Beginning today I will be looking at various prospects who may be counted on to contribute in the major leagues next season.
First on my list is Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings. Jennings will turn 23 at the end of the month and is a phenomenal athlete. He originally signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Alabama before being selected in the 10th round of the 2006 draft. Jennings has plenty of speed to burn and has an 82 percent stolen base success rate over his minor league career.
Jennings projects as a plus defender in center field with good range and an above-average arm. He has shown the ability to hit for average (.305 lifetime average) and with his plate discipline (11.13 career walk percentage) he could develop into a productive leadoff hitter. Jennings makes consistent solid contact and has continually cut down his strikeout numbers. This season he walked as many times as he struck out (67) between Double-A and Triple-A. He possesses an incredibly quick bat although this doesn’t show in his power numbers. In 2009 however, Jennings posted a career best .169 ISO and belted 31 doubles, 10 triples, and 11 home runs all of which were career highs for him.
The knock on Jennings is that he is injury prone. In 2007 he had season ending knee surgery in August. Then in 2008 he was limited to just 24 games after aggravating his back and then undergoing shoulder surgery that would once again cost him the season. His inability to stay healthy had caused his stock to slide, but he rebounded with a strong, and perhaps more importantly, healthy 2009 campaign.
It will be interesting to see what Tampa Bay does this off-season. B.J. Upton is coming off a terrible year and is eligible for arbitration this season. Carl Crawford is also heading into the final year of his deal. The Rays could be looking to move one or both to free up salary and this would cut a clear path for Jennings to start. If Tampa is seriously considering moving either player, and reports indicate that they are, then they must believe that Desmond Jennings is ready to start in 2010.