Tampa Bay Rays: The Revival of Desmond Jennings with Longoria's Return

Connor McKnightSenior Analyst IAugust 16, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 03: Outfielder Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratulated after his home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on August 3, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Desmond Jennings has been the talk of the Tampa Bay Rays organization for over two years.

A top prospect in the minor league, he drew comparisons to previous Rays star Carl Crawford when Jennings was torching the minor leagues. This comparison made the Rays comfortable enough to let Crawford walk during free agency—a move that saved them millions of dollars that the small-market club could simply not afford.

Now, as a key starter for Tampa Bay in the outfield, Jennings still has not lived up to the hype. With a lackluster appearance in 2010, Jennings was decent in the 2011 season, batting .259 in his 63 games as a pro and stealing 20 bases.

But, the Rays thought they just might have an outfielder capable of batting .300 and stealing 50 bases, just like Crawford did three times in a Devil Rays’ and Rays’ uniform. 

However, a spark has recently been lit for Jennings. Ever since the return of Evan Longoria from his lengthy stay on the disabled list, Jennings has been on a tear.

As the Rays' leadoff hitter, Jennings has the responsibility of getting on base and letting the power hitters of Tampa Bay’s lineup bring him home. In the Rays’ most recent six-game winning streak with Longoria in the lineup, Jennings scored 10 runs on 11 hits, as Tampa Bay hit their way past opponents. His batting average has already jumped twenty points. 

However, the most interesting aspect of this trend pertains to the fact that Jennings also showed increased plate discipline during this six-game stretch—something that set him apart as a prospect.

While the Rays fight in the last month and a half of baseball for a spot in the playoffs, Jennings will have to continue this trend to put the Rays on the scoreboard early and let their dominant pitching do the rest.

Next year, look to Jennings to finally emulate the performance of Carl Crawford.