Desmond Jennings: Is He a Top 20 Outfielder in 2012?

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 07: Outfielder Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates a 10th-inning, game-winning home run against the Texas Rangers September 7, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 5 - 4. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Desmond Jennings was drafted in the 10th round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft by the Rays, and I have to say I am surprised he was drafted that long ago. He was ranked as the 22nd best prospect in baseball coming into the 2011 season, this after he was ranked # 6 overall by Baseball America before the 2010 season. Jennings has been the heir apparent to Carl Crawford for a few years now, and even after Crawford signed with the Red Sox this past offseason, he did not join the major league club till a few months ago.

Jennings had a breakout 2009 season where he hit .318-.401-.487 with 11 HRs, 10 triples, 31 doubles, 62 RBI, 92 runs, 52 stolen bases, and probably the most impressive stat of all, a 67-67 K/BB rate in 497 at bats as a 22 year old in AA and AAA.  This performance resulted in his prospect ranking vaulting from #80 overall in 2009 to #6 overall in 2010. As you can see from his 2009 breakout, he has all the tools. He can hit for a good average, has some pop, can steal bases with the best of them, and has a great eye at the plate.

More on Jennings after the jump:

 

 

 

Jennings started the 2010 season at AAA Durham with plenty of love from the prospect community. Here is what Baseball America wrote about him prior to the 2010 season:

The Future: Given the Rays' conservative approach to development, Jennings could spend at least the first half of the 2010 season back in Triple-A. He looks ready to make the jump to Tampa Bay and could land there if he has a convincing showing in spring training. Regardless of his immediate future, Jennings is the club's long-term answer in center field, a potential all-star who will push B.J. Upton to right. When he arrives in the majors, Jennings will team with Carl Crawford and Upton to give Tampa Bay the most tooled-up set of outfielders in baseball.

Well, I am not sure how he performed in spring training, but he did not hit well in his first full season at AAA Durham. He hit just .278-.362-.393 with just 3 HRs, 36 RBI, 82 runs 37 SBs and a solid 67-47 K/BB rate in 399 at bats. I recall Jennings battled some injuries in 2010, but do not remember the specifics. So, it goes without saying that the team the is very conservative with their prospects, Jennings started the 2011 season in AAA again.

This season at AAA was much different than his 2010 performance. In 89 games, he hit just .275-.374-.456 with 12 HRs, 39 RBI, 68 runs, 17 SBs and a 78-45 K/BB rate. It appears he sacrificed some BA for more power in 2011, and his plate disciipline declined a bit, although it was still respectable. His performance earned him a promotion to the big leagues back on July 23rd.

Since his call up, he is hitting .286-.374-.510 with 9 HRs, 22 RBI, 32 runs, 15 SBs in 21 attempts and a 46-22 K/BB rate in 192 at bats in 40 games. Quite an impressive performance in his first taste of the big leagues, huh? Baseball-Reference projects his stats over a 162 game schedule and says he could be a 20-40 guy if he can continue to hit like this in 2012.

Can he? I think he can. Even if he doesn't, I think he can hit 15 HRs and steal 30+ bases in 2012, and be a top 20 outfielder on draft day.

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