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When ex-Tampa Bay Rays star Carl Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox during the winter, it was automatically assumed that outfield prospect Desmond Jennings would fill Crawford's shoes immediately. That's especially true after he spent the entire 2010 minor league campaign at Triple-A Durham.
Not so fast. The Rays were disappointed with Jennings' hitting last year at Durham and sent him back there this spring to master the level. Even though Jennings got on base at a strong .362 clip and was an effective base-stealer, he batted only .278 and slugged just .393 in 399 at-bats in 2010.
This season the 24-year-old's bat has blossomed. In 148 at-bats, Jennings is hitting .297 with six home runs (double his home run output from '10), 10 doubles, 18 RBIs, 33 runs scored, a .903 OPS and nine steals in nine tries. Last night, in Durham's 12-6 win over Louisville, Jennings went 3-for-5, with a home run, two doubles, three runs scored and a stolen base.
Jennings: getting closer?
Because Ben Zobrist has played the majority of the season at second base and not right field, the Rays technically have a left field spot alongside center fielder B.J. Upton and hot hitting right fielder Matt Joyce available. Left fielder Sam Flud has slumped to a .233 average after a hot start and is more suited for reserve duty. Recent call-up Justin Ruggiano is at best the same.
If Jennings is still floating around in one's mixed league, now is the time to stash him. He could get called up any day now, or at least sometime in the next 30 days.
It might take some time for Jennings' bat to adjust to big league pitching. However, he has shown that he can get on base and is as effective as any rabbit in the minors. Jennings projects as an immediate force in mixed leagues as a stolen base machine and run scorer.
Matt Dominguez, the slick-fielding third baseman who made a strong push for a roster spot in the Florida Marlins' camp this past spring, made his Triple-A debut last night. The 2007 first-round pick went 2-for-4 with a run scored in New Orleans' 6-2 loss to Fresno.
Dominguez missed the first month and a half of the season after suffering a fractured elbow at the end of spring. The Marlins don't really have a fixture at third base, even though reserve infielder Greg Dobbs has hit well (.337) there.
In South Florida, the third base job is being kept warm for Dominguez. His defense is already considered Gold Glove quality, but he won't get his opportunity until he improves his hitting. In five professional seasons, the 21-year-old holds just a .255 career average and a .744 OPS. He averaged 15 home runs from 2008 to 2010, so he has some pop.
Kansas City Royals pitching prospect John Lamb, who ranked 24th on our preseason prospect list, left his start last night after only six pitches due to elbow discomfort.
It's too early to draw conclusions, but expect Lamb to be shut down for a period of time as a precaution, at the very least. At Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season, Lamb has gone 1-2, with a 3.09 ERA and has a 22/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings.
Speaking of Kansas City pitching prospects, the club sent flame-throwing reliever Jeremy Jeffress to Triple-A Omaha to work on becoming a starter, which was his role for most of his professional career. Jeffress, 23, can dial up his fire ball near triple digits regularly, but the Royals want to see him improve command of it.
On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox promoted right-handed pitching prospect Michael Bowden from Triple-A Pawtucket. Bowden takes the place of Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow), who was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
A former starter, Bowden was moved to the bullpen this year because the Red Sox could never find room for the right-hander despite his minor league success. Bowden isn't a hard thrower, but he brings a diverse set of pitches to the table (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup).
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound righty was very sharp at Pawtucket, where he registered a 1-0 record, with a 1.59 ERA and four saves. In 22 2/3 innings, Bowden fanned 28 batters while walking only four.
With Derrek Lee going on the 15-disabled list with an injured oblique, the Baltimore Orioles called up first baseman Brandon Snyder from Triple-A Norfolk. Snyder is expected to split first base duties with Luke Scott. Snyder, 24, started at first base last night and went 0-for-3 in Baltimore's 13-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
In 134 at-bats at Norfolk, Snyder was hitting .276 with five home runs, 16 RBIs and a .798 OPS. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound first baseman has a beautiful swing, but his approach has been a mess in the past. Last season at Norfolk, Snyder struck out 101 times while drawing only 28 walks. He hit only .257 over the course of 339 at-bats.
This season Snyder has improved his strikeout rate drastically, averaging a whiff every 5.4 at-bats, a drastic improvement from the 3.4 figure he posted last year. He has also improved his walk rate.
Despite the strides, Snyder falls well short of the offensive standards of a first baseman. Because of his platoon situation, he is worthy of short-term consideration in AL-only formats, but don't expect much beyond that.