Shelton compares Jennings to Crawford

Outside of the guy who took a gamble on Asdrubal Cabrera, the Cleveland Indians struggles at the plate are no secret to fantasy owners. Their team batting average of .247 ranks 22nd in the big leagues and their on-base percentage of .316 also ranks in the bottom half of baseball (16th). Think what a relief it would be for Tribe skipper Manny Acta if penciling in Desmond Jennings’ name atop his lineup card was an everyday occurrence.

It’s not as far fetched as you might believe, but just another memorable woulda, shoulda, coulda you can add to the Cleveland sports history books.

Cleveland drafted the 24-year-old out of high school in the 2005 amateur draft.

Jennings, who could have played football and/or baseball, elected to take his talents to college. With his name tossed back in the hopper, Jennings was drafted again.  This time by Tampa Bay in 2006.  This time in the 10th round following a JUCO season where he hit .378.

All it cost the Rays, at the time, was $150k. It’s like going to the dollar store and picking up a Lexus.

Hardcore fantasy owners have been salivating at the thought of DJ getting a call up to the big leagues the last few seasons. If it were not for the Rays competing for the American League East and guys like Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton roaming the outfield, Jennings’ would already be a household name.


Desmond Jennings Triple-A Stats









Durham (3 seasons)








Staring at a team batting average of .243, Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton is arguably the most ecstatic with the injection of offense Jennings has provided the last two weeks. Shelton pins the Rays’ anemic hitting on a few factors.

“We’ve been inconsistent,” Shelton said. “We’ve had some injuries, we’ve had different people at different spots and we’ve had young kids playing for the first time. That’s been the difference {at the plate} for us this year.”

Jennings’ stats aside, Rays’ leadoff hitters have hit .254 with 61 runs, 34 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and seven homers in 2011. Thus, to have an asset marinating in the minor leagues ready to make an immediate impact on offense, Shelton was pleased with the call up.

“I was excited,” he said. “It’s been a wait for Desmond. A wait not because of him, but because of other people we had. We were excited that he was going to come here and then even more excited after seeing what he has done since he’s got here.”


Jennings 2011 Stats w/ Rays

















Shelton, a former hitting coach for the Indians, says Jennings reminds him of a young Grady Sizemore and even went so far as to compare him to one of the greatest Rays players of all-time.

“He’s in the mold of a {Carl} Crawford and guys that are going to electrify you,” Shelton said. “He’s going to do things on a nightly basis whether it’s offensively, defensively or on the base paths that are going to make national news.”

As for any concerns with the mechanics of Jennings’ swing, Shelton has none.

“The biggest thing with his swing is there is not a lot to it,” Shelton said. “There’s not a lot of moving parts and it’s very simple.  He handles the strike zones. I think that’s one of the most encouraging things. One of Desmond’s greatest strengths is even though he has probably less than 200 major league at-bats, he controls his at-bats like he’s been in the big leagues for awhile. He gives us a quality at-bat every time.”

Shelton admits he’s a bit surprised with the power numbers early on (3 HRs/10 RBIs). One of the areas the club wanted Jennings to improve on in the minors was small ball and bunting. In 12 games with the Rays, DJ has three bunts for base hits.

“I think until you see a guy on this stage and at this level, you don’t appreciate what he does.”

FOX Fantasy Baseball Join or Create a Free League
Play Now!