Will Ian Desmond Develop Any Further?

In Buster Olney’s ESPN Insider Blog, he lays out the 10 players who find themselves at a career crossroads. One of the players his list was Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond:

“Scouts love his athleticism, but there is a running debate among rival evaluators about whether Desmond, at age 25, is better suited as a utilityman who plays a lot, or if he can be an everyday shortstop. Desmond made 34 errors in 2010, but he generally is getting a mulligan for that; some evaluators wonder if that number will decline precipitously now that Adam LaRoche is replacing Adam Dunn as the Washington first baseman. We’ll see.” 

This is a very valid question posed by Olney, and something I’ve pondered myself from time to time. Desmond has always had amazing tools, such as his agility, great arm, gap power to both sides of the field, and those tools have gotten him very far in the system. However at the age of 25, tools go out the window and people expect you to begin producing from those tools. Desmond showed flashes of good stuff in 2010, but over the course of the season he hit just .269/.308/.392 and made more mistakes at shortstop than anyone in the league. 2011 will certainly be the year he has to produce, because he’s no longer a prospect.

That of course is not to say that myself, or scouts for that matter do not think he can produce at the major league level. He just needs to show it, and perhaps with a year under his belt he will be able to. 

It took Desmond six years to make his way through the then diluted Nationals minor league system, which tells us he isn’t the fastest developer. In fact, the only level of the minor leagues that he didn’t spend at least a full season at was triple-A, where he caught fire to hit .354/.428/.461. However despite his one incredibly hot season, it took him about a year and a half to master each level, so there’s no reason to believe that  won’t be the same for the major leagues.

 Desmond has now played 175 MLB games and collected 663 plate appearances, a little under a year and a half of MLB service. This will be his test to see if he can rise to the occasion and become an above-average MLB player or a career utility guy who gets a lot of playing time, as Olney suggested. Word from the players and management within in the organization is that Desmond has the personality to be successful at this level. If that’s the case, it’s hard to believe he wont be successful at this level. Often times when you see players fizzle despite great tools it is a result of their own laziness or lack of confidence. Desmond has his head on straight, so Nationals fans have a lot to look forward to going into 2011.