OpinionApril 16, 2012

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Star Power: Desmond Jennings

By Chad Miller

Is it a lazy comparison to compare Desmond Jennings to Carl Crawford? It almost seems too obvious, doesn’t it? Two speedy outfielders from the Rays organization with a little bit of pop. I almost felt like, by comparing the two, I wasn’t putting in the work to find a good comparison for Jennings. So I searched around the league and compared skill sets and minor league numbers of numerous players, and I came to the conclusion that the best comparison to Desmond Jennings is none other than… Carl Crawford.

It is very rare to find a player that is capable of stealing 50 bases in a season and also comes with the pop to hit 20 home runs. Outside of Crawford, the best major league comparison I could find is Jacoby Ellsbury. Unfortunately, Ellsbury does not make a good comparison for these purposes because the power side of his game developed very late. As a matter of fact, there is almost no indication of its presence in his minor league career. The more I looked, the more I compared Crawford and Jennings, the more I found how eerily similar these two players are. But let me preface this with the fact that Crawford entered the Rays system as a 17-year-old kid and advanced through the system a year quicker than Jennings, so Crawford did everything that Jennings did two years younger. That must be accounted for when comparing their numbers.

It is often said the best way to judge a player’s major league potential when looking at his minor league numbers is to judge him on his first year in Double-A. There are two reasons for this. First, Double-A is the league where batters will face the most high-level major league pitchers. I know this seems odd, but not when you think of the fact that Triple-A is full of players that didn’t quite have the ability to make the jump to the major league, where major league teams keep their reserve level players in case they need a fill-in. High quality arms generally spend very little time in Triple-A and, as a matter of fact, it is becoming a trend for high quality arms to skip Triple-A all together. Second, the jump from High-A to Double-A is the first major jump in talent that a young prospect will face. Thus, his success in his first year really shows a player’s ability to adjust and adapt to a challenge, something they will face daily in the majors.

2001 19 Orlando AA 132 537 4 36 20 36 90 0.274 0.323 0.352 0.675
2009 22 2 TM AA-AAA 132 497 11 52 7 67 67 0.318 0.401 0.487 0.888

Again, remember that Crawford was more than two full years younger than Jennings at this point in their careers, so it is to be assumed that Jennings’ body was more developed and, in turn, his power game was more advanced. But what really stands out to me here is the patience and understanding of the game that Jennings had. Note that he walked the same number of times that he struck out (67). Also note that he had 52 stolen bases while being caught only seven times. It is to be understood that Jennings would be ahead of Crawford in the physical side of the game, but it is very impressive how far ahead Jennings was in the mental side of the game at this point.

From the perspective of power and speed, Carl Crawford is basically a perfect comparison to Desmond Jennings. The major difference between the two appears to be patience and batting eye. Crawford throughout his career has been a very aggressive hitter, never having more than 51 walks in a season or an OBP over .364. Jennings will most certainly be a much more disciplined hitter than Crawford ever was, which will certainly keep his OBP high and give him ample opportunity to steal bases. Another eye popping number for Jennings is that last year, in 152 games between Triple-A and the majors, he crossed the 20-home run plateau by hitting a total of 22 HRs, a milestone which Crawford has never reached in his career.

It is never a good idea to look at a kid’s minor league numbers and assume that it will give you a completely accurate prediction of how his major league career will pan out. And while many of these numbers may appear to suggest that Jennings will be comparable or even better than Crawford, remember that Jennings has less than 300 major league at-bats while Crawford has proven himself to be an elite-level major league player for over nine years. These numbers most certainly do not guarantee anything, but what they do show us are potential and possibilities. To look at the potential in Jennings, I can’t help but think that his future is so bright, he’s gotta wear shades.

Chad Miller is an amateur Writer, amateur Fantasy Baseball Player, and a Professional at being amateur. You can find him posting nonsensical jibberish at the Cafe under the name lastingsgriller. also, on twitter @chadmiller16
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