Rays Season Preview: Desmond Jennnings

Desmond Jennings Looks To Provide Blend Of Power & Speed In 2014

Desmond Jennings came to spring training with an added 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame although he says it’s nothing new, “I get here every spring and I probably lose at least 10 pounds, so I feel I’ll be around what I want to play with once the season starts.”

Manager Joe Maddon was asked about Jennings size and his projected spot in the batting order. “Of course he’s got that [leadoff] potential, but you saw the potential to really drive the ball and drive in runs, also. We’ll just play that by ear. … You want that leadoff guy to be a high on-base percentage guy to get out there and set the table, and then, of course, you want a couple guys, the busboys, to clean it up; and if he’s gotten that big, which I’ve heard from other people, we’ll see. He’s been comfortable in that middle slot, did a really nice job with that. I don’t want to commit to anything right now.”

More than likely he’ll find himself sharing the leadoff spot with David DeJesus where he’ll see the lion share of games versus left handed starters and Dejesus the balance against right handed pitchers. When right-handed pitchers are on the mound he’ll drop down to the lower half of the batting order. Wherever the 27 year old Jennings hit he hopes to provide speed and power in the Rays lineup.

2013 Recap:

Shared the team lead with walk-off hits (2) with catcher Jose Lobaton.

Posted a triple slash line of .252/.334/.414 with 14 home runs and 54 RBI and stole 20 bases. Made the shift from left field to center field where he set a career high in games played at 139 including 132 starts in center field.

He rated 3.2 wins above replacement (WAR) on Fangraphs.com which tied him for the 5th best value for center fielders in the American League and 9th in the Major League.

He a career high 132 starts all in center field.  Set career highs in hits (133), extra-base hits (51), home runs (14), RBI (54) and walks (64).

Made 90 starts in the leadoff position and hit everywhere in the lineup except 3rd and 4th.

Made one trip on the disabled list from August 4 through August 19th after fracturing his middle finger on a stolen base. Hit only .153 in his first 18 games after coming off disabled list.

Missed 5 of the last 8 games and made only one start after suffering a left hamstring strain against the Baltimore Orioles on September 22nd.

He was charged with an error on June 29th – his first error in 262 games – and had 533 chances in that span.

2014 Projections:

There are several mathematical projection models and several have including Pecota, ZiPs, Oliver, & Steamer are provided in the table below. Fangraphs sabermetric library goes into more detail on the different systems (LINK).

Pecota was developed by Nat Silver and is released via Baseball Prospectus and is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. 

Oliver was created by Brian Cartwright and is available at The Hardball Times. It’s a comparatively simple projection system – using weighted averages of the past three seasons of data, and adjusting for aging and regression

ZiPS was created by Dan Szymborski and is available at the Baseball Think Factory. The ZiPS projections uses weighted averages of four years of data (three if a player is very old or very young).

Steamer projections were created by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom and are available at Steamerprojections.com.

Once again I would expect Longoria to have a very solid campaign with the bat and the glove. Although he played in 160 games last season he certainly wasn’t healthy throughout the campaign as he battled a foot ailment that hampered him on and off in mid-season.


Last 3 Years:

Many of the projection models use the data from the past three seasons in their forecast.



Many players are better in one role or another. When a player has a significant gap against either right handed pitchers or left handed pitchers he usually will find himself in a platoon role. In the case of Jennings these splits may serve more as an indication of where he’ll hit in the Rays lineup.


Personal Notes:

Sponsors “Jennings Juniors” as part of the Rays Dugout Club which is the signature program of the team’s South Saint Petersburg Initiative.

Featured on the Rays Players and Pooches Calendar with his Pit Bull Terrier Kane.

Cousin of Andre Smith of the Cincinnati Bengals who was drafted sixth overall in 2009. Jennings himself finished second in the Alabama Mr. Football in 2004.

Twitter account:



 Desmond Jennings Unassisted Double Play:

On April 20th Desmond Jennings caught a Coco Crisp fly ball and touched first base to record the double play. According to Elias it was the first time a CF physically recorded the second out of a double play since Andy Van Slyke on July 7, 1992 versus the Houston Astros.

Desmond Jennings walk-off Single To Lead Rays To 7-6 Rays Victory Over Marlins On May 28th.

Desmond Jennings 12th inning walk-off single leads to Rays 4-3 victory over  Texas Rangers on September 18th.

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