For the third straight year, Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove will be profiling one player per day starting the day after the World Series ends and counting down to the top player in fantasy baseball. With March 31 just 149 days away, we begin today with player number 149.
Key Stats: Desmond Jennings stole 37 bases for AAA Durham in 109 games last year. That projects to 55 steals at the MLB level. Now I know that MLB pitchers are generally better at holding runners on and catchers generally have stronger arms (more on the transition below), but consider that only Juan Pierre had more than 55 steals in all of baseball last season, and only Pierre and Michael Bourn stole more than 50. Both players were ranked in the top 125.
Skeptics Say: The last two years, FBHS has gone with a rookie on day one of the countdown. The last two years, Matt Wieters and Stephen Strasburg have failed to deliver on their pre-draft hype for different reasons. Rookies historically carry more risk than reward in baseball, but it’s just no fun picking a boring veteran on day one. Everyone would rather have the latest fashion than a sold pear of jeans, but the jeans almost always have greater longevity.
Jennings could have the same problems Wieters has had adjusting to MLB pitching, and the same problem many great steals players have had through the years (Willy Taveras, Rajai Davis) trying to steal first. His OPS was an uninspiring .756 at AAA last season. He also could face the same problems Strasburg had in staying healthy. He tore his meniscus in 2007 and played in only 24 games in 2008 while battling back problems.
Peer Comparison: Here is a look at how speedsters have done in their last full year in MiLB compared to their first full year in MLB.
Ricky Henderson – 81 SB in MiLB, 100 SB in MLB
Jacoby Ellsbury – 41 SB in MiLB, 50 SB in MLB
Pierre – 66 SB in MiLB, 46 SB in MLB
Carl Crawford – 36 SB in MiLB, 55 SB in MLB
Bourn – 45 SB in MiLB, 41 SB in MLB
Scott Podsednik – 35 SB in MiLB, 43 SB in MLB
Of course there are those that don’t work out for whatever reason:
Alexi Casilla – 50 SB in MiLB, 11 SB in MLB
Alcides Escobar – 42 SB in MiLB, 10 SB in MLB
Everth Cabrera - 73 SB in MiLB, 25 SB in MLB
Elvis Andrus – 54 SB in MiLB, 33 SB in MLB
Lineup Outlook: Carl Crawford has hit .300, scored at least 89 runs, and stolen at least 46 bases in every season since 2005 with the exception of 2008. That is a huge void being left. And there are numerous stories out there including this one from the TV station that covers the Red Sox that seem to think Jennings will have no trouble replacing Crawford. That’s a good deal of pressure. There are several reasons that Jennings should not have to totally replace Crawford for Tampa to be as competitive as they were a year ago. First, Carlos Pena and his sub 200 average could also be gone. Second, with fellow rookie Jeremy Hellickson on staff, the pitching can still carry this team. Third, only Jason Bartlett will be older than 30 on Opening Day – most players on this roster should improve slightly on their 2009 seasons.
Projection: As seen in the peer comparison, the thing that seperates Jennings from other rookies is that his greatest statistical asset is something you probably won’t have to wait for.
82 R 4 HR 52 RBI 45 SB .280 AVG .730 OPS
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