by Jason Martinez
*Players on the verge of a big league call-up are considered to be 'Knocking Down the Door'.
Desmond Jennings, OF - Triple-A Durham (TB): Despite a 4-for-26 spring, many were surprised to see the 24 year-old sent to the minors before the start of the season.
Jennings was coming off a solid, but unspectacular Triple-A season (.278 BA, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 25 2B, 37 SB, 47 BB in 109 games) and was just 4-for-21 in 17 games for the Rays. With players such as Dan Johnson, Matt Joyce, and Sean Rodriguez already fighting for playing time in Tampa Bay, Jennings was far from a lock to play everyday in the big leagues. So the team felt that regular playing time in the minors was the best option.
Fast-forward a few weeks and things have changed quite a bit. Manny Ramirez has retired. Sam Fuld has earned a regular spot at the top of the Rays' lineup with his outstanding start, but the rest of the offense has struggled. Johnson is only 7-for-50, Rodriguez is 5-for-28, and Joyce hasn't exactly set the world on fire (.279 BA, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5 2B). Even Ben Zobrist has been bad (9-for-52). More importantly, Jennings is off to a terrific start with Triple-A Durham, hitting .314 with 2 HRs, 9 BBs, and 4 SBs thru the team's first 11 games. With Evan Longoria on the DL with a strained oblique, the team has no power threat in the lineup so relying on speed and defense (Jennings, Fuld, B.J. Upton) might be the way to go in 2011.
Jerry Sands, OF - Triple-A Albuquerque (LAD): Scouts don't particularly love Sands' skill-set and feel his flaws (below-average defense, long swing) would be exposed in the big leagues. But the 23 year-old hasn't slowed down in his pursuit of the majors since the beginning of 2010. After posting a 1.078 OPS in 69 games for Lo-A Great Lakes, the Dodgers jumped Sands to Double-A Chattanooga, where he hit .270 with 17 HRs and 47 RBIs in 68 games. The right-handed slugger also drew 73 walks and had 18 SBs between the two levels. Triple-A hasn't posed much of a challenge either as Sands is hitting .400 with 5 HRs and 17 RBIs in 10 games.
Of course, if the Dodgers had an established left fielder that they could count on at the major league level, this would be a moot point. Sands would have to prove himself for an entire season in Triple-A and there wouldn't be any pressure to rush him to the big leagues. But Tony Gwynn, Jr., Marcus Thames, and Xavier Paul have combined for a .261 BA with 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 3 BBs, and 13 Ks on the season. Not surprising and not totally awful (if these were the stats of a gold glove shortstop), but still hard to swallow when the numbers are in front of your face. Having Gwynn's defense helps but I'd prefer more of an offensive threat early in the game with a defensive specialist coming off of the bench in the late innings. That's what the Dodgers will have to decide, especially if Sands continues to mash Triple-A pitching and their trio of left fielders continues to not mash big league pitching. For more on Sands, check out Project Prospect's scouting report from the Arizona Fall League.
|Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.|
Not that this should be any surprise. The 26 year-old has put up solid numbers in Triple-A during the past two seasons. But he struggled at the big league level after winning the second base job last season, hitting just .206 before getting sent back to the minors after 30 games. His second stint with the Tigers, which came later in the season, went a little better as he hit .261 with 2 HRs in 18 games. However, Rhymes had already established himself as a solid option with a .304 BA in 54 games, which is likely why he was manager Jim Leyland's choice out of camp. Now with the Tigers off to a disappointing 7-9 start, could they look to Sizemore to give them a spark? I wouldn't be surprised if they did.
Knocking Down the Door (Pitchers)
Click HERE for the 2010 Knocking Down the Door archive