Discussion

Can Jennings help Rays' iffy offense?

Updated: July 18, 2011, 7:01 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

It's not that Boston Red Sox pitchers Josh Beckett, Alfredo Aceves and others weren't awesome in the Sunday night/Monday morning marathon -- perhaps I'll need a Monday afternoon nap to compensate -- but I couldn't help but wonder whether Tampa Bay Rays outfield prospect Desmond Jennings might have been able to help. The Red Sox earned their 1-0, 16-inning victory on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," as Rays hitters managed three singles in 50 at-bats against six pitchers. Jennings doubled twice among his three hits Saturday for the Triple-A Durham Bulls, then doubled again and scored twice Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Rays certainly could use a spark at the top of the lineup, one that ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring runs but really shouldn't be relying on the likes of Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano, not to mention Reid Brignac, Casey Kotchman (hitting cleanup, really?) and all their catchers. Yes, the Rays scored a healthy number of runs Friday and Saturday against the Red Sox, but Andrew Miller and John Lackey started those games. Let's be realistic.

I'm not saying that the 24-year-old Jennings, who consistently ranks well in colleague Jason Grey's prospect lists and is playing again after breaking a finger a few weeks ago, will save the offense, but he would help. Jennings is a right-handed speedster who has 33 extra-base hits for the Bulls in 85 games, and he could steal many bases in the majors. This is his third season at Triple-A. It's time to promote him for good. For the record, I do think Jennings will become instantly attractive for ESPN standard leagues as a fourth or fifth outfielder, and he's available in 98.6 percent of leagues. It's possible Jennings could instantly become this team's fourth-best offensive player for real life and fantasy (after Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist). If the Rays call Jennings up this month, watch him hit six or seven home runs in the final two months with double-digit stolen bases and a .280 batting average.

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