Welcome Ian Desmond

I would imagine that one of a ballplayer’s hardest games is his first major league one. Therefore, I find it impressive whenever a player does well in his first game.

Ian Desmond did just that in his first major league game on Sept. 10, when he went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Since then Desmond has gone 6-for-11 to start his major league career hitting the ground running. Let’s take a look at how he got here and what we can expect of Desmond in the future.

Minor leagues

Desmond was a third-round pick out of a Florida high-school back in 2004 and was slow to develop out of the gate being so young.

+--------+-------+-----+----+----+-----+----+-------+------+------+ | Season | Level | AB | R | HR | RBI | SB | AVG | BB% | K% | +--------+-------+-----+----+----+-----+----+-------+------+------+ | 2007 | A+ | 458 | 69 | 13 | 45 | 27 | 0.264 | 11.1 | 21.6 | | 2008 | AA | 323 | 42 | 12 | 44 | 12 | 0.251 | 8.8 | 24.1 | | 2009 | AA | 170 | 29 | 6 | 18 | 13 | 0.306 | 8.6 | 23.5 | | 2009 | AAA | 178 | 25 | 1 | 14 | 8 | 0.354 | 10.1 | 17.4 | +--------+-------+-----+----+----+-----+----+-------+------+------+

Prospects young for their level are at first forgiven for underachieving, but after 2008 Desmond was 22 and coming off a disappointing campaign at Double-A. He did show some pop and a little speed but still frustrated with a .250 batting average and poor plate discipline numbers. Prospect guru John Sickels had this to say of Desmond after the 2008 season:

I thought he was capable of better, but Double-A transition has exposed flaws.

Evidently, coming into 2009 expectations were significantly lower than in past years. Sickels dropped him from the 12th-best prospect to the 20th-best in the Nationals system and 2009 had the looks of a make-or-break season for Ian Desmond.

With the pressure on, he delivered.

As you can see in both Double-A and Triple-A, Desmond improved his production across the board. In this B-Pro interview, he attributed his success to reducing stress and not letting a bad at-bat affect his later ones.

However he accomplished it, it is hard to ignore the surprising success Desmond found in his first taste of Triple-A action. The possibility remains that his 2009 numbers are more of a fluke than his true talent, but given where I’d expect him to be taken in 2010 drafts—in the double-digit rounds—it might be worth the risk of investment to assume his gains are real.

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Your 2010 Nationals starting shortstop… Ian Desmond? (Icon/SMI)

Major leagues

Desmond may have the skill set to be a major league regular, but not every player with the skills to be a regular gets the appropriate playing time (ahem, Seth Smith). Right now Christian Guzman is the Nationals shortstop, although they reportedly do not want Guzman as their shortstop next year.

This plays well for Desmond’s hopes; the better he does now to end the season, the less of a chance the Nationals go out and spend money on another shortstop. If given a full season of at-bats, Desmond could hit in the .270 range with around 8-13 home runs and 20 steals. Obviously he could also do much worse, but that inherent risk only makes him available later, making the possible reward sweeter.

Final thoughts

The picture of Desmond’s 2010 will become a lot clearer after the offseason is over and Spring Training begins, so for now Desmond is simply someone to keep on your radar. In NL-only and deep (16+) mixed leagues he can also be someone to possibly add for the rest of the season, though his playing time situation is currently supported by pillars of sand (read: unstable).

Drafting shortstops early worked out remarkably poorly this year, so next year drafting a sleeper-type late like Desmond might be a more attractive option. For now, let’s welcome Ian Desmond to the big leagues and see if he’s got what it takes to stick around.

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Comments

  1. matt fueyo said...

    Ian has great skills and a good head on his shoulders.  His quick bat will help him in the upcoming games.  Nice to see some of the younger guys getting a chance, and performing.

  2. Jim Casey said...

    As a native Washingtonian who grew up with lots of bad Senators teams, the last three seasons of Nats baseball has been the worst kind of deja vu. It is great to see Desmond play the way he is, and I can only hope that Stephen Strasburg comes close his potential. Maybe they will actually be worth watching next year.

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