It may have taken four months, and nearly 1,000 plate appearances at AAA, but the Tampa Bay Rays have finally called up Desmond Jennings. For owners in keeper leagues, it’s finally time to rejoice. Owners in year-to-year leagues will now need to decide whether Jennings is worthy of a pickup going forward. Jennings certainly has that top prospect shine — he appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 list the last four seasons — but will he contribute enough to make an impact on fantasy rosters?
Since the Rays are so cautious in promoting their prospects, it seems fairly safe to assume that Jennings is finally here to stay. If the first two games are any indication, the Rays aren’t going to treat “Deezy” with kids’ gloves. In both of his games this season, Jennings has started and led off. He has immediately shown his potential, smashing both a double and a triple, walking twice and stealing two bases. Jennings obviously won’t keep up such a torrid pace, so what should we realistically expect from the rookie going forward?
Jennings’ performance in AAA this season should give us a solid indication of what to expect now that he’s been promoted. In the minors, Jennings flashed solid plate discipline, with average power and the ability to steal bases with high efficiency. The only area of concern with Jennings’ AAA numbers that may hurt him in the majors is his 19.6 K%. While Jennings may eventually be a .300 hitter in the big leagues, he’s more likely to hit for a lower average this season if the strikeouts carry over to the majors — potentially worse if they increase upon seeing better pitching. Even if that’s the case, Jennings has too much upside to ignore.
If we expect Jennings to carry over his skills from the minors, we’re looking at a player who should contribute immediately in mixed leagues. Jennings should steal double-digit bases, provide 5-8 home runs while hitting for a decent average (.270-.275 depending on how much the strikeouts increase). His patience at the plate should also make him somewhat useful in OBP leagues as well. That type of projection could make Jennings an OF3 for many owners. Jennings is even more important to owners who desperately need steals this season.
All told, it looks like Jennings is worth a pickup in mixed leagues. Not only that, but he’s probably a worthy starter for many teams as well — especially those looking to pick up some extra steals. Now that the Rays have finally promoting their young star, it appears they are going to utilize him aggressively. The fact that the Rays made Jennings their lead-off man immediately after the promotion should be a strong indication of how much the Rays believe in his ability to contribute immediately. Fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate to do the same. Jennings looks like an impact player in mixed leagues that should contribute down the stretch. If he’s still available in your league, pick him up — especially if you need steals. This looks like the start of another promising career in Tampa.