Desmond Jennings is quick in all aspects of baseball, and his swing is no different. A balanced hitter with a short and quick stroke, Jennings can spray line drives from gap to gap. He is very polished at the plate, but does show one thing that could cause him to struggle in the Major Leagues.
Jennings has very soft loading actions. He loads by "hiding his hands" -- from a pitcher's view, his hands are hidden behind his front shoulder -- and tucking his hands in close to his body. This helps him stay behind the ball and drive it to the opposite field. One hidden asset of Jennings' soft load is that his loading action is very similar to a sling shot. He does not pull his hands straight back like you would pull a sling shot -- which would be terribly inefficient in a swing -- but when he softly loads back and gathers all his energy, his unload is extremely quick and very like the release of the tension built up on a sling shot when fully cocked. In small players like Jennings this move results in tremendous quickness, and when bigger players utilize it -- I.E. Mark Teixera from the left side -- it is a very powerful and quick movement that generates easy bat speed.
Jennings is adept at using his hands in his swing, and tays inside the baseball very well. With his short and quick swing, he can let the ball get on top of him before committing.
Due to his flat swing plane and quick unload actions, Jennings is very adept at making hard contact. He knows he is not a big-time slugger, and does not have a lot of lateral tilt. His primary goal is to hit the ball hard and find a way on so he can use his outstanding speed to wreak havoc on defenses.
Jennings stride is very short and soft, which helps him stay back and allows the ball get deep into the hitting zone. He appears to stay loaded on his back leg well, and doesn't lose his weight forward -- even against very good off-speed pitches.
"Hiding the hands" is a very simple loading mechanism that helps a hitter stay behind the ball and drive it to the opposite field. At the same time, it does take away a bit of a hitter's ability to effectively get to the inside pitch, something that concerns me with Jennings' swing.
On inside pitches, Jennings has no choice but to pull as hard as he can with his front side and bottom hand to open up and reach the pitch. This is not the quickest path to the ball, and well-located fastballs can get in on his hands. Pitchers at the Minor League level usually haven't mastered the art of pitching inside, which has allowed Jennings to get away with this for the time being. Most good Major League pitchers can pitch inside and thus could cause problems for Jennings.
One issue that occasionally arises with players who "hide the hands" for a load is that they have a tendency to pull off against good sliders or cutters. This happens because after the body counter rotates back, it will want to open up hard in the opposite direction. Couple a bit of pulling off with a bit of a hole under his hands, and Jennings could face some issues at the Major League level.
How To Make The Adjustments
I would like to see Jennings get his hands a bit farther away from his body after he loads -- nothing major, just about two inches farther away from his rear shoulder. This would allow his hands to "see" the ball, and he would have less trouble getting to the inside pitch. Instead of pulling hard with everything he's got as he currently does, Jennings would be able to use his hands to deliver the barrel to the ball better. This not only would take away a spot pitchers could attack him, but it could help Jennings maximize his ability to hit for average.
Overall, Jennings has very few glaring issues in his swing. His swing quickness and approach bode well for his ability to make hard contact and get on base at the Major League level. With some minor adjustments to cover all areas of the strike zone, and Jennings could be next season's Andrew McCutchen -- just with a little less pop.
Steve Carter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org