Top prospect Jennings makes his desire to join Rays loud and clear
Desmond Jennings hitting .348 with 6-game hitting streak to open season
Angels' Mike Trout will need big hot streak to get call-up to major leagues
Jesus Montero finding paths to bigs blocked by Russell Martin, Jorge Posada
There is such a thing called beer muscles: You go to your local watering hole, have a few pops and then strangely think you can wrestle your neighboring heckler. There are Manny muscles: Well, you know all about those and what they did for fantasy. And there are "call-me" muscles -- no, these are not related to the aforementioned beer muscles.
Rays prospect Desmond Jennings has call-me muscles.
On the day after Manny Ramirez's sudden retirement, Jennings flexed those muscles, hitting his first homer of the young season. Jennings has gone 7-for-18 (.389) since that news hit the Rays last Friday.
It had to send a statement to the Rays: "Hey, I have added my last piece of the five-tool puzzle and am ready to help right now."
Ramirez's retirement leaves a gap in the Rays' already injury-hit lineup at DH, which likely will go to Johnny Damon. At 37, Damon was a question mark to be able to handle full-time outfield duties this season. It was only a matter of time before Jennings' name would be considered a possible replacement in the field. Heck, he was expected to start for the Rays out of spring training before Manny and Damon signed up on one-year deals simultaneously late this winter.
Damon has hit like Manny since the retirement news, going 8-for-22 (.364) with two homers and seven RBI through a five-game hitting streak -- becoming a must-start in mixed leagues again. Also, fill-in outfielder Sam Fuld looks like a poor man's Carl Crawford, who left for Boston. All Fuld has done is hit .313 with one homer, four RBIs, five runs and six steals out of the gate. He has proven to at least be an AL-only rotisserie gem and a mixed-league stopgap in the short term.
But it won't matter how long Damon or Fuld stay hot in the majors right now. Jennings will come up from the minors when he is ready.
The homer could be just the first salvo in an important first few weeks for the freakishly athletic 6-foot-2, 200-pound physical marvel. Power was the last thing to come, and he has a .348 average, a .483 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage in his six-game hitting streak to start the season.
Jennings was a bit disappointing in Triple-A last season, hitting .278 with just three homers and 36 RBIs in 399 at-bats. He then hit .190 in his 21 September at-bats, giving the Rays pause for trusting him out of spring training as their everyday left fielder.
It is the talent more than the potential role that had Jennings owned in almost one-third of fantasy leagues as a minor-leaguer, only slightly behind teenage wunderkind Bryce Harper. And the Manny news hardly made an impact in Jennings' ownership either, only ticking it up 1 percent. It should have made a bigger splash than that, honestly.
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We'll try to fuel the fire here even more than Baseball America did in its Prospect Handbook with the most impressive of statements last spring: "Jennings has a lethal combination of speed and power that, combined with an aggressive approach and impressive overall knowledge, makes him a true game-changer."
Manny's retirement, Jennings' early power stroke and a hot few weeks could make him an early first half game-changer for your fantasy team. His call-me muscles are flexin'.
OF Mike Trout, LAA
Because of the stigma left behind by the likes of failed Angels prospects Brandon Wood and Dallas McPherson, there was some worry Trout might hit a wall at Double-A. Instead, it looks like a rush of adrenaline, call-me muscle-style.
Trout, just 19 and the reigning minor-league player of the year, has slugged out of the gate to the tune of .318 with three homers, seven RBI, five runs, a steal, .423 OBP and 1.150 OPS. Those numbers were dragged down by a 0-for-6 start last week but highlighted by a two-homer, five-RBI game Tuesday for Arkansas.
The question is whether the teenager owned in one-fifth of fantasy leagues can push the timetable up to arrive before his 20th birthday Aug. 7. Unlike Jennings, it will take at least two or three months of a serious hot streak in the minors to move.
The great start makes him a legit blue-chipper in long-term keeper leagues, though.
OF Jerry Sands, Dodgers
Across the City of Angels is another 2010 breakthrough with an impressively powerful start, albeit this one in Triple-A. Sands, 23, became a legit prospect last season, going a combined .301-35-93-102-18 (.395-.586) in 502 at-bats between Class A and Double-A.
He hasn't stopped the assault on minor-league pitching, going .417-4-14-7-0 (.429-1.000 SLUG!) in his first 24 Triple-A at-bats. The Dodgers outfield should consist of fantasy stars Matt Kemp, Andre Either and Sands in short order. That is almost unfair.
The fact Sands is owned in just 7 percent of fantasy leagues to date is a bit unfair, too. Take advantage of that and stash this 6-foot-4, 220-pound powder-keg if you have room. He could make a Michael Stanton-like impact this season.
C Jesus Montero, Yankees
Yet another top-five, most-owned minor-leaguer looking too good for Triple-A, Montero looks nothing like a 21-year-old commodity right now.
Montero is hitting .480-1-2-6-0 (.480-.720) in 25 at-bats after going .289-21-75-66-0 (.353-.517) in his first full season in Triple-A. The Yankees cannot be unhappy with Russell Martin (.300-3-8-5-2, .344-.643) or Jorge Posada (three homers), but Montero could force their hand with a move before June 1.
Montero's ownership is reasonably strong at 27 percent, but the fact he is a catcher will make that rise steadily the next month.
C Devin Mesoraco, Reds
Mesoraco, 22, is another star catcher of the future. Current Reds backstop Ramon Hernandez has been silent since his Opening-Day slam, but platoon-mate Ryan Hanigan is helping pick up the slack at .318-2-6-6-0 (.375-.636).
Like Montero, Mesoraco is bidding his time behind veterans on a top contender back in Triple-A after a breakthrough season. Mesoraco hit a combined .302-26-75-71-3 (.377-.587) in 397 at-bats between Double- and Triple-A in '10.
The power clearly is legit. He is hitting .294-3-3-3-0 (.368-.882) in his first week.
Mesoraco is owned in 6 percent of fantasy leagues and is a nice consolation prize if you're not the one that has Montero stashed. Mesoraco's age and shakier vets blocking him in the big leagues make him a better bet to arrive before Montero for fantasy owners, in fact.
SP Matt Harvey, Mets
The Mets season looks a bit lost already, but Harvey is an early first-round pick (seventh overall) from last June who might make it to the majors in his first pro season. He came as a draft pick with polish and pedigree, being the son of former stud fantasy closer Bryan Harvey.
Matt Harvey has looked every bit capable of being able to move up from high Class A, striking out 17 with no runs and just four walks in his first two pro starts. He struck out eight in six shutout innings Tuesday after a nine-strikeout debut last Thursday.
The problem with him helping out the Mets and fantasy owners this season will be an innings total unlikely to go much beyond 130.
SP Drew Pomeranz, Indians
The other most major-league ready arm from the '10 First Year Player Draft was Pomeranz (fifth overall). He has been equally impressive through two starts, allowing no earned runs in 10 1/3 innings and a striking out 16.
Pomeranz is owned in five percent of leagues to Harvey's two percent. The small-market Indians are a bit less likely to rush a talent like this to the major leagues this season, though.
Eric Mack chimes in on potential impact rookies and prospects every Wednesday at SI.com. If you have a prospect you want to see highlighted, let him know. As always, you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.
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