The Next Big Thing: Desmond Jennings

Leave a comment

Last week Rays outfield prospect Desmond Jennings was named MVP of the Double-A Southern League despite earning a promotion to Triple-A a month ago.
Last night, in his 29th game at Triple-A, Jennings tied an International League record by going 7-for-7 as the Durham Bulls clinched a playoff spot.
He had what baseball analysts typically refer to as a really awesome week.
Jennings was limited to just 24 games last season because of back and shoulder injuries, but the former 10th-round pick has bounced back in a huge way this year and is often compared to current Rays outfielder Carl Crawford.
It’s easy to see why, because like Crawford he’s a former standout football player who offers an amazing blend of physical tools that revolve around tremendous athleticism and blazing speed.
Jennings has hit .322 with 11 homers, 31 doubles, and 10 triples in 128 games between Double-A and Triple-A, swiping 52 bases while being caught just seven times. In a recent Baseball America managers poll he was named the Southern League’s fastest baserunner, best baserunner, best defensive outfielder, and most exciting player, which certainly fits with the Crawford comparison.
One area where he has a leg up on Crawford is plate discipline and strike-zone control, as Jennings has an excellent 66/66 K/BB ratio in 563 plate appearances. By comparison, prior to this year Crawford had never drawn even 40 walks in any season, minors or majors. Any prospect whose ceiling can even optimistically be described as “Carl Crawford with plate discipline” has a chance to be a very special player.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.