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March 8, 2012 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

Debate Me: Drew Stubbs or Desmond Jennings?

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Thomas Saucke: Desmond Jennings

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t end up drafting Drew Stubbs or Desmond Jennings.  The former is overrated and the latter hasn’t proven enough to justify his lofty ADP.  If either falls into my lap, though, it’s Jennings all day and it’s not even close.

Stubbs carried 30/30 hype into last year’s fantasy drafts.  The evidence behind the claim, though, was an elevated home run total in 2010 thanks to a high HR/FB rate (15.9%).  He had more plate appearances in 2011 and posted a higher BABIP but his HR/FB rate regressed closer to the mean.  He finished with 15 HR, batted .243, and disappointed everyone who drank the Drew Stubbs Kool-Aid.  His important numbers from 2010 and 2011 are listed below:

Year PA R HR RBI SB BA HR/FB BABIP K% B%
2010 583 91 22 77 30 .255 15.9% .330 28.8% 9.4%
2011 681 92 15 44 40 .243 11.5% .343 30.1% 9.3%

We can draw some pretty simple conclusions.  Stubbs’ run production dropped off in 2011 because he spent more time in the leadoff spot (67.4% of his AB) compared to 2010 (25.3% of his AB).  His only noticeable improvement in 2011 was his SB.  This was buoyed, however, by the fact that he hit leadoff and had more chances to run.  He won’t be able to continue hitting there for the Reds if he strikes out 30% of the time, though.

Stubbs never proved in the Minor Leagues that he had respectable power potential.  9 of his 15 HR in 2011 were at home and he hit 47 points higher at Great American Ballpark.  His walk and strikeout rates were nearly identical at home and on the road, though, which leads me to conclude that he’s merely been the beneficiary of a hitter’s ballpark.

Desmond Jennings, on the other hand, was a superior Minor Leaguer and has the potential to be something special.  He successfully stole 188 of 222 bases in the Minors (84.6%) and has comparable power numbers to Stubbs. I’ve had the opportunity to watch him first-hand a number of times for the Durham Bulls (AAA-IL) and he is without question one of the best athletes that I’ve ever seen come through AAA.  He makes up ground exceptionally quickly in center and is dangerous every time he gets on base.

He works counts very well and has posted better walk and strikeout rates than Stubbs throughout the Minors.  In 287 PA with the Rays in 2011, Jennings posted a .356 OBP in addition to a 10.8% walk rate and a 20.6% strikeout rate.  The walk rate was on par with his career average and the strikeout rate was the highest he’s ever had.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he had some jitters contributing to the K%.  Regardless, its miles better than Drew Stubbs could ever dream of having.

If there’s anything wrong with Jennings, it’s that everyone is overrating the hell out of him.  I don’t believe you can bank on anything greater than 15 HR despite his 22 between AAA and Tampa last year.  He could certainly hit 25 this year but his 15.6% HR/FB rate last year in the Majors is significantly above average.  15 HR is nothing to scoff at, though, considering the rest of his skills.  If you want to determine his value, consider everything he did in the Minors.  I’m seeing far too many people basing their arguments off of half of a Major League season.

My projections for Stubbs and Jennings are as follows:

Player R HR RBI SB BA
Drew Stubbs 74 18 78 35 .249
Desmond Jennings 91 16 69 38 .273

Drew Stubbs is who we think he is.  He’s pretty much an overvalued version of Chris Young.

Albert Lang: Drew Stubbs

Desmond Jennings will have a better career than Drew Stubbs. However, is there really much difference between the two in 2012? No, yet Jennings is going much higher than Stubbs in drafts, making Stubbs, by far, the better value in fantasy baseball.

While it’s an imperfect comparison (given the vast differences in MLB service time), their career side-by-sides don’t look a ton different:

Name G PA H HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG
Drew Stubbs

350

1460

326

45

210

138

80

9.10%

28.90%

0.155

0.251

0.325

0.406

Desmond Jennings

80

311

68

10

49

27

22

10.60%

20.30%

0.187

0.254

0.351

0.44

Stubbs has about 4.6 times more plate appearances than Jennings. If you multiple what Jennings has done by 4.6, Jennings would have 319 hits, 46.9 HRs, 230 runs, 127 RBIs and 103 SBs, not much different from Stubbs.

That said, the comparison is imperfect for obvious reasons: Jennings has far fewer MLB experience and Jennings has upside while it appears Stubbs is what Stubbs is.

However, while Jennings has upside, who says it will come in 2012? His 10 HRs in just 63 games last year was superb, but he had 12 at AAA in 100 more plate appearances and just three HRs in 2010 in AAA.

In addition, we have very little data to know if his 15.6% HR/FB rate last season is the norm for Jennings, which makes it hard to bank on. For example, of batters last season with similar FB rates to Jennings and 250 plate appearances, Travis Hafner, Rickie Weeks, Eric Hinske, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Freddie Freeman, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gonzalez, and a few others posted 15% FB/HR rates.

But the great majority of folks with similar FB rates didn’t come close to that kind of HR/FB rate. It’s not hard to envision Jennings being on the wrong side of 15 HRs next year, but ultimately developing into an Ellsbury or CarGo type. In addition, his .190 ISO in 2011 was somewhat out of line with his track record. His previous ISO high was .180 when he repeated AAA in 2011, but it was .115 at AAA in 2010 and about .170 across AA and AAA in 2009.

It also doesn’t appear to be likely that Jennings can improve on his .259 average much. Jennings took a lot of pitches last year: his swing percentage was nine percent lower than league average and his contact rate was 2.5% below league average. Even if he cuts down on the K’s a tad, we’re looking at a .265 average max.

While Jennings has impressive speed and on-base skills, he will have to improve his SB success rate (just 22/30 in MLB) to reach 50 steals. If Jennings doesn’t steal at a successful clip, the Rays will put the brakes on fast.

It’s not hard to see Jennings hitting 13 HRs, batting .265 and adding 42 SBs. That’s not a top 60 player, especially when Drew Stubbs is only a top 80 player. At the moment people are paying as if Jennings’s massive upside is a given.

Lastly, if you average Jennings projections from the various Fangraphs inputs, you get 15 HRs, 42 SBs and a .264 average. Last season, Drew Stubbs hit 15 HRs, stole 40 bases and batted .243. The year before, he hit 22 HRs, stole 30 bases and batted .255. The average projections for Stubbs: 17 HRs, 34 SBs and a .248 average.

Are they really so dissimilar?

 

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