Ian Desmond wasn’t always expected to step it up at the Major League level. Drafted in 2004, he has already had eight years of professional baseball under his belt. In fact, I was looking through my old books and a 2010 version of John Sickels’ Baseball Prospect Book had Desmond as a C+ prospect. Not exactly filler but not exactly a future star.
2010 actually ended up being his first full Major League season and did not fare too badly. He was below average offensively, but had promise. In 2011, he actually was farther below average and seemed like a .260 hitter with 8-10 home run potential.
But, at the end of last year over the last two months, he hit .295 with 5 of his 10 home runs on the season. Signs of improvement were there. Then, in Spring Training, manager Davey Johnson grew concerned with Desmond’s approach. Whatever he did or didn’t do worked.
2012 Projection (ZiPS): .256/.304/.378, 10 HR, 57 RBI
2012 Actual: .292/.335/.511, 25 HR, 73 RBI
Desmond had his best season as a Major Leaguer leading all shortstops in homeruns with 25 and being a solidifying force at the bottom of the Nationals lineup. The improvement in power has gone on from August of last year through 2012 and seems similar to the signs that Jose Bautista had when he went from journeyman to the best home run hitter in baseball.
Suddenly, Desmond had been getting comparisons to the top shortstops in the game and his career took a turn for the better. That continued in the NLDS where he was the one consistently getting key hits when the rest of the Nationals were struggling. It was no longer smoke and mirrors, it was a definite improvement. If he can keep it going next year, the Nationals will have their shortstop for the future and present.
Season Highlight: September 4 against Chicago, Desmond went 2-5 with a home run and a double with 4 RBIs. The home run was his 20th of the season.
Chien Ming Wang