Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jason Jennings Signs With Texas - Could Have Some Fantasy Upside In Arlington

During his seven year major league career, Jason Jennings has never pitched in anything resembling a pitcher's park. He spent his first six seasons with the Rockies playing in the pitcher's graveyard known as Coors Field. The tombs of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle can be seen just beyond the bullpen shrubbery. Last offseason, Jennings was dealt to Houston and struggled mightily at Minute Maid Park (formerly known as "1o run field") in 2007. It should be noted he battled with injuries for most of the year and was eventually shut down in August; however, a 2-9 record with a 6.45 ERA is hard to excuse.

ESPN's Jerry Crasnick is reporting that Jennings has signed a 1 year deal with the Texas Rangers for a base of 4 million with another 4 million in incentives written in. The Dallas native now heads to the launching pad in Arlington, where he will join a rotation featuring the likes of veteran Kevin Millwood, youngsters Brandon McCarthy and Kason Gabbard and outright albatross Vincente Padilla.

The righty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his throwing elbow which cut short his forgettable 2007 campaign in August after only 19 starts. However, he has been throwing off a mound and the Rangers expect him ready for opening day.

Fantasy Impact

Jennings had his finest season as a pro not in 2002 when he posted a career high in wins going 16-8 but rather in 2006 when he amassed a record of 9-13 which appears rather dumpy on the surface. Jennings posted the best ERA (3.78) and WHIP (1.37) of his career in 2006 and had 19 quality starts in 32 outings. Even more impressive, Jennings had a better ERA at home (3.56) than on the road (3.97). Unfortunately, due to receiving the lowest run support in the NL and some tough luck losses of the complete game 1-0 variety, his record failed to reflect his success.

Jennings showed in 2006 that he could succeed in a true hitter's park and Arlington, especially in the hot summer months, is no different. At this juncture coming off injury, I consider Jennings a true wild card. He will most likely struggle early in the season as he gets back into game action and continues to trust his elbow again.

As the season wears on, the keys to Jennings' success will be in regaining the control he had in his stellar 2006 campaign. This allowed him not only to cut down his walks, but also to limit long balls while registering a career high in strikeouts. In addition to keeping the ball down and inducing grounders, the strikeout is a pitcher's best friend in hitter's parks where the ball tends to carry.

Jennings' should be drafted in AL-only leagues and mixed format players with deep rosters could do worse in some cases than taking a flier on the 29 year old. He has shown good ability in the past and while it may take some time, Jennings could quietly put up some good numbers in Texas as he pitches for his next big contract.

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