Desmond Jennings

Desmond Jennings is back on the DL. If you had 10 games in the pool for when Jennings would end up back on the DL, you win!

If Jennings misses the rest of the season, this now means that over a stretch of 190 games, dating back to last September, Jennings will have missed 162 games and played in 28.

Most of us are not medical doctors and maybe it is just a coincidence, but it is hard not to see how fragile Jennings has become and not wonder if it is related to his decision to bulk up and add more muscle.

Prior to the 2014 season, Jennings added size to his frame in hopes of adding power to his already strong baseball skill set (via MLB.com):

“Desmond Jennings arrived to camp looking more like a strong safety heading to the NFL Scouting Combine than the Rays’ center fielder … While Jennings has added quality weight to his 6-foot-2 frame, he won’t fess up to how much he’s added. Suffice it to say, he looks 15 to 20 pounds heavier.”

Not only did Jennings not start hitting more home runs, he has actually been hitting home runs less often. On top of that, his speed has gone down.

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So he bulked up. The injuries go up. The missed games go up. The power and speed went down. Coincidence?

During those same time periods (2011-13 and 2014-15), Jennings’ OPS+ (100=Average) has fallen from 107 to a below-average 97.

Former manager Joe Maddon was actually a bit prophetic with his comments at the time which suggested he was worried about the impact of the added size.

“The biggest thing is you want to make sure his legs are good, so that the speed stays,” said Maddon in 2014. “[He already had] this incredible power. He’s hit some of the longest home runs we’ve had … Frequency of power is different than just power. For me, the greater power would be when he sees his pitch, to not foul it off or take it. Hit it fair, hard somewhere. He’s capable of hitting more homers. When he puts his A hack on something, it really goes.”

It sure sounds like Maddon was not thrilled with the added muscle at the time and now Jennings’ career is in danger.

Is this latest injury (he banged his surgically-repaired knee into a base while sliding) career-threatening? No. But it may be career-defining and that could be nearly as dangerous for his career.

Jennings is making $3.1 million this season as the first of three seasons in which he is arbitration eligible. Even with an injury-riddled season, Jennings is going to be in line for a raise, to say $5 million. That’s a bit much for a player that is a shell of his former self and may or may not stay on the field, but it is at least affordable. So the Rays can give Jennings one more season to turn things around.

But what about the 2017 season? If Jennings doesn’t finally have that breakout season we have salivated for and let’s say he misses another 50+ games on the DL, are the Rays going to give him $7-8 million in 2017? Unlikely.

In other words, next season is do or die for Jennings. If he doesn’t stay healthy and produce — and there is nothing to suggest he will — Jennings will then enter Delmon Young territory. He will start to bounce around from team to team as other GMs see the potential and hope for the best. He may even put together a solid year or two. But any hopes of him ever becoming a superstar in this league will be gone.

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11 Comments

  1. Geoff Peterson says:

    I always the seeing these guys that are speedsters bulk up. In most cases they build only upper body bulk and that added muscle and torque seems to screw up everything else and the injuries seem to come more often.

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  2. Rob says:

    Some injuries are freak accidents for sure, but I think the ability to avoid injuries in general says something about a player's athleticism.

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  3. Steve says:

    Didn't he slim back down this past offseason?

    As far as injuries go, I think playing at the Trop hasn't helped either.

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  4. AJNO says:

    wellp, at least he was there for the "WHO WILL WE EVER GET TO REPLACE CARL CRAWFORD!?!?!?" year...

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  5. Dave L says:

    Desmond Jennings main defect to some is that he was not 'great' or a superstar as was noted here.

    What I remember from a healthy DJ was a better than league average CF both offensively and defensively. I think the numbers always bore that out to be a verifiable fact. Plus as a player in his first 6 years of service he was always affordable.

    It always puzzled me to read comments here that we were better off without him or he was expendable. The fact that we have gone fishing for castaway OF proved that logic to be false. Even injured if he never plays healthy for the Rays again he still has positive trade value under the worst case scenario going forward.

    When healthy he was always a positive asset to our roster and I for one have appreciated and missed his contributions.

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    • Greg says:

      I don't think he has any positive trade value after 2 lost seasons and we have to get him on the field playing well to get any value out of him (which isn't happening this year). I can't believe the Rays would give him $5M next season after missing 2 years with no guarantee he'll ever get on the field again. That's a lot of dough to the Rays. I expect him to be non-tendered or traded for minimal return.

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  6. Gus says:

    I'd note that the geniuses in the front office who left Jennings best years at AAA when the big club desperately needed offense, just so they could manage his arbitration years like misers, are complicit (with Jennings himself) in the mismanagement of his career.

    Seeing BJ Upton's crazy contract after he went homer happy in his final year probably didn't help either. Des figured that is where the money was. But if you can't stay healthy and don't make contact.

    Finally, this isn't Andre Dawson's artificial turf. Playing on the spongy surface at the Trop is probably only minimally more pounding, and you make up for that by never having to play on an uneven OF, step on a sprinkler head, or play in too wet, too hot or too cool conditions. Trop is a lot of things, but hard on the players it is not.

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  7. OriginalTom says:

    Cork,

    That is an awfully small sample size. When you take into account he has probably been playing hurt for at least a portion of 2014/2015 I think some of the difference in his number can be chalked up to randomness. Also do you really think he will get a 40% increase in Arb when he has missed most of the season. (I know strange things do happen in arbitration)

    I generally agree with Dave L's post (I would quibble and call him an average offensive player). As far as him being expendable, I just do not see 3 outfielders who are better than Jennings on the roster.

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    • Dave L says:

      Even 'average' on the 2012-2015 Rays is a godsend.

      If this years Rays featured the 16th best offensive position player at the 8 positions with this pitching this is a 90+ win team easily.

      Many Rays fans are quick to discard average in search of greatness and end up with borderline MLB talent in its stead.

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  8. Starmand says:

    I'd like to remind everyone that starting today and all the way to the end of the season, the Rays will have their greatest sale yet of practically mint baseball bats.

    All of the bats have been used in actual games, still are, and they are in almost immaculate condition. Sure, some have scuffs from foul balls hit but can be best described as 98%, like new, almost unused. Only $19.95 per bat.

    But that's not all! The first 50 persons to buy them will also get an accompanying batting glove. They're practically new! No OJ specials here, they haven't shrunk a bit. They show some wear from being put on repeatedly, at least 3 times per game, but are free from the stresses of a bat hitting a ball in a game. They are practically museum-quality pieces.

    But there's more! Included in the batting glove is the actual DNA of perhaps your favorite player. New research shows that slipping the glove on and off will leave traces of dried skin behind. And some are loaded!

    Don't miss this great opportunity to own what could become a family heirloom! Call now for the best selection. You owe it to yourself!

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