The 2015 season was a disastrous year for Desmond Jennings. After missing time in 2014 due to a knee injury, the same problems, in addition to late season dental woes, plagued him in 2015. He was limited to just 28 games in what was essentially a lost year.
Too many Rays fans do not give Jennings enough credit for his body of work in the MLB, perhaps because he hasn't quite lived up to the lofty potential he once showed. Jennings has not been able to replicate the .259/.356/.449 slash line and 128 wRC+ that he put up during his rookie 2011 season. He has also not shown the on-base or power skills in the big leagues that he flashed in the minors, where he hit .293/.380/.440 and was rated a top-50 prospect by Baseball Prospectus and top-80 prospect by Baseball America for four consecutive years.
Despite not becoming the offensive threat once envisioned, Jennings has been a solid player for the Rays. Assuming he is healthy, he still has the ability to help this club.
From 2012 to 2014, his three full big league seasons, Jennings was worth 3.0 fWAR or above every year. Over that span, his collective 9.6 fWAR ranked him 20th among the game's outfielders.
In all three of those years, his bat ranked average or right above, ranging from a 98 to a 111 wRC+. Sure, the highest on-base and slugging percentage numbers he posted in those years were .334 and .414, hardly All-Star caliber numbers. Regardless, he has been more than capable of holding his own at the plate.
In addition to that, Jennings has been plenty valuable on the defensive side of things. As a left fielder in 2012, he posted a whopping 19.1 UZR/150 and 9 Defensive Runs Saved. In 2013, he shifted to center field, which took some adjusting to as evidenced by his -6 DRS and and -7 UZR/150. After gaining big-league experience there, though, Jennings rebounded with an improved 2014 in center, when he was worth 4 DRS and 6.6 UZR/150.
Sure, you never know how multiple knee injuries are going to affect an outfielder's defense, but Jennings has been a solid defender -- due to impressive speed -- over his career and should continue to be so in left field, even if his output is not quite what it was in left in 2012.
There has been some speculation about the Rays trading Jennings this offseason, and the acquisition of Corey Dickerson certainly puts a squeeze on the left field position. But Dickerson and Jennings are not necessarily incompatible, as Dickerson should probably avoid lefties, and both Steven Souza Jr. and Dickerson can and maybe should spend some of their time at designated hitter. When healthy, Jennings is a quality outfielder and brushing aside a consistent three-WAR player would not be a smart decision.
Plus, while some teams might be interested in trading for him, selling low after Jennings's tough season last year is hardly ideal. If the team is set on trading Jennings before he hits free agency, they should at least wait until this year's trade deadline or next off season so that he has had a chance to rebuild his value.
Steamer projects Jennings to be worth 1.5 fWAR and hit .244/.317/.379 across 109 games next season. While that batting line might be about right, it does project him to be worth below-average value on defense, which seems less realistic. If he can play, say, 130 games and be a slightly above-average defender, then there is a two-to-three win player to be had.
There are some if's when it comes to Jennings, but altogether, he has proven to be a solid player in his career. The Rays will need a boost to better their 80-82 record last from season, and a healthy Jennings will help them achieve this goal.