In 16 days, all the Nationals diehards will be preparing to head to Nationals Park on Opening Day. Until then, we're going to predict the 25 man roster. With one catch. We're going to do it one day at a time. This way, we can provide more in depth thoughts on who we think is going to make the roster, why we think so, and what to expect from them in 2011. On the morning of Opening Day, we'll post the real 25-man compared with what we predicted.
Today's featured player is Ian Desmond, the incumbent SS.
Why?: As a September call-up in 2009, Ian Desmond showed the Nats brass that all the years of hype were well deserved. He hit for average, hit for power, and provided sparkling defense. During last years Spring Training, Desmond won the starting job over long-time cog, Cristian Guzman.
The year progressed and Desmond (at times) flashed brilliance in the field, and provided veteran-level leadership in the dugout. At other times, his defense was less than stellar, as he had a MLB leading 34 errors. It is not uncommon for error rates to drastically decrease after a shortstops rookie season, and many expect Desmond to keep that trend going. He has earned the starting job, for now at least, with his leadership and potential.
What you should expect?: First and foremost, you should expect Desmond's error rate to go way down, by at least 10. 24 Errors isn't great, but it is far better than 34.
Offensively, things are going to be a bit different from last year. Starting the 2010 season, Desmond was resigned to hitting 7 and 8 in the lineup, giving him breaking pitches, and few chances to knock in runs or score runs. After a mid-season trade of 2 hitter, Guzman again, Desi was bumped up to the top of the order in his place. In that spot, he hit .326 with an .858 OPS, over .050 and .125 (respectively) points higher than his career average; and 186 AB is a pretty good sample size.
I'm predicting a break-out year for the young Shortstop. .300 AVG, .850 OPS, 18-20 HR, 90+ Runs, 80 RBI. And yes, far fewer errors.