- Full name Desmond Delane Jennings
- Born 10/30/1986 in Birmingham, AL
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 210 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Itawamba CC
- Debut 09/01/2010
- Drafted in the 10th round (289th overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 (signed for $150,000).
Organization Prospect Rankings
Jennings looked ready for Tampa Bay after a banner 2009 that saw him win the Double-A Southern League MVP award and help Durham to the International League title and Triple-A National Championship. But the Rays didn't have an everyday job for him, so he returned to Durham. Though he had a wrist injury that limited his productivity early in 2010, managers rated him the IL's best baserunner, top defensive outfielder and most exciting player. A former junior college all-America wide receiver, Jennings is a pure athlete with three above-average tools. He has plus-plus speed and ranked second in the IL with 37 steals in 41 attempts. He covers center field from gap to gap, gets to balls quickly by taking the right routes and shows average arm strength. With his speed and disciplined approach, he should hit for a high average and get on base at a good clip. While the wrist injury affected his power, Jennings drives the ball well and could hit 15 homers per year. He needs to take greater advantage of his speed by putting the ball on the ground more often. All signs point to Jennings replacing departed free agent Carl Crawford in Tampa Bay's outfield. He eventually should become the Rays' leadoff hitter and center fielder.
A football and baseball standout in high school, Jennings turned down Alabama in order to attend Itawamba (Miss.) CC, where he earned juco all-America recognition as a wide receiver. Signed for $150,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2006, he rated as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2007 but missed the final month after having arthroscopic knee surgery. He played in just 24 games in 2008, missing time with back and shoulder injuries, with the latter requiring surgery. Finally healthy last season, Jennings turned in one of the best campaigns in the minors. He earned Double-A Southern League MVP honors after ranking second in hitting (.316), third in steals (37), fourth in on-base percentage (.395) and fifth in slugging (.486). His numbers improved after a late-July promotion to Triple-A, where he tied an International League record with a 7-for-7 game. He helped Durham win the league title as well as the Triple-A national championship. Jennings was the only minor leaguer to post 50 extra-base hits and 50 steals in 2009. Jennings has a lethal combination of speed and power that, combined with an aggressive approach and impressive overall knowledge, makes him a true game-changer. Managers rated Jennings as the best and fastest baserunner in the Southern League, as well as the best defensive outfielder and most exciting player. He has a live, athletic frame and five-tool talent that should continue to improve with experience. He has more power than most leadoff hitters, with at least 15-homer potential, and even better, he understands that his pop is secondary in importance to getting on base. He has exceptional strike-zone judgment and stays within himself by putting balls on the ground and using his speed to beat them out. With his outstanding speed and basestealing savvy, he swiped 52 bases in 59 attempts last year, including a steal of home, and took three bags in as many tries during the Futures Game. As a center fielder, he can run down balls from gap to gap. His arm is his lowest-rated tool, but it's average and he gets to balls quickly. Despite his success at the highest levels of the minors, Jennings has relatively little game experience. He didn't dedicate himself to baseball until he signed in June 2006, and his injuries have limited him to 311 regular-season games since then. Additional reps will help him improve his ability to hit the ball to the opposite field as well as his reads in center field. He simply needs to continue to refine his skills against top-flight competition. Given the Rays' conservative approach to development, Jennings could spend at least the first half of the 2010 season back in Triple-A. He looks ready to make the jump to Tampa Bay and could land there if he has a convincing showing in spring training. Regardless of his immediate future, Jennings is the club's long-term answer in center field, a potential all-star who will push B.J. Upton to right. When he arrives in the majors, Jennings will team with Carl Crawford and Upton to give Tampa Bay the most tooled-up set of outfielders in baseball.
Jennings had a wasted 2008 season after ranking as the top prospect in the South Atlantic League in 2007. The former juco all-America wide receiver homered in his first at-bat after missing the first two months with a back injury, but played just 24 games before needing surgery on his left shoulder that shelved him until the Arizona Fall League. Jennings has the exceptional speed and the discerning eye to become a prototypical leadoff hitter and center fielder. His strike-zone judgment rates among the best in the system. While he has some pop and the ability to drive the ball in the gaps, he knows his role and focuses on getting on base. He covers a wide swath in center and has an average arm. Jennings' biggest need is to stay healthy. In addition to his injury woes in 2008, he missed the final month in 2007 after having arthroscopic knee surgery. He needs game action to improve his reads and jumps in center field. With only a month in high Class A under his belt, Jennings is expected to open 2009 at the Rays' new Charlotte affiliate. A midseason promotion is a strong possibility, and if he can avoid injury, he could be pushing for a role in Tampa Bay at some point in 2010.
Jennings planned on playing football at Alabama but wound up at Itawamba (Miss.) CC, where he earned juco all-America honors in 2005 as a wide receiver who led all juco players with 6.75 catches per game. Signed for $150,000 as a 10th-rounder, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League in his first full pro season. The lone negative was arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his knee, which ended his season in August. His most obvious tool is his speed, which rates near the top of the 20-80 scouting scale. At the plate, Jennings has a discerning eye with the ability to make contact and drive the ball in the gaps. He has all the tools to become a top-flight leadoff hitter. Managers rated Jennings as the SAL's best defensive outfielder, and he has an average arm. In order for Jennings to make the most of his speed, he needs to improve his jumps and reads. He tends to hesitate ever so slightly in the outfield, and he'll become an even better defender as he hones his ability to read the ball off the bat. The Rays have a knack for developing outfielders, and Jennings is their latest find. He's headed to high Class A in 2008 and has a big league ETA of mid-2010.
