Defending the Process with Desmond Jennings

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 4: Outfielder Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays bunts against the Toronto Blue Jays August 4, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Since being called up to the big leagues, Desmond Jennings has been a tour de force with a slash line of .295/.386/.530. Many fans have been left wondering what could have been had Jennings been called up earlier in the season prior to the Super Two cutoff date. Jennings has been worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement in 47 games which is approximiately the same value produced by San Fuld with about 75% more plate appearances. If the season were to end with the Rays a game or two back, it would appear as if Jennings WAR rate might have been enough to make up the difference.

Critics of controlling service time will surely argue that the Rays missed the playoffs with their ways. Defenders of the process will argue that the Rays avoided an extra year of arbitration, preserved an extra projected peak age season, and can play him longer in centerfield where he is more valuable. These arguments have been made in the past and can be read more in-depth here.

Above all else is the fact the Desmond Jennings is playing far better than anybody projected. It is very easy to forget this knowing he has been a top rated outfield prospect each of the last two seasons. The tables below show Jennings 2010-11 AAA numbers as well as his 2011 MLB projections and results.


BA

OBP

SLG

2010 AAA

0.278

0.362

0.393

2011 AAA

0.275

0.374

0.456

2011 MLB

0.295

0.386

0.530

Marcels

0.261

0.336

0.415

Fans

0.270

0.341

0.379

BillJames

0.277

0.353

0.404

ZiPs

0.268

0.339

0.378

 

2010's AAA .755 OPS can be easily chalked up to Jennings' battle with a wrist injury. However Jennings is still outperforming by a wide margin his .830 2011 AAA OPS. His MLB projections are very similar to what you would expect from a reasonable corner platoon. In other words, based on expectations, the benefits of holding Jennings back a few months far outweighed a  reasonable projection of  his marginal increase in wins.

This is not meant to be an anti-Jennings BABIP/hot streak post. Its about how he has far surpassed his expectations. Given where he is on his developmental curve, hopefully it's a sign of wonderful things to come. Instead of criticizing the front office, ask yourself is his outburst on the big league scene possibly a result of the Rays extra cautious approach with his development? There are a few places I do feel the Rays were too cute this season; keeping Andy Sonnanstine on the big league club while allowing Cory Wade to opt out and promoting Justin Ruggiano over Brandon Guyer come to mind. Taking their time with Desmond Jennings in an attempt to maximize the use of his time in Tampa Bay was a wise risk/reward decision, end of the season finishing place be damned.

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