Tampa Bay Rays: This Could Be Desmond Jennings’ Year

By RobKillette

After the 2010 season, four-time All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford left the Tampa Bay Rays to chase the money that was in Boston. Some fans thought nothing worse could have happened to the organization. Others, however, thought that it would be fine since the Rays had the up-and-coming Desmond Jennings to replace Crawford.

Unsurprisingly, the truth has ended up being somewhere in the middle of that. Jennings certainly hasn’t been bad, emerging as an average or better starting outfielder in both center and left field. We have seen the Rays struggle to find a reliable option at both shortstop and catcher, and Jennings’ struggles in the outfield have been much milder than that. His career thus far is only frustrating because we would’ve liked to have seen an All Star Game appearance or two by now.

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In six years in the Majors, Jennings has always been a solid fielder aside from a bizarre sequence in 2013. At the plate, meanwhile, Jennings has hit to a .248/.327/.398 line with an average of 12 homers and 22 stolen bases per year in his three full seasons. He has been excellent against lefties, delivering a .271/.359/.451 line, but his .239/.315/.377 line against right-handers has left something to be desired. Add in a stay on the disabled list each of the last three years, and Jennings has been a good player but certainly not a great one.

This season, there are many reasons to expect Jennings that Jennings will break out. He is only 28 years old, right in the middle of his prime, the time when players often find another gear to their games. He is batting fifth and sixth in the Rays’ order instead of batting in the leadoff spot, giving him more opportunities to run and less pressure to take pitches. Finally, though he was a good centerfielder, he could be Gold Glove worthy as he moves to left.

This season, Jennings has been much more aggressive on the base pads, already stealing four bases after he stole 15 all of last year. Jennings isn’t exactly racking up the hits so far, but, he has managed a .351 OBP so far nonetheless, which would be his career-high. He has walked 5 times against 4 walks as he has looked more comfortable further down in the Rays’ order. He has also looked good defensively, recording an outfield assist on Opening Day.

Once Jennings starts hitting the ball with more authority, everything will be going right for him. We can only read so much into nine games, but Jennings is showing signs of performing more like that player Rays fans envisioned when he was in the minor leagues. Maybe this the year that Jennings will step up and represent the Tampa Bay Rays in the All-Star Game.

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