We have made a big deal around these parts recently about the great play of Desmond Jennings. He has come a long ways from when we were wondering if the Rays still considered Jennings a top prospect.

Jennings has been so good in his first 35 games that we are beginning to wonder if he is doing enough to make a case for Rookie of the Year, in a season where there is no clear-cut favorite.

Of course, the biggest factor working against Jennings is his late call-up. If Jennings plays in all of the Rays remaining 29 games, he will have played in just 64 games this season.

There is precedent for a player winning Rookie of the Year with limited playing time. In 2004, Ryan Howard won the award having played in just 88 games. But to find a position player that played in less than half of his team’s game, we have to go all the back to Willie McCovey in 1959, who played in just 52 games on the way to top rookie honors.

In the cases of Howard (22 home run), and McCovey (.354 avg, 13 HR) they dominated in limited action. The same can be said for Jennings. Let’s take a look at how Jennings’ numbers compare to some other Rookie of the Year candidates*…

If we look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR), we see that in just 153 plate appearances, Jennings has already been worth 2.3 Wins to the Rays, which is tops among the rookie position players. This tells us that Jennings numbers are so much better than the other hitters, that it makes up for his limited playing time.

The only player that might have a better overall resume is Michael Pineda of the Mariners. Both Ivan Nova and Jeremy Hellickson have FIPs above 4.00 which suggests that their ERA’s might be lower than they should be. That is especially true for Hellickson who has an FIP more than a run higher than his ERA. On the other hand, Pineda has a strong 3.41 FIP and has been worth 2.9 Wins.

Right now, you can make a strong case that Pineda and Jennings have been the two best rookies in the American League. And with a month to go, Jennings has plenty of time to prove he is the better candidate. But will anybody notice?

* Data via Fangraphs.com; Through Sunday’s games.



  1. Connie says:

    does that mean flash is definitely not eligible for ROTY next year or is this all very subjective?

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Correct. any player that has 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days on the big league roster before the season starts are not eligible for the award. Desmond passed 130 at bats and 45 days on the roster a week or two ago. So he wont be a rookie next year.

  2. DOn says:

    I don't kwow about ROTY...but he is definitely the best player(hitter) that spent most of the year in the minors... for a ML team that is starved for hitters....give mgt. the award for that move....

    • jim says:

      same management that let go of overpaid free agents.
      carlos pena - exposed to waivers
      carl crawford - exposed to waivers
      rafael soriano - horrific year
      soooo glad management didn't blow money on this crap!!!!

  3. Professor Twain says:

    Thanks for this post, I've been thinking DJ would be a great candidate for ROTY next year... but now I see it is now or never.

  4. Des from Durham says:

    See my comment in the linked article where people were doubting Des. Told you so.

    Thanks for the ROY love. I just have to figure out how to score more. My runs scored seem low when you net out my HRs for a guy who is on base 45% of the time. Some caught stealings, but really it is the lack of production behind me when I'm on base. I think Damon, Longoria and Zobrist aren't used to seeing pitchers in the stretch.

  5. Mark says:

    ..."But will anybody notice?"

    No, nobody (nationally) will notice. Because DJ's name isn't "Longoria, Upton, crappy stadium or lousy fan base". These are the only things the national media choose to report about the Rays.

    Refreshingly, Jennings seems like the humble kind of guy who will just continue to work hard, no matter what lack of recognition he gets. Like with CC 9 years ago, I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do for this team. If management doesn't upgrade the bats again in the off-season, maybe he'll even help carry the team next year.

    • Hal says:

      I'm the first to kill ESPN for their hatred of the Rays, but there is a very lengthy discussion of DES over at Grantland.com between Bill Simmons and Jonah Keri - it's a good read.

    • Don says:

      He's used to IT.... he's been ignored by Rays mgt for 2/3 years...
      If mgt. doesn't upgrade the hitting they will be 3rd again no matter what Jennings does...he can't carry 4-6 players hitting .100-.200

  6. Alex says:

    I would have a really hard time justifying Desmond over Hellickson or Pineda regardless of what the stupid Fielder Independent Stats say about them.

  7. Gus says:

    Bill Simmons copies most of my arguments I've been making in this space for the past year about Des but says them 50x better in this Grantland piece where Keri tries (in vain) to defend the 2% crowd. Keeping Jennings in AAA will go down along with (1) the Hamilton non-protection and (2) the failure on the Bay-Brignac trade in 2008 as one of the worst 3 decisions in post-Naimoli Rays history. Even if he fades and never hits after 2011, the facts are that he had hit in 2011 and filled a gaping hole on the team, but spent 4 months in Durham, costing the Rays a chance at their first World Series (this team would be a better playoff team than regular season team because of starting pitching).


    • Beth says:

      Thanks for the link. I can almost forgive Bill Simmons for consistently referring to the team as "Tampa" because he gave us this line: "In 134 at-bats since they brought him up on July 23, he’s gone .351/.439/.634 with 8 homers, 14 steals and a WAR of WTF."

  8. bbmern says:

    In yesterday's Rays telecast, they were saying that Jennings admitted that he needed to tweak several things before he felt he was at the Major league level. He is everything one would want in a baseball player and more. I love watching this talented young man grow.


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