2013 Pod Projections: Desmond Jennings

In what is likely to be my last hitter Pod Projection, Desmond Jennings topped the list of remaining vote getters. The sophomore was a bit of a disappointment last season and was hampered by a knee injury that cost him nearly a month. I have been a big fan of Jennings in the past. Let’s find out if we can expect him to rebound this year and enter the upper echelon of fantasy outfielders.

2013 Pod Projection Index
Carlos Gomez
Mark Trumbo
Brett Lawrie
Jason Heyward

At-Bats: 575
Jennings is the every day lead-off hitter for the Rays, which would normally lead to a 600 or so at-bat projection for a healthy player. But, as we know, he hasn’t exactly been the model of health and had issues staying healthy in the minors as well.

Contact Rate: 78% (a reminder, this is [at-bats – strikeouts] / at-bats, which differs from FG’s K%)
Jennings had typically posted contact rates in the low to mid 80% range in the minors, but has not been able to translate that level of skill to the Majors as of yet. He has posted just a 76% mark in each of his first two seasons in Tampa Bay. My projection assumes some improvement, especially since his SwStk% is actually better than the league average.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 44%/19%/37%
These rates are essentially his current career mark over 773 at-bats. Batted ball rates are pretty stable, so there’s no reason to project anything that differs drastically.

BABIP: .310
Over his short career, Jennings’ BABIP sits right around the league average. It’s somewhat surprising for a guy who has a nice blend of power and speed, hits more ground balls than flies and has consistently posted BABIP marks over .320 in the minors. The most obvious reason is his inflated IFFB%, which sits near 15%. It’s a tiny sample though, so I am projecting a better BABIP this year, assuming he gets those pop-ups down.

HR/FB Ratio: 9%
Jennings surprised us all by posting a nearly 16% HR/FB ratio during his rookie partial season in 2011. This past season, that rate dropped to a much less surprising 9%, which is the exact mark I am projecting again. His average fly ball plus home run distance actually increased by a couple of feet this season, but it remains in the high 270 range, right at the league average. I considered projecting a slight increase to 10%, but his low doubles total doesn’t give me hope that some of those will turn into homers. So another 9% rate it is.

RBI and Runs: 55 and 95
Jennings’ walk rate declined a bit last year after he posted above average marks in the minors and during his 2011 short season with the Rays. Given his mediocre contact rate driving a mediocre batting average, it is imperative that his walk rate rebounds to boost his OBP into respectable territory. That would go a long way into pushing that runs scored total to 100 and beyond.

SBs: 36
Other than the missed playing time, the knee injury did not seem to affect his willingness to run or success rate on the base paths. The additional projected at-bats should lead to a higher steal total, but he has also attempted a steal more frequently in the minors. So that’s another reason to bet on an increase. However, he was amazingly caught stealing just twice last season. That kind of success is unlikely to be repeated. So he will have to run a little more frequently like I think he will in order to make up for the jump in caught stealings.

Below is my final projected batting line, along with a smattering of other projection systems for comparison.

Pod 575 0.260 15 55 95 36 78% 0.310 9% 44%/19%/37%
Steamer 590 0.241 14 59 86 30 78% 0.288 ?? ??
Bill James 537 0.261 15 54 96 36 79% 0.304 ?? ??
Oliver 506 0.257 14 57 75 27 77% 0.309 ?? ??
Fans (32) 597 0.268 17 68 99 38 77% 0.321 ?? ??

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

9 Responses to “2013 Pod Projections: Desmond Jennings”

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  1. Jimbo says:

    What?! Last one?!?! This is hands down the best recurring article on Fangraphs. So sad.

    One frustration I have with players such as Jennings is upside. He’s got experience now, is 26, and probably hasn’t posted his best season stats yet. What if he breaks out? Just how valuable would that be?

    Would lurve to see a ‘best case’ line from your process. Since you’re already immersed in a player’s profile I’d imagine it wouldn’t double the work. Could be great context to go along with the final projected line.

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    • Ha, well it is because I have to get to pitchers! Trust me, my pitcher projections are much more interesting than the hitters since they are actually different.

      A breakout for Jennings would require improved contact. He could theoretically be Carl Crawford in years past, meaning I think he has 2nd round/$30 upside.

      I upped his contact rate to 82% and HR/FB rate to 11%. Those improvements would lead to a .277 average and 19 homers. That might also lead to 60-65 RBI and 100-105 runs, along with like 45 steals.

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  2. John says:

    Good stuff, Mike!

    Quick question – I was offered Jennings for Ellsbury in a Dynasty League. Given your projections and that Jennings is 3 years younger would you pull the trigger and take Jennings?

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    • Thanks. Oy, great question. Ellsbury is such a wild card. He should hit for a better average, but the other categories should be very close. Of course, it’s possible Ellsbury reverts back to hitting just 10 homers a year, meaning Jennings would take the HR category. Since it’s a dynasty, I’ll go with age here and say take Jennings. He also has that built-in improvement possibility if that minor league contact ability returns.

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  3. Fredward says:

    High upside kind of pick that could make a good team great

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  4. KJ says:

    We’ve talked about SwStk% being a good leading indicator for SPs, but you’ve mentioned it here for Jennings. How do you thing SwStk% does as a leading indicator for batters? if so, would be the % to look for in batters?

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    • Ya know, I personally haven’t looked at it much other than just quickly eyeing it when a hitter’s strikeout rate changes dramatically from one year to the next. Or in Jennings’ case, maybe it would explain why his MLB K rate has been much worse than in the minors. I’m not sure if we have done any studies on it. Clearly, there must be some correlation between the two, but not sure if it’s as strong as for pitchers.

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  5. Brandon says:

    I’m curious what sort of injuries Desmond had in the minors and if they are the sort that bring up red flags for the future.

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    • According to an article at MinorLeagueBall.com from 2011, Jennings has dealt with shoulder, back and knee issues in the minors. The article didn’t mention anything more specific.

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