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Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: IAN DESMOND SS/OF TEXAS RANGERS

A popular theme when handicapping players in fantasy baseball is to key in one guys who are facing free agency.  The thinking goes that such a player will give their best effort with money on the table and career campaigns are almost expected.  Well that story doesn't always unfold in such a positive manner which was the case with Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond who turned out a big contract offer from the team last spring training in banking on a huge 2015 that would set him up for a monster payday the following winter.  Instead Desmond produced his worst season ever since becoming a mainstay in the Washington infield and that led to him being almost completely ignored once the free agency got underway.  Things got so bad that it took more than a week into spring training for Desmond to finally find a home with the Texas Rangers and he had to agree to move to the outfield to make it happen.  So as always let's dig in and take a closer look at what Desmond could accomplish with his new team in 2016 fantasy baseball. 

First the trainwreck that was Desmond's 2015:

.233
19 HR
62 RBI
69 R
13 SB 

The world "ugly" comes to mind here as Desmond saw career-lows almost across the board in terms of being a regular shortstop for the Nats.  His struggles went to the defensive too as well as Desmond was one giant "Error" in the field and his issues in the field could have hurt his offensive numbers as well.  Be that as it may, Desmond was horrendous in 2015 and really put a major hurting on his fantasy baseball owners who expected another 20/20 season. 

It was the power/speed ability of Desmond that made him a top five fantasy baseball shortstop from 2012-14 as he reached the 20/20 mark in all three of those campaigns despite some batting average troubles due to a high K rate.  Desmond's owners were willing to put up with the ugly average as long as the power/speed numbers were there and that ability was very impressive at the shallow shortstop spot.  Then 2015 arrives and Desmond's already high K rate went even higher as he whiffed in a career-high 29.2 percent of his at-bats which is a frighteningly high number.  The result was the .232 average which hurts anywhere and at any spot.   Also Desmond's speed seemed to be eroding a bit as well as he sank to 13 steals after going for 25, 21, and 21 the three years prior.  At the age of 30, it is likely Desmond has lost a bit of speed and so projecting 20 stolen bases going forward is a bit of a pipe dream.  Yes the 19 home runs were an impressive number at shortstop but even there Desmond fell off after he reached 20 or more again from 2012-14. 

So now Desmond enters into another phase of his career as he goes into the American League and will now man another position in the outfield.  On the plus side, Desmond gets about as big a ballpark boost as a hitter can get as he moves from spacious Washington to the home run haven that is Texas.  On the negative side, Desmond will have to go through an adjustment period in facing unfamiliar AL pitchers and also dealing with the distractions that a new defensive position brings.  Considering how all the errors Desmond committed likely hurt his offensive numbers last season, this is no such small concern. 

Now as far as what Desmond could accomplish this season, the power is holding on here and should actually get a boost moving to Texas.  We can see Desmond moving back to the 20-plus home run range and even go above 70 in runs and RBI which when combined with the power makes him quite intriguing again.  Desmond retains shortstop eligibility for one more season which is where you want to play him but the average and slipping steals are issues to worry about.  In particular the average is a fright fest given the high K rate from Desmond and again going against unfamiliar pitchers won't remedy that much if at all.  Thus .260 would be about as high as we would go in predicting where Desmond will end up on that front but even lower would be very possible.  The steals should still end up in the double-digits but they could be slipping given the advancing age. 

When you put it all together, Ian Desmond has some decent bounce back appeal for 2016 given the much reduced draft price and the fact he retains shortstop eligibility for one more season moving to a prime hitting park.  As long as you know about the warts, Desmond could be a steal. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .257 20 HR 65 RBI 77 R 14 SB 

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