You’ll be surprised to know that on September 28, 2011, both good and bad things happened. I’m sure someone got married and someone got divorced and someone was born and someone died, and I’m sure somewhere someone was fired and someone hired, but, to be frank, I do not care about these people. Ex-girlfriends have made it fairly clear that I only really care about myself. Hopefully they’re not reading this because dem chicas was whack, yo — always asking for my attention and for kisses and hugs and love and stuff. I mean, C’MON. Did they have a point? Do they still? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I want to change (not yet, at least), especially after my debauched trip to Costa Rica, which so happened to help end my fantasy baseball hopes, and which so happened to end on that fateful night in September.
I had just landed in my then-home, Tampa, after the twice-extended trip to San Jose, CR, that was full of Cubans, underpriced Johnny Black, two mamis named Gema and Yael, relentless Spanish techno/rap remixes, spilling booze all over our $6,300 suits, favorable hot-tub male:female ratios (for once), and disgusting depravity. And while we were depressed we had just ended an epic stupor of a mami-in-hot-tub-fest — or as depressed as two could be after such a thing — we immediately realized that that night was the possible culmination of the fried-chickened, boozed-up Red Sox collapse. We were in Tampa on a muggy, fateful Tampa night. And not only that: my fantasy baseball championship, which I was part of with the help of my late-season Desmond Jennings acquisition, was coming down to the final day of the season. Hint: I ended the night as a lone guy in a hot tub.
From the airport — which, by the way, is the most efficient airport in the country — we drove straight to a sports bar we depressingly over-frequented during my college years, MacDinton’s, to catch the beginning of the Yanks/Rays and Sox/Orioles games — the start of a night that would have been intoxicating if not intoxicated. Seemingly, the whole city was at that bar — not at the Trop, of course — with breaths held, hoping for a Rays win and concurrent Sox loss (I’m searching for that cool ESPN montage/timeline of the two games happening, and am not finding it). You know the rest:
A Dan Johnson homer (somehow) followed by an Evan Longoria walk-off against the Yanks and a blown Red Sox save. It was magic. I was so enamored by the whole timeline of everything that I had completely forgotten that I was down 5-4-1 in my championship matchup. I knew I had Jennings playing in that game and that I was down just a couple batting average points, but the whole poopshow of everything was overwhelming. I lost track. I was having an amazing time with everyone else in that underrated city who was also having an amazing time.
So, when I looked back at Jennings’ results later that night, what did I see? Well, you’d expect some sort of Jennings magic that made my night a total success, but no. 0-for-6. I lost by two points in batting average. We can’t curse in these posts, but LET ME TELL YOU THAT I WOULD RIGHT NOW IF I COULD AND I’M USING THESE CAPITALS TO SHOW MY FRUSTRATION THAT LASTS EVEN UNTIL THIS DAY.
I might be selfish but, on the bright side, I don’t hold grudges. I gave Mr. Jennings another chance this year. “It’s kay, Des, we can still be frands. You’ll steal 40 bases this year, right?” “NO, TERSE, I HATE YOU.”
Jennings, if you’re planning on keeping him, isn’t what you planned for, and I don’t think he will be. In fact, Jennings hasn’t improved at all during his time in the pros and is already 26.
Looking at the underlying numbers from his first real chance in 2011 until now, he’s striking out slightly more now than ever (21.8%), walking less than ever (8%), hitting fewer ground-balls than ever — which is simply stupid for a guy with his speed — has the same low-.300s OBP, is stealing less and with a worse success-rate, and has the worst contact-rate of his career. It was actually shocking that a dude like Joe Maddon was sending him out there in the lead-off spot for so long, but Joe’s finally come to his senses and has him dropped.
There’s a bit to like here, though, and obviously. There’s a cheetah on his back. He’s not an eight-steals-through-59-games guy, which is a 162-game rate of 22 measly steals, and he’s also not a 57% SB% guy. On a team like the Rays, a guy with Jennings’ speed and on-base skills can swipe 40 bags (see: B.J. Upton), and one with his speed and better on-base skills can swipe up to 60 (see: Carl Crawford). He’s a huge threat, and I’m still expecting a giant improvement in steal-rate as this season goes on.
