When "prospect guru's" look at players on minor league rosters, 27-year-old players on a Triple-A roster typically aren't what we pay attention too. Add to the mix that the 27-year-old position player was a 33rd round draft pick, the player will typically fall into obscurity. We look at them as organizational filler. Guys that are there to complete a roster and will man a position until a younger, up and coming prospect is ready to take their position. Jordan Lennerton however, is not your average 27-year-old, 33rd round draft pick.
"Everybody talks about him being 27 and being older, I don't look at it that way," said Toledo manager Phil Nevin. "I've told Jordan several times that I didn't get a chance to play in the Major Leagues until I was 28- or 29-years-old and I was able to have an okay career for awhile."
Lennerton's minor-league numbers raises some eyebrows. He has a career slash line of .279/.380/.441 and has 75 career minor league home runs. He has good power to all fields and while he garnered good numbers in college at Oregon State, he never seemed to quite gain enough attention to get him drafted high enough to make him willing to sign a professional contract. Prior to signing with the Tigers, Jordan was drafted by Toronto in the 50th round and by Milwaukee in the 41st.
"He didn't get a chance to play a lot of baseball growing up in Canada," said Nevin about the Langley, British Columbia, native. "He is a guy that went to a Junior College before he was able to go to a Division I school and he was there until he was a fifth year senior. Those guys often get overlooked and they have to do something special to move through the system and he's definitely done that."
"I was a 33rd round pick who they probably didn't put a lot of stock in," Lennerton said. "I've worked hard and have given them a reason to give me a second look. "I consider myself someone that isn't proven yet."
Looking at Lennerton's numbers this season (.290/392/.442 and 14 homers in 106 games played), it was no surprise that he found himself named to the Triple-A All-Star game in Reno, Nev. It was the Futures Game selection that surprised him. After all, as a 27 year old 33rd round draft pick, he seemingly didn't fit the bill and maybe that why he discovered his selection through the wonders of social media rather than more traditional means.
"I was looking at my twitter account and saw on the MiLB account that they had posted the rosters," Lennerton said. "I was looking at the rosters and I saw my name. I went and talked to Phil and he confirmed it. He said ‘Yeah, I was looking for you about five minutes ago to tell you', but he couldn't find me."
While playing in the MLB Futures game is an honor that pretty much every prospect dreams of being showcased in, it caused some unique travel problems for Lennerton. Over the course of four days, Lennerton traveled from Toledo to New York City for his Futures Game appearance, hopped a plane to Reno, Nevada for the Triple-A All-star game, only to return to the state of New York to open up a series with the Toronto Blue Jay affiliate Buffalo Bisons.
"If I'm selected for something like that, I see it as an honor," Lennerton said. "There wasn't anything holding me back even though I knew it was going to be a lot of travel and be a busy week and a half, but I was willing to do it all and was happy to do it."
From a scouting stand point, Jordan can play a serviceable first base. While Lennerton can turn on and pull a ball with authority, he is a big left handed bat that, as his twitter handle implies, (@oppo_jack_lenny by the way), prides himself on taking the ball the other way. He has very open stance and holds his hands high. While most guys hit singles to the opposite field, Lennerton is someone that drives it to left with authority and is something that he has worked on for a majority of his baseball playing life.
"I had a lot of coaches at a younger age that really wanted me to focus on hitting the outside pitch,"
Lennerton said. "I spent a lot of time on it at an early age and I still work on it as well as other things in my game. It's just turned into one of my strengths."
The bad news for Lennerton is that he is a first baseman in the Detroit organization. With Prince Fielder currently manning the position and Miguel Cabrera potentially returning to that position in the not too distance future, a Major League debut with the Tigers is something that may seem further away than it did when he was touring around in the Midwest League with the West Michigan Whitecaps.
"It is what it is. I try not to worry about it too much," Lennerton said about his position in the organization. "I have to keep doing my thing and my time will come when it's my time."
With the Major League trade deadline coming up, Lennerton is a piece that the Tigers could dangle. Being a left handed power bat that is near Major League ready and can play first base, or more likely come off the bench in a pinch hitting role to supply a late spark is something that may be of interest to other Major League clubs and with the log jam at first in Detroit is seemingly the way Lennerton's path to a major-league career will most likely have to travel.
"I know he understands who's up there, but everyone else understands that there are 29 other teams,
Nevin said. "He understands that someone is watching him all the time and he plays like that."
"I love the Tigers organization and I would love to be here for my whole career and my big league career as well," Lennerton said. "If they choose to trade me, then that is their decision and it could benefit my career in the long run."
Whether it is with Detroit or another organization, Phil Nevin is certain of one thing. Lennerton will make his Major League debut and regardless of age, is deserving of the opportunity.
"The fact is that he has made himself into a very good player and whether you're 21 or 27, when you get a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, like I believe he will, it's going to be special."