After offseason trade rumors swirled around him before the 2012 season, it was clear that the upcoming season would, like Espinosa’s 2013 will, be a make-or-break year for shortstop Ian Desmond. In the face of pressure, Desmond blossomed. He had a .262 career average, .691 OPS, and 22 career home runs in 329 games before, but shattered those numbers by hitting .292/.335/.511 with 25 homers in 130 games. He earned many accolades, with an All-Star selection, a Silver Slugger, and a 16th-place finish in the NL MVP race. However, some of his performance may have been based on luck. His HR/FB%, which is often subject to chance, jumped massively from 4.5% in 2011 to 13.8% in 2012, an extremely high number for a shortstop. His baBIP, which you might expect to be high given the 39-point jump in batting average he had, was actually fairly sustainable, jumping up by .015. Even so, regression is to be expected after a career-best season, and that is what our projectors foresee:
ZiPS: 578 AB, .269/.312/.432, 70 RBI, 71 RS, 22 SB, 18 HR
MLB.com: 573 AB, .284/.328/.464, 71 RBI, 76 RS, 22 SB, 21 HR
CBSSports: 590 AB, .276/.319/.459, 81 RBI, 81 RS, 26 SB, 22 HR
ESPN Fantasy: 551 AB, .270/.315/.445, 73 RBI, 70 RS, 23 SB, 20 HR
Averages: 573 AB, .275/.319/.450, 74 RBI, 75 RS, 23 SB, 20 HR
These projections, when averaged, appear to hit the sweet spot for what Desmond’s 2013 might be. They have a bit of regression built in, but not back to his 2010-2011 levels. And while Desmond will be 27 for next season, he is not yet arbitration-eligible, and has time to improve. While a difference of opinions remains over him between projections, most notably ZiPS and MLB.com, he has clearly convinced those watching him that 2012 was not a fluke. He only hit eight home runs in 2011, yet our projections average 20 home runs for him, demonstrating how convincing his newfound power is. He has also convinced evaluators of his overall ability. ESPN Fantasy says that Desmond “belongs in the discussion with the best at his position”, and MLB.com predicted that he is “on [the] verge of entering [the] elite class at his position”. With the regression, Desmond will still be a top-10 fantasy shortstop, with big upside if he can replicate his 2012 season and third-place ranking among fantasy shortstops. With the Nationals, he will remain a middle-of-the-order threat and defensive presence, with many awards and honors likely.