On the bright side again, I have faith in his power. There’s a gorilla on his back (made that one up myself). He’s hitting in a pitcher-friendly park and still has a 8.9 HR/FB ratio which is, eh, I’d say sustainable. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, six of his eight homers are in the “plenty” category, and just two of them in the “just enough” category. He has the highest average homer distance of anyone on the Rays at 411.4′ — that includes Evan Longoria. He had two yesterday — I was randy.
The eerie thing is, though, that I think this — with some improvement — is who Jennings is. He’s not a lifetime lead-off dude. In all of the leagues I play in, he went earlier than his ESPN average-draft-position of 76.1 — a draft position he’s not even worth, especially as an outfielder. If you play in a league with inflation — like most keeper and dynasties — the price you paid for him this year is too high an initial price to keep his locker stocked. If you were one of those sexy studs who’s had him since 2011 and pays crap for him, then awesome, but I think his ceiling is pretty capped and he’s already not that far from it.
This column also likes talking about players and their values for a late-season playoff push this year, and this is where Jennings can be awesome. A Desmond in the rough! Desmond owners are frustrated with the crappy SB totals and I’M SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE LIKE WHAT THE HELL ONLY EIGHT STOLEN BASES I MEAN C’MON YOU SHOULD HAVE LIKE 15 BY NOW AND YES I KNOW THAT LAST LINK WAS ALREADY A PART OF ONE OF THE EARLIER ONES. But, still, make the play now, take the speed that will come, eat the .240 BA with some ketchup, and be happy.
Sterling-cut diamonds, in case you didn’t understand the headline.
Where the hell did this guy come from? Only the #73 prospect pre-2012 according to Baseball America and #40 according to Jonathan Mayo, Marte’s pwning noobs this year. He’s fast and actually steals. Hello up there, can you read this, Desmond? 20 SBs and currently killing me this week in that stat, the speed’s real. Scotch-taped cheetah — not duct-taped cheetah. And the Bucs don’t really seem to care that he gets caught as much as he does — he’s 20-for-28 in his attempts this season.
He has a 6% better strikeout rate than last year and has a similar walk rate despite seeing 1% more first-pitch strikes than he did last season. He’s refining his approach and hitting enough groundballs to conceivably keep his BAbip lofty, though probably not .344 lofty. This all totals a .289 BA, six homers, 19 RBI, 20 SB, and a .783 OPS.
How he relates to Jennings and why I’ve paired these two in today’s column is because they’re kind of the same player, yet with different perceptions. Jennings had an aforementioned 76.1 ADP during this year’s draft season, while Marte had a deserted 224.1. Do not misunderstand me, Marte is having the better year and by far, but here are further numbers:
My frustration with Jennings seeped through my teeth as I typed his section above, yet I assure you a Marte owner would be drooling had he written a section on the Pitt OF. This all is just to show you that you shouldn’t overpay for Marte, thinking you’d have some sort of star on your team. And don’t do that next year, especially. Many Marte owners think they have a top-5 round talent on their team, but they don’t, as proven by his similarities to Jennings, who clearly isn’t worth his price. If you’re one of those guys with high Marte hopes, temper yourself. I’d actually go so far as to say that, if you were offered Jennings for Marte straight up and your goal was to make a run this season, go for it.
Marte had poor success rates on his stolen base attempts even in the minors, and at some point the idiots over in Pittsburgh will realize that his being thrown out so often doesn’t make up for his successes. He never stole more than 26 bags in any minor league season — yes, he will break that this year — but I’m not as excited as everyone else is and Jennings actually has the faster legs and better baserunning ability.
If you’re in one of those leagues where prices get exchanged in trades and all that stuff, go get Jennings from a disgruntled owner.
Marte will be more expensive than Jennings next year, which is when you’ll want to draft Jennings and pay next year’s price, because anyone who drafted him this year shouldn’t and won’t be keeping him.
Follow your keeper friend, Terse, on Twitter @TerseRazzball. He’ll always answer your questions and make bad jokes similar to those in this column. Next week will be a longer list of keepers to target.