Commentary

Jennings deserves to win AL ROY

The Rays outfielder has earned the honor despite his short big league stint

Updated: September 24, 2011, 5:07 PM ET
By Dave Cameron | FanGraphs
JenningsDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireThe race for AL Rookie of the Year is tight, but Desmond Jennings should win.

Barring an epic meltdown in the season's final week, Craig Kimbrel is almost certain to take home the National League Rookie of the Year Award, and rightfully so -- he's been the best reliever in baseball this year. However, the picture is much more crowded over in the American League, where Mark Trumbo, Ivan Nova, Jeremy Hellickson, Michael Pineda and Jordan Walden all lead AL rookies in at least one category, and all will likely get support when the ballots are cast.

While those five each have counting stats that stand out from the crowd, none of them has made the same impact as Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings. Because the Rays opted to keep him in Triple-A until July 23, Jennings has played in just 56 games. However, that isn't even the fewest ever for a position player who won Rookie of the Year. In 1959, Willie McCovey hit .354 with 13 homers for the Giants in 52 games and won ROY. Like McCovey, Jennings has been one of the best players in the game since his promotion, and his output has helped push the Rays back into playoff contention.

At the plate, Jennings has posted a 147 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus, meaning his offensive performance was 47 percent better than league average), second-best among AL rookies. That mark trails only Toronto's Brett Lawrie, who managed to play just 43 games due to injuries. For comparison, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to get MVP votes, and he's posted a 148 wRC+ this season. What Jennings lacks in quantity, he has made up for in quality, performing at the same level as most of the game's superstars.


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