Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 11/9/14
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From 2009-2011, Ian Desmond hit 22 homers in 1,302 plate appearances. In 2012 he hit 25 in just 547. What changed? For starters, Desmond’s fly ball rate corrected a two-year slide, rebounding to 34.5%, and he made those fly balls count, muscling 18.2% of them over the fence. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do for an encore.Contributing to Desmond’s breakout from borderline top-200 player to 34th overall in fantasy was his surprising .292 average. He doesn’t have a very good K:BB ratio (last year it was his usual sub-par 4:1), but in each of his three full seasons he’s increased his line drive rate and decreased his infield fly rate. Desmond is slowly improving, and in my mind the biggest question relating to his fantasy value over the next few years isn’t, “How many homers will he hit?” but rather “How does he fit into a top-heavy Nationals lineup?”At a GlanceStrengths: SBNeutral: R, HR, RBI, BA, SLG, OPSWeaknesses: OBPPlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Hanley Ramirez (LAD)Likely scenario: Ben Zobrist (TB), Brett Lawrie (TOR), Aaron Hill (ARI)Worst-case scenario: Michael Saunders (SEA)Ian Desmond 2013 Fantasy ProjectionIt seems that Desmond, once a very raw player, is rapidly refining his game. Those who expect him to regress towards his .253 average in 2011 aren’t looking at the whole picture. While I’d be a little surprised if he repeats with another .290+ mark, he certainly could end up in the .280s.Harking back to Desmond’s homers again, let’s use one of the web’s best baseball tools to analyze his chances at repeating. HitTrackerOnline.com actually tracks the distance, speed, and trajectory of every home run hit around the league. Below is the landing spot of all of Desmond’s homers from the last three seasons overlayed on Nationals Park. You’ll notice last year he actually started showing power to the opposite field, a great sign that his homers are the result of skill and not luck. I’m not ready to say he’ll hit 25 again, but I think 18 should be very easily doable.At a shallow position, Desmond should provide some very nice numbers. Because of the uncertainty surrounding his batting average I would call him a safer play in H2H leagues than roto, and he takes a hit in OBP leagues where his low walk rate might make it difficult for him to top a .325 OBP.(click to enlarge)Desmond’s homers for the last three seasons. Notice how last year he used the whole field, a great sign that the power returns in 2013. Images courtesy of HitTrackerOnline.com.
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