Is Grant Desme More Than An AFL Wonder?

Drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft by the Oakland A’s, Grant Desme was a virtual unknown after collecting just 49 at bats through 2008 (due to injuries to his wrist and shoulder).  Splitting time between two levels of Single-A in 2009, he began to make his presence felt before completely erupting in the Arizona Fall League, putting him on the prospect map.

First, let’s look at his 2009 statistics:

486 At Bats
.288 Batting Average (140 Hits)
31 Home Runs
89 RBI
98 Runs
40 Stolen Bases
.365 On Base Percentage
.568 Slugging Percentage
.355 Batting Average on Balls in Play

If those numbers weren’t impressive enough, he’s been on fire in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .442 with 8 HR (double anyone else) and 16 RBI in just 10 games (43 AB).  That didn’t come from just one big game either, as he’s homered in five straight games and seven of his last eight.

As the only 30-30 player in minor league baseball (according to Baseball America), it would be easy to dub him the next great hitting prospect and leave it at that.  The 23-year old certainly has power, as he added 31 doubles as well.  Of course, it all came courtesy of a nearly 50% flyball rate, something that:

a)     He may not be able to maintain against the higher levels of competition
b)     Would lead to a lower average if those flyball fall short of clearing the fences

Speaking of his average, the strikeout rate that Desme showed this season is extremely disturbing, striking out 30.45% of the time (in the AFL he’s struck out 12 times in 43 AB, a 27.91% strikeout rate).  That’s not against impressive, developed pitching, either.  Can you imagine how things could progress as he moves up the ranks?

Throw in the strikeouts with the excessive flyballs and a decreasing BABIP and you have the formula for disaster when it comes to his batting average.  Unless he finds a way to make significantly better contact, you are going to see the average fall drastically.

The speed he showed is also a bit deceptive.  Baseball America said after the season:

“Though he stole 24 bases in as many attempts in the MWL, Desme is more of an average runner with good instincts than a speedster.”

That would tell me that the 40 SB that he showed overall is a bit of an aberration, especially as he moves to Double-A and above.  While he should make contributions there, don’t look for these excessive numbers.

Desme can certainly hit for power.  He’s shown that all year long, but the concerns over the average are very real and knock him down quite a few notches.  Despite his impressive showing this winter, he’s likely going to open the season at Double-A and will need to prove that he can hit for average before he even gets a chance in the major leagues.

I think it is much more likely that he spends the entire season in the minors, though I guess a September call-up is possible.  Outside of that, don’t look for much out of him in 2010.  As of right now, I’d project him out to be Jack Cust with speed, which certainly doesn’t say much.

What do you think?  Could he hit for a decent average?  What are the chances he makes an impact in 2010?

To read the previous article, click here.

2 comments

  1. ken pedersen says:

    Agree on a lot of points. However his HR’s tend to be more massive shots than flyballs. Time will tell but nice run in the AFL.

  2. Bill says:

    Nice breakdown. I think Desme’s ceiling could be what Jayson Werth has done the last two years. .265-.270 avg, 30 hrs and 20 sbs. But that would be his peak, first he has to prove he can sustain a .260 avg against better pitching.

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