Hop on the Desmond Jennings bandwagon

Updated: July 26, 2011, 1:54 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

You won't find me leading the charge in defending rookies in any sport too often, but I've been waiting for Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings for a long time. I thought the speedster was ready for the big leagues last season, really. Jennings certainly looks ready now, with three multi-hit games in three attempts and a successful stolen base in each contest. The next Carl Crawford? Hey, I'm game. Perhaps he'll actually be more valuable than the current Crawford for the next two months.

In fact, the most added player in ESPN standard (10-team) leagues -- and this has all happened since Saturday, essentially -- looks like he's going to be more valuable than a lot of players. Jennings, 24, was hitting .275 at Triple-A Durham -- his third consecutive season playing at that level -- with 12 home runs, 19 doubles, 17 stolen bases (in 18 attempts) and 45 walks in 89 games. Honestly, other than financial implications, there was no defending the decision to have him remain in the minor leagues any longer, especially with Sam Fuld, Justin Ruggiano and the sputtering Matt Joyce getting at-bats.

That's not a problem now, and it's easy to see how Jennings can make his mark on fantasy rosters for the rest of the season. The Rays might be undergoing a minor makeover later this week -- it certainly seems like center fielder B.J. Upton is on the trading block -- but regardless of what day it is, it's feasible to recommend Jennings as the team's third-best offensive player, behind only Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. In fact, if you compare Jennings to Upton right now, the case can be made for the rookie because batting average is important. Upton is hitting .229 and although he really fills the counting stats (15 home runs, 23 steals), Jennings should provide a healthy dose of each as well and avoid killing your batting average.