One of the September call-ups for the Tampa Bay Rays was youngster Desmond Jennings. The Rays have a special ability to draft pure athletes. Guys like Carl Crawford that can run like the wind, throw, field, jump, hit a baseball and by accounts play football or basketball, too. For the past few seasons the Rays have had baseball’s “most athletic farm system” as declared by many experts.
Evan Longoria is another home grown talent that is a whiz with the glove at third base (sixth in UZR in 2010), hits for average and power. He is the Rays version of Troy Tulowitzki; the franchises face for the public.
Even the Rays pitching staff is athletic. They have Jeff Niemann who is 6’9” and David Price (AL Cy Young contender) who is 6’6”. Their pitchers look like they could swing a bat and run the bases if they needed to. Or field an NBA team.
Jennings is no different. Jennings is only 23 years old and was a selection to the Futures Game the past two seasons (game played the Sunday before the All-Star game for baseball’s best prospects). In 2009 alone he was a Doubla-A All-Star, Player of the Year, Post-Season All-Star and MVP. The dude is a stud.
All of this makes the Brad Hawpe signing even more bizarre. Why would a team full of guys that are young, play incredible defense, steal bases and carry a high on-base percentage want Hawpe? He is the antithesis of almost all of that. He is awful in the field, he is over 30 (old in baseball years), and doesn’t steal bags (total of five stolen bases since 2007).
The Rays are looking for power. They are seventh in the American League in home runs in 2010 and they could use more punch in their lineup. Currently Carlos Pena is the only player on their team with 20 or more home runs (Longoria has 19). They do not have a really good designated hitter and if they are looking for a guy with pop to DH, Hawpe could be their guy.
Hawpe hasn’t hit for a lot of power in 2010, but they are hoping he can return to his pre-2010 form where he hits 25-30 home runs a year. If Hawpe could hit five or six home runs for them in September they would consider the move a success as Hawpe is only making league minimum from the Rays.
Yesterday Hawpe made his Tampa Bay debut along with Jennings and neither fared well. Hawpe went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Hawpe was only the fourth player in baseball since 1900 to debut with a team and go 0-for-4 with four K’s. The last was Willy Taveras who debuted with the Rockies in 2007 and wore the golden sombrero.
Jennings didn’t do much better as he was 0-for-3.
Jennings was playing right field and if there was any chance that Hawpe would use a glove with Tampa Bay it was in right. Crawford owns left field and has been the best defensive left fielder in baseball for the past few years. Pena man’s first base for the Rays and he is one of the top first basemen in baseball, too. Now with young, fast, Jennings playing right field, Hawpe will get most, if not all, of his playing time as DH.
One bad night will not keep the Rays from using Hawpe again tonight or this weekend, but for the sake of our old friend let’s hope his future tries at the dish are more successful.
More from Travis Lay on the Rockies:
Rockies moved made (and not made) before the waiver deadline
Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t even in the Cy Young conversation?
What if? What if? What if? Could CarGo have won Triple Crown? Could he still?