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Desmond Jennings, 2011 MLB Breakout Candidate

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22, 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
Fantasy KnuckleheadsCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2011

Desmond Jennings has long been considered the heir apparent to Carl Crawford, so you can’t call him a sleeper because the alarm clock on this kid went off a season ago.

Crawford’s departure to Boston signals the beginning of the Jennings era in left field. Or does it?

The Rays VP of baseball Andrew Friedman had already made it clear that DJ will not be handed the left field job for 2011. I’m not sure who those words sting more, Jennings or fantasy GMs.

In December, the Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney wrote that Friedman had left field on his “to-do list” heading to the winter meetings.

It was speculated that Friedman might bring in a veteran to give Jennings some competition for the job. Enter, Johnny Damon.

So is Damon simply on the team for veteran guidance and to put pressure on the youthful Jennings? Not with his price tag.

The Rays already have Damon penciled in as the everyday left fielder, making Jennings the team’s fourth outfielder. That could all change at the drop of a hat or the tweak of a hammy, but for now, old man Damon has the upper hand.

The question is not whether Jennings will play but when and how much. Even in a part-time role, he’ll likely see close to 400 at bats. He’s got good discipline at the plate and solid gap power, but his real talent is his speed.

Long term, he could be a 20/50 guy. He really hasn’t developed his power yet, but he has the physicality to do so. Injuries hampered his growth in that area last season.

This season it’s probably realistic to expect 10 or so home runs with some decent playing time. He could manage to snag 30-40 bags as a rookie even in a part-time role.

If he does get a fairly full-time role this year, he could have decent numbers across the board with an average in the .280 range. He’s worth a late-round flyer in single season leagues simply for his SB potential, but likely, someone will overpay for him this season.

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