Desmond Jennings, CF
Tampa Bay Rays
BNH Prospect Rank: #10
Overall (65): A-
MLB Comparison: Shannon Stewart
First drafted by the Indians out of high school in 2005, Desmond Jennings signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006, after getting drafted out of Itawamba Community College by them in the 10th round. Originally considered an all-tools, raw-baseball-skills prospect, Jennings has spent the last couple of seasons vastly improving his baseball IQ. While Carl Crawford is a lofty comparison, Jennings does have the tools to develop in to superstar similar to the former Rays’ team-leader.
Strengths: (Speed, On-Base Skills, Outfield Range)
Jennings’s five-tool ability is legitimate, but his game is still firmly centered on his plus-plus speed. A smart baserunner, Jennings’ uses his wheels to beat out infield hits, and steal bases on even the best defensive catchers. In the 2009 Futures game, Jennings stole three bases (including home plate) on three tries. He has racked up 171 steals over 420 games in the minors, and he has only been caught stealing 33 times. In centerfield, his range is fantastic, and he is the best defensive outfielder in the Rays’ system.
Unlike most burners, Jennings is a dangerous hitter and he has the power to line extra base hits and hit 15+ homeruns annually, in the MLB. He works the count extremely well, and has developed another weapon in his plate discipline. While he is prone to getting fooled on good breaking pitches, he is an adept hitter who can generally avoid strikeouts. He has developed bat control to go with a very quick swing, and he has a .300 MLB batting average in his future.
Weaknesses: (Injury-Prone, Plate Coverage, Arm Strength)
While he hasn’t ever had any serious injuries, Jennings never truly seems to be healthy. After an injury riddled stint earlier in his career, Jennings followed his best season in 2009 with another injury plagued one in 2010. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to develop in to a potential All-Star major league centerfielder, if not, he could head in the direction of other former highly-touted Rays outfield prospects like Rocco Baldelli and BJ Upton.
While Jennings’ has put his baseball experience to good use, be still isn’t the most polished hitter. He is a pull-hitter who has trouble taking the ball to the opposite field, and he has had difficulties handling premium breaking pitches. His arm isn’t nearly on par with his other tools, but it isn’t a problem either.
Overall: While Jennings has a bright future, he isn’t the second coming of Carl Crawford. He has the speed and tools to be the Rays version of Shannon Stewart, and he could compete for an outfield Gold Glove one day. The Rays plan on slotting him into the outfield to begin 2011, so he’ll look to build on his solid (but brief) 2010 debut.