Jennings, whose $150,000 bonus was the highest in the 10th round of the 2006 draft, also had a bright future in football. A three-sport star (baseball, basketball, football) in high school, he signed to play football at Alabama before winding up at Itawamba (Miss.) CC. As a freshman at Itawamba in the fall of 2005, he earned juco all-America honors by topping all juco players with 6.75 catches per game. Last spring, he led the baseball team to the regional playoff finals. In his pro debut, Jennings used his 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale to pace the Appalachian League in runs and steals. He displays incredible athletic ability in all phases of the game. He has considerable range, plus instincts and a lightning-quick first step in center field. Right now, he steals bases on speed alone and will become even more of a threat on the bases once he gets comfortable reading pitchers and taking larger leads. He has a good idea at the plate with solid bat speed and decent power that should continue to increase. His worst tool may be his arm, which rates as average. His biggest weakness is his routes on fly balls, though his quickness makes up for most of his mistakes. He has the package to become a top-of-the-lineup hitter with power. He'll advance to Tampa Bay's new low Class A Columbus affiliate in 2007.
Minor League Top Prospects
Jennings returned for his third tour of duty in Durham, again wowing IL observers with an array of weapons, particularly his plus-plus speed. He covers a tremendous amount of ground in center field and steals bases seemingly at will. He's 69-for-75 (92 percent) swiping bases as a Bull, though one manager questioned why he wasn't as aggressive in 2011 as he had been in previous years. With a wrist injury that curtailed his power in 2010 fully healed, Jennings showed more pop. He now profiles to have 15-20 homer power. His speed and patient approach should help him hit for a solid average, though he swung and missed more frequently than ever before this season. His arm used to be his lone weakness, but he has improved it over time through long-toss exercises. It's now his fifth average or better tool.
A sprained left wrist sidelined Jennings for the first two weeks of the season, and his average was just .222 on May 29. But once he got healthy, he looked like the same dynamic all-around player who gave Durham a spark at the end of the 2009 season. Managers rated him the most exciting player in the league, as well as the best baserunner and defensive outfielder. A former junior college all-America wide receiver, Jennings has well above-average speed and finished second in the IL with 37 steals in 41 attempts. He has good on-base skills and though the wrist injury seemed to sap some of his power, he has double-digit home run potential. He covers the gaps well in center field and even has an average arm.
After playing just 123 games the previous two seasons because of knee, back and shoulder injuries, Jennings finally stayed healthy in 2009. His plus to plus-tools on offense and defense were on full display as he won the league MVP award. Jennings has good bat speed, a quick trigger and a swing that enables him to lace line drives to all fields. He has a quiet approach at the plate and his head stays locked in, enabling him to see the ball well and leading to an excellent feel for the strike zone. His speed, patience and ability to square balls up could make him a .300 hitter with high on-base percentages. He has gap power and should run into 10-15 home runs per season. Jennings is a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he's a tremendous percentage basestealer, succeeding in 52 of 59 attempts at two levels this year. He has plus-plus range in center field, showing good instincts and good routes to the ball. He had a fringe-average arm in the beginning of the year, then worked hard on his throwing and made it average arm by the end of the season. "I saw Desmond Jennings way too much," Mississippi manager Philip Wellman said. "That guy can beat you in a multitude of ways: defensively, with his bat and he creates a lot of havoc when he's on base."
A three-sport star in high school who played junior college football as a wide receiver, Jennings was the best all-around player in the SAL. He has the discerning eye, ability to make contact and outstanding speed teams want in a leadoff man, and he also has the ability to hit for some power. He's also a plus defender with an average arm in center field. The lone negative came when he need arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his knee, which limited him to one game after Aug. 2. "He's a quiet young man and a great athlete who used the season to make major improvements in all areas of his game," Columbus manager Jim Morrison said. "He improved in stealing bases, taking the ball the other way, driving the ball in the gaps. With his defense in center, I rated him a 65-70 on the 80 scale." "He was the best player in the league for me," Teufel said. "He has all the tools. He has a quick bat, can run, can throw. He's gets good jumps and covers a lot of ground. He's a tools player who brings a lot of energy to a team. He reminds me of Lastings Milledge a little bit."
Jennings turned down the Indians as an 18th-round pick out of high school in 2005. Recruited by Alabama to play football, he wound up at Itawamba (Miss.) CC and earned juco all-America honors as a wide receiver. The Devil Rays signed him for $150,000, the highest bonus given to a 10th-round pick this year. He showed four tools in his pro debut led the Appy League in stolen bases (32 in 39 tries) and runs (48). An exceptional athlete, Jennings showed strong center-field instincts, plus-plus speed and quick acceleration. He runs the bases well but can get more aggressive taking leads. He worked deep counts and showed good strength and bat speed, which translated into line-drive power. His arm is average. "You have to respect his speed. It has value offensively and defensively," Runge said. "When he gets on base, he has the ability to turn the game upside-down. He looked like he has some room for growth, and he might be a future combination of speed and power."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Most Exciting Player in the International League in 2011
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011
- Rated Best Athlete in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the International League in 2010
- Rated Most Exciting Player in the International League in 2010
- Rated Best Baserunner in the International League in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010
- Rated Best Athlete in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Southern League in 2009
- Rated Most Exciting Player in the Southern League in 2009
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Southern League in 2009
- Rated Best Baserunner in the Southern League in 2009
- Rated Best Athlete in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009
- Rated Best Athlete in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the South Atlantic League in 2007