crawford’s replacement in house, but instead of letting Jennings open the year on the Major League roster they opted to start him at Triple-A. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done anything to force the Rays hand to get him to the Majors. Over his first 74 AB he is hitting .257 with 2 HR, 7 RBI, 16 R and 6 SB at Triple-A. Yes, you like the runs scored and a .389 OBP (he has drawn 13 walks), but the other numbers are not really eye popping. Over his last 42 AB he’s actually hitting a measly .214. His BABIP hasn’t been overly unlucky (.309), though you would expect someone with his speed to hit have a bit more luck. The problem is the strikeouts, as he has already whiffed 17 times (22.97% strikeout rate). He clearly has a command of the strike zone, with a 14.94% walk rate, but he needs to find a way to do a better job of putting the bat on the ball. If he can, the sky truly is the limit. Obviously, don’t be discouraged by a somewhat slow start. Jennings is one of the premier prospects in the game and sooner rather than later he will arrive in Tampa Bay. Hopefully he gets things going soon and forces the Rays’ hand.
Jason Kipnis – Cleveland Indians
Maybe the signing of Orlando Cabrera hurt his confidence (as it certainly helped to postpone his potential arrival). Maybe he’s just off to a slow start. Maybe he needs to adjust to the upper-levels of the minor leagues. Whatever the reason, Kipnis is off to an extremely slow start this season. Over his first 64 AB he has hit just .250 with 1 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R and 4 SB at Triple-A, his first exposure to the level. This comes a year after he hit a combined .307 with 16 HR across two minor league levels. Obviously it’s an extremely small sample size, so there’s no reason to draw any significant conclusions quite yet. Still, he has been consistently mediocre all year long. In his last 36 AB he is hitting .250. Against righties he is hitting .250. Against lefties he is hitting .250. Consistent. He has a good shot of reaching the Majors at some point in 2011 and he certainly has significantly more offensive potential than he has currently shown.
Jenrry Mejia – New York Mets
He took a small step back in his last start (5 ER over 6.0 innings), but otherwise he has been exceptional this season. He has a 2.59 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over his first four starts at Triple-A. Of course, he has benefitted from a .213 BABIP, so let’s not say that he has definitively turned the corner quite yet. He also has struggled with his control, with a BB/9 of 4.11. In fact, he’s walked at least 2 batters in each start, having not gone beyond 6.2 innings. There certainly should be fear that this last start is not going to be his only rough one. The Mets are going to be patient with him and not rush him to the Majors (again), so don’t look for him pitching in Queens any time soon. He has great long-term potential, but there definitely could be some regression to his early season success.
What are your thoughts on these prospects? Who will see better days ahead? Who will reach the Majors first in 2011?