Breakout or Bust: Has Ian Desmond Become All Name And Little Value?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Ian Desmond has long been seen as having high-end potential, and moving to Colorado a few years ago the expectations only grew.  Unfortunately he’s fallen flat more often than not, and while we could write off his first season as a Rockie due to a wrist injury what about his second campaign?  It’s a mixed bag, to say the least:

555 At Bats
.236 Batting Average (131 Hits)
22 Home Runs
88 RBI
82 Runs
20 Stolen Bases
.307 On Base Percentage
.422 Slugging Percentage
.279 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously he was able to produce both power and stolen bases, but it came with a hideous average and significant questions.  A career .264 hitter there’s reason for optimism, right?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Let’s take a look at his ability across the board and see what we can expect:

 

Average
It would be easy to point towards a .279 BABIP as a reason to expect an improvement, but he’s never been one to hit the ball extremely hard (34.1% Hard% in ’18, 29.5% for his career).  That said he’s routinely posted a BABIP north of .300 (.322 for his career), so while there is upside is it enough?

Obviously his propensity to swing and miss doesn’t help.  He’s posted a SwStr of 12.2% or higher in each of the past six seasons, including a 13.1% last season.  He struggled against breaking balls (19.70% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (23.53%), which could easily lead to an increase in his strikeout rate (23.6%).  We saw that in the first half (25.7%) and it’s not unthinkable that the number balloons even further.

A Risk of Strikeouts + A Lack of Hard%…  Expecting much more than a .250 average would seem like a mistake.

 

Power
Obviously playing in Coors Field is going to help, but for a player who always had a propensity for groundballs it’s gotten significantly worse over the past few seasons:

  • 2015 – 53.4%
  • 2016 – 53.4%
  • 2017 – 62.7%
  • 2018 – 62.0%

He needed a 24.7% HR/FB to get to last season’s mark, though a lot of that success came in the first half when he posted a monstrous 37.5% HR/FB.  That number plummeted to 9.8% after the All-Star Break, leading to just 4 HR over 223 AB.  He also hit more home runs on the road (14) than at home (8), and a regression in the road production will further hurt his outlook.

 

Conclusion
Obviously a 20/20 player is going to have appeal, though it seems unlikely that he reaches that plateau once again.  The power could easily regress, as we saw in the second half, and at 33-years old could we see him start to lose a step?  That’s not to say that there isn’t appeal for a 15/15 player with a mediocre (but not awful) average and a little bit of positional flexibility.  Just don’t make the mistake of paying for a name that likely carries more weight than it should.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections:

Player
Date Posted
Dylan Bundy10/22/18
Foltynewicz, Mike10/09/18
Gibson, Kyle10/29/18
Hoskins, Rhys10/16/18
Hosmer, Eric11/05/18
Wheeler, Zack10/02/18

One comment

  1. Sawyer says:

    I think of Desmond as a player that has a pretty wide range of potential outcomes. I could easily see him with a .220, 10HR, 10SB, 55RBI/R stat line for 2019. However, I could just as easily see him with a .285, 30HR, 30SB, 100+RBI/R statline. And, I’m willing to pay somewhat to see if he realizes that kind of potential.

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