In 2011, Tampa Bay rookie left fielder Desmond Jennings got his first shot with the big league club after Carl Crawford left St. Petersburg and the Trop for greener pastures, and a bigger salary, with the Boston Red Sox. He played in 63 games posting a 24.7 AB/HR ratio, about 11 ABs better than the league average. He had been off to a slow spring before yesterday, held homerless through 47 at bats, when he crushed 3 HRs versus the Orioles, including a Grand Slam, netting him six RBI on the day.
All three pitches that Jennings hit out were in Jennings hot zone. His first homerun was hit far enough to bounce off a roof of a gazebo in left center of Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles Spring Training home. The below diagrams show Desmond's Slugging Percentage over the course of last season.
Pitchers typically tried to keep the ball away from Jennings at the plate, and for good reason; only one of his ten homeruns came on a pitch on the outer third of the plate, which was a changeup that was driven to the opposite field. He hit seven of his homeruns off of fastballs, five of which were left up in the zone, while the other two were down and in. Similarly, two of Jennings first three spring training blasts were fastballs left up and in, and those two were no doubters. Below is a diagram of the locations of balls Jennings hit out in 2011.
Jennings combines the speed, athleticism, and power that remind many people of the superstar he is replacing, and if he can continue crushing mistake pitches, he could go from promising rookie to established young talent very quickly in a potent Rays lineup. The Rays continue to make a strong case to win the American League East Division, and they must rely on their young talent rising to the occasion in order to knock off the New York Yankees.