Extension Candidate: Desmond Jennings

357110821404_Mariners_at_Rays At the moment, the AL Rookie of the Year race seems to be wide open. Right-handers Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jordan Walden and Jeremy Hellickson all deserve consideration, as do AL West hitters Mark Trumbo and Dustin Ackley. There was a late addition to the Rookie of the Year race though, and that's Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings.

Tampa did not call up the 24-year-old Jennings until late-July, but since arriving he's been one of the very best hitters in baseball. Not just among rookies either, among all players. His batting line sits at .324/.419/.581 in 175 plate appearances, and since coming up he ranks ninth in MLB in OBP, 18th in SLG, 24th in homers (eight), and first in stolen bases (14). FanGraphs places Jennings' value at 2.2 wins above replacement already, which is fourth most among all rookie position players even though he's come to the plate at least 101 fewer times than the three players ahead of him (Danny Espinosa, Ackley, and Wilson Ramos).

Jennings did receive a September call-up last year and it's not hard to connect the dots and suggest that his promotion in 2011 was delayed due to service time. He will finish the season with less than one full year of service time, which isn't exactly when teams start handing out extensions. The Rays have set a bit of a precedent though, famously inking Evan Longoria to a six-year, $17.5MM contract after just six days in the big leagues. James Shields was barely over one year of service time when he signed his four-year, $11.25MM contract. Tampa has shown a willingness to take on risk in exchange for cost control of their best young players, making Jennings a prime extension candidate.

The recent Jose Tabata extension gives us a great idea of the market value for a young outfielder with approximately a year of service time. The Pirates gave their 23-year-old outfielder six years and $15MM guaranteed, though three club options could push the total value of the package to $37.25MM. The Rays love getting those club option years as well; both Longoria's and Shields' contracts contain three option years each while Ben Zobrist's deal includes two. Tabata is just about two years younger than Jennings and his big league sample is much larger (815 PA vs. 199 PA), but he hasn't hit as much as the Tampa outfielder (.286/.349/.385 career) and UZR doesn't like his defense as much either. There's not much of a point in comparing the two players statistically given how long they've been in the show, but remember that teams are paying for what they expect in future, not what they've gotten in the past.

One legitimate reason not to give Jennings a long-term contract is his durability, or lack thereof. He missed the final month of the 2007 season due to knee surgery, played in just 24 games in 2008 due to back and shoulder troubles (surgery on the shoulder), and then battled a wrist issue in 2010. The Rays can't afford to miss on a long-term contract extension, so they'll need to feel confident in his ability to stay on the field before deciding to take the plunge. Baseball America thinks enough of Jennings' talent that they ranked him as the 22nd best prospect in baseball before the season despite those injury concerns, the fourth consecutive year he's earned a spot on their top 100 prospects list. It's also worth noting that Jennings is a Scott Boras client.

It seems likely that Tampa will part ways B.J. Upton at some point within the next year, at which point Jennings will just slide over to center field. They're guaranteed to have him at a salary close to the league minimum for at least another two seasons thanks to the pre-arbitration rules, but it's not out of the question that the Rays may decide to lock Jennings in at a below-market rate before that transition occurs.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


27 Responses to Extension Candidate: Desmond Jennings Leave a Reply

  1. EdinsonPickle 4 years ago

    Desmond Jennings is cool. I like him.

  2. Yeah, sure I’d love it for him and Hellickson also but the agent for both of them? Scott Boras. We would be smarter to find a way to sign Price through some of his FA years.

  3. RobA 4 years ago

    Desmond is great, but no mention of Brett Lawrie? The kid is [utting up better numbers then Jennings across the board (on a 162 game season pace) and he’s only got 11 less games under his belt then DJ.

    He’s also three years younger. Yup. Three.

    • Brett Lawrie 105 PA (97AB): 32 hits; 7 hrs; .330avg; .381 OBP; .691 SLG; 1.072 OPS; 20 rbis; 15 runs; wOBA .462. 

      That’s about as good a start as one could hope for. I guess the only thing they would like to see is the K’s go down (21%) and the BB’s go up (6.7%).

    • FrankTheFunkasaurusRex 4 years ago

      what does lawrie have to do with anything? this post isn’t about ROY

      • Well it mentions a bunch of rookies that are having strong first showings. Lawrie is at least an interesting comparison.

      • RobA 4 years ago

        Because they make mention of just about every single rookie who is doing anything this year?

  4. Eric Hosmer is a better candidate than most for AL ROY

  5. Jake White 4 years ago

    Ivan Nova.

    • MB923 4 years ago

      No

      • Jake White 4 years ago

        The two Yankees’ guys deserving of awards (Nova and Granderson) will likely get screwed, like usual.  At least Verlander deserves the Cy Young.

        • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

          the yankees have it pretty rough

        • MB923 4 years ago

          Nova doesn’t have the best stats amongst rookies though. Like the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year award doesn’t have to go to a pitcher who you define as the most valuable. It simply goes to the rookie with the best stats. Sometimes it’s hard though to choose between a hitter and a pitcher though.

          Without a doubt Nova has been a big help for the Yankees, but there are pitchers (Pineda, Hellickson) with better stats.

          • Sniderlover 4 years ago

            Yeah but he was “wins”… lol.

        • Sniderlover 4 years ago

          Yup… getting screwed when neither of them deserve to win the award. That makes sense.

      • but Ivan Nova is 15-4! He has so many wins!

        /sarcasm

    • lol no. The gap between Hellickson and Nova is nearly as large as the one between Bautista and everyone else for MVP. Sadly, the voters will probably only get the former right and one of the best offensive seasons in several years will be ignored.

  6. Alldaybaseball 4 years ago

    Its gonna be probably Hellickson, Trumbo, Walden, Ackley, Nova, Pindeda, Jennings, Lawrie. Then for NL probably Kimbrel, Freeman, Espinosa.

    • myname_989 4 years ago

      I don’t know about Espinosa. Have to figure that barring an epic meltdown, Vance Worley gets some votes for ROY.

  7. Tribe_Fan_Sam 4 years ago

    Sucks the Central gets nothing. Vinnie Pestano should be in this race.

  8. brewersfan729 4 years ago

    Mark Trumbo and his sub .300 OBP doesn’t deserve any consideration for AL ROY.

  9. That would be awesome and all, but unfortunately Scott Boras is involved which means it’s almost impossible.

  10. pretty impressive what Kimbrel has been doing. 

  11. FrankTheFunkasaurusRex 4 years ago

    haha

  12. vtadave 4 years ago

    And you should learn that this discussion should soon turn to a Yankee.  What about a Jesus Montero long-term deal?

  13. darkstorm97 4 years ago

    I’d love to see Eric Hosmer get some votes.

  14. start_wearing_purple 4 years ago

    I still don’t understand why people don’t think Bautista should win. Best hitter in the AL by a mile, not truly awful in the field, and leading the majors in WAR.

    The fact is it’ll come down to Granderson v. Ellsbury. If Granderson wins then Sox fans will be angry, if Ells wins then yanks fans will be angry… either way a majority of every other fan base will ask why Bautista didn’t win.

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