Back in 2006, Desmond Jennings was a two-sport star at Itawamba Community College before the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 10th round of that year’s draft and signed him for $150,000. Dezmond Chumley has a lot in common with him–just about the same first name, the nickname “Dez,” the two sports, the centerfield position, and community college. Chumley will head to Weatherford College if he doesn’t sign after the Rays made him their 28th round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. However, there’s a problem with the comparison–Jennings didn’t sign out of high school and it was only the following year that he entered the system.
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Chumley, who is coming out of Longview High School in Texas, is a little bit smaller than Jennings at 6’0″, 190 rather than 6’2″, 210, but he has similar athleticism. On the other hand, he is more advanced in baseball at the same age. Chumley was a quarterback while Jennings was a wide receiver, but the fundamental difference between them is that Chumley committed to baseball full-time in high school. Though Chumley was decently regarded as a QB, receiving a scholarship offer from Central Arkansas to play both football and baseball, he committed to Weatherford after deciding that baseball alone was his future.
When Jennings was drafted by the Rays, three of the biggest concerns in his game were his routes on flyballs, his ability to read pitchers on the basepaths, and his approach at the plate. Chumley can’t be described as above-average in any of those three areas, but he is much closer to average than Jennings was. He isn’t making catches in center or stealing bases because of pure speed–his paths to the ball in center have made major strides, and the way he is stealing bases bodes well for his ability to continue doing so at higher levels.
Chumley doesn’t quite have Jennings’ speed, but he is still an above-average baserunner. At the plate, he shows a quick bat and good power potential, although he will need to make adjustments as a professional to tap into it more often. He already knows the importance of getting on base to take advantage of his speed–he went from being hyper-aggressive to leading his high school team in walks–and the next step will be to work with him on pitch recognition. Jennings quickly made up for his lack of polish entering pro ball, but it’s only a good thing that Chumley will need less work.
Defensively, Dezmond Chumley’s potential is similar to Jennings’. Jennings was able to become an above-average centerfielder (although not a Gold Glover), and Chumley could eventually end up at that level as well. One place where Chumley has a clear advantage, though, is arm strength. Jennings has never been a real option to play right field because his arm is average or a tick below, but scouts see the potential for a rocket arm from Chumley. He has the tools to stick in center, but as we know, sometimes outfielders get pushed to a corner not for their own flaws but because an even better defender (e.g. Kevin Kiermaier) is playing beside them.
The Tampa Bay Rays will almost certainly offer Chumley the full $100,000 that they can pay him without tapping into their bonus pool, and they will hope to find an extra $25,000 or $50,000 from the pool to pay him in addition to that. From Chumley’s perspective, though, he doesn’t have to sign. His potential is significant, and the amount of refinement he has gained in a short time provides reason to believe that another huge step is coming for him.
Chumley could follow Jennings to junior college, and if he starts tapping into more of his power and arm strength while improving his plate approach, he could end up as a top-5 rounds pick next year. With that in mind, the Rays will not only have to find him the money, but also convince him that spending 2016 in pro ball rather than at Weatherford would be better for his development. Usually when a player is committed to a junior college, that bodes well for the team that is trying to sign him, but Chumley fell to Round 27 because he is exactly the type of player who would turn down a team and enter the draft next year.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.