A Quick Post on Desmond Jennings’ Age | The Process Report

A Quick Post on Desmond Jennings’ Age

I’ve been meaning to throw this out there for a few days now, since I think Desmond Jennings’ stock is taken too much of a beating for reasons unrelated to his actual performance. He didn’t tear up Triple-A and had some injury troubles. At the same time, one lost season at his age doesn’t drop him from a top 10 prospect into replacement level oblivion.

Probably a month or two ago someone wrote about how talent evaluators are questioning whether Jennings will live up to his billing –a question which can be posed about just about any prospect. Jennings was left without a spot after the team signed Johnny Damon (although nobody seems to pay much mind to Matt Joyce, so it’s surprising that some haven’t slotted him in as the Rays’ right fielder), and this can raise some eyebrows. Maybe the Rays are cooling on Jennings. Maybe he’s not that good.

But Jennings is a center fielder and only 24-years-old. This is worth mentioning because do you know what the top center fielders in the game today were doing at age 24? Not much –at the big league level, at least. Using FanGraphs’ WAR and setting the time range from 2008 through 2010, here are the top 10 center fielders: Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Franklin Gutierrez, B.J. Upton, Curtis Granderson, Torii Hunter, Alex Rios, Denard Span, Marlon Byrd, and Michael Bourn. Now, here’s how many major league plate appearances those fellows had through their age 24 seasons and their accompanying line:

Hamilton: 0 (he was banned from baseball)
Victorino: 102, .178/.238/.267
Gutierrez: 444, .267/.309/.434
Upton: 2,180, .266/.352/.410
Granderson: 202, .267/.315/.476
Hunter: 799, .266/.313/.391
Rios: 979, .273/.321/.390
Span: 411, .294/.387/.432
Byrd: 36, .229/.250/.371
Bourn: 144, .268/.340/.362

Half the list had about a season’s worth of plate appearances and of those only one or two hit at a successful rate. Jennings is going to add to his total at some point this season, but as of now he seems likely to surpass at least Byrd in appearances. Those scared off by his shaky results in September should take solace that guys like Victorino, Byrd, Rios, and Hunter looked puzzled in playing time exceeding his, yet all turned out okay.

Here’s some more Rays-flavored perspective. Reid Brignac’s 24-year-old season was 2010. You wondered –well, I did— whether he could have started the entire way. Instead, this will be his first fulltime season at age 25. Evan Longoria came up as a 22-year-old. Ben Zobrist didn’t rack up more than 100 games played until he was 28. Matt Joyce is 26 now and still hasn’t (although he came close in 2008 with 92). Sean Rodriguez will turn 26 before May and his career line is still .234/.296/.374, but people would love to see him get more playing time at the cost of Zobrist or whomever. Robinson Chirinos is the spring’s hero and he’s 26 without a cup of coffee.

The days of guys debuting at age 20 (Carl Crawford and Delmon Young) or 21 (Rocco Baldelli) or even 19 (Upton) are hopefully gone. Maybe the Rays will have a phenom who can fly through the system like that, but 20-year-old major league hitters are a rarity for a reason. With the Rays’ economic status, it only makes sense to try to beat this curve and milk out as many prime years as they can. Jennings would be an Opening Day starter in a lot of other organizations –and he’ll be one here too. Just not until next year barring injury.

(As an aside, Jennings has an 84% success rate on stolen bases in the minors. I’m not sure it’s just that he’s fast either, as Carl Crawford’s was around 77%.)

One Comment

  1. […] few weeks ago, R.J. wrote about Desmond Jennings and his reputation taking a hit because of age. Jennings, 24, will start […]

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