The Tampa Bay Rays have been waiting for Desmond Jennings to return to their lineup ever since August 28th, when he aggravated some lingering knee soreness. However Jennings simply hasn’t made progress despite multiple attempts to ramp up his running. Now, as Joe Maddon tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it is looking increasingly unlikely that Jennings will play again this year.
Jennings has been the Rays everyday center fielder this season, however he has been fairly disappointing. After making progress with his bat from 2012 to 2013, increasing his OPS by 48 points, Jennings’ bat has taken a step back this year. He is hitting .244/.319/.378 through 542 plate appearances, and his .697 OPS is the lowest of his career. That line isn’t awful in and of itself, but after Jennings took a step forward in 2013, it is discouraging to see him regress this season. Jennings is still a valuable player to the Rays when you consider his defense and speed, but the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t distinguished himself a particularly great player either. With rookies Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer impressing this year, Jennings is in danger of a diminished role with the Rays, and he is a trade candidate this offseason.
With Jennings out, Kiermaier will continue manning center field on an everyday basis. The Rays will benefit from getting an extended look at Kiermaier in center, as they will eventually have to decide if they want Kiermaier or Jennings as their everyday center fielder. Kiermaier has been lauded as a plus defender at the position while Jennings is at best an above-average defender there. However they have played Kiermaier in right while keeping Jennings in center this year, so it will be interesting to see which of the two they favor moving forward.
You never want to see someone hurt, and it is especially tough for Desmond Jennings given his disappointing season. When one door closes another door opens though, and now Kevin Kiermaier gets a chance to prove himself worthy of an everyday center field job in the future.