Last year was a breakout season for Ian Desmond, and nobody, except for maybe Ian, expected him to hit as well as he did. He finished the season as the best hitting shortstop in the league. For the position, he was the best in MLB in HR, OPS, SLG, TAv and wOBA (behind only Ben Zobrist, who spend less than 1/3 of his season at SS in a couple categories).
There was some indication that he probably wouldn’t be quite that good this year – his low walk rate means he’s vulnerable to slumps, and power can be variable over the course of a career. So a few bad weeks and a little less power and suddenly instead of hitting .292/.335/.511 he’s 20 or 30 points lower across the board. This doesn’t make him a bad hitter, especially for a SS, but it aint spectacular.
But so far this season, Desmond picked up right where he left off. Actually, you could make the argument that he’s hitting even better. At .292/.313/.541, his OBP is a little bit lower, but his power is up and his average is a smidge higher. And to put it in perspective, he walks so infrequently that to get his OBP up to a comparable number to 2012, he would need two more walks this year – 5 instead of 3. If you add 2 walks, he would be hitting .292/.330/.541. Of course, he has to actually take a few of those walks, but the point remains.
Desi currently leads the NL in doubles, and he is only behind Troy Tulowitzki and Brandon Crawford(!) in HRs. His OPS, wOBA and wRC+ are 4th behind those two and Jean Segura. He is, a month into the year, probably the 4th best hitting SS in the league, behind an MVP type player in Colorado and a guy who’s bound to regress in SF. Segura is a great prospect and only 23 years old, he will probably cool off after going around the league once or twice, but it’s not inconceivable that he’s this good. Ok, he’s not .347/.398/.531 good, but he may end up a better hitter than Desi.
All that aside, it looks like Desmond really is one of the premier hitting shortstops in the league, something almost inconceivable two years ago. It looks like Desmond will be able to continue to hit for average and power, something rare for his position. In short, it Desmond this year looks alot like Desmond from last year, and that’s a great thing.