ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 02: Outfielder Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays rounds the bases after his home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 2, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
When Desmond Jennings' name is brought up in discussion the resulting conversation usually goes a bit like this:
Non Rays Fan: Is Jennings for real?
Rays Fan: Oh yeah. What, you haven't noticed his name at the top of prospect lists the past two years.
Non Rays Fan: Well, I have, but I didn't think he was this good.
Rays Fan: He is this good although I do expect the power to regress a bit.
Non Rays Fan: So, if he is this good, why didn't the Rays call him up a long time ago?
Rays Fan: Well, we, as Rays fans, trust what is called The Process.
Non Rays Fan: What is the process? And don't you think calling Jennings up to play all year is a good process?
Rays fan: I'd rather not talk about it...
Maybe that's not how your Desmond Jennings conversations go but mine usually do. And the general media likes to harp on the what-could-have-beens and love to take subtle jabs at the Rays lack of money and their empty seats and then point to us not calling Jennings up as a result and claiming we probably would have made the playoffs if we called Jennings up in April.
There really is no true way of knowing where the Rays would stand if Jennings were called up in April. All I know, right now, is that Jennings is having a marvelous season and that I want to turn the focus of Jennings conversations away from when he was called up to his rookie of the year chances.
At first glance people may simply dismiss Jennings chances of the award due to the fact that he has only 197 plate appearances and is on pace for roughly 275 PAs this season. I wouldn't be so quick in dismissing him. Let's take a quick look at where his numbers and where he ranks among the other American League rookies (min 190 PAs).
The rate stats are owned by Jennings. He is first in just about every single one and he only missed being first in AVG by .001 points. But the rates do need to be taken with a few grains of salt due to the lack of PAs. The counting stats don't exactly look the best when stacked up to the competition. Sure, ranking 6th in HR and 4th in stolen bases is nice, and his WAR totals are very solid as well, but the lack of PAs keeps him so far behind the rest of the players in the stats they love like RBI and Runs Scored.
We also have to look at the pitchers and teammate Jeremy Hellickson (see Erik Hahmann's argument) may not have Jenning's WAR totals but he does lead all rookies in innings pitched and ERA (among qualifiers) and is 3rd in strikeouts. In fact, Hellickson's ERA is a full three-quarters of a run better than the next best rookie and he may not win the award.
There are still 20 games left on the season and Jennings could continue at his current pace and give himself an even better shot at the award. He could easily be a 10 homer 20 steal candidate with the best triple-slash line but the lack of PAs may keep voters away from him even if he leads rookies in WAR at the end of the season.
As it stands right now I doubt the voters' cumulative totals have Jennings in the top 3. The voters will probably vote for Mark Trumbo's projected 30 homerun 90 RBI season even if he has a .295 OBP and Jordan Walden's projected 35 save season before even looking at Jennings.
Would Jennings be first on my ballot? That's a tough question to answer. Dustin Ackley, Eric Hosmer, Michael Pineda, and Hellickson are all staring me down as I exclude two of them from my ballot to add Jennings. Right now, probably not, but I think a solid case can be made for a top 3 vote for Jennings and if he continues his torrid pace I would find it very hard to keep him off any ballot.