Ian Desmond never hit more than 13 home runs in a full minor league season. He drilled 10 in 2010, his rookie season, and eight last year. He says nothing has changed in his swing or approach, but already, through one quarter of this season, Desmond has already crushed seven home runs, which ties him for the Nationals’ team lead.
“Daddy strength,” said Desmond, whose son turned 1 at the end of April. “They say when you have a kid, you get stronger. Thanks, Grayson.”
That was about the best explanation Desmond could come up with. Whatever the reason for Desmond’s power surge, the Nationals will take it. He has hit for power like few shortstops this year. He’s tied for third among major league shortstops with seven homers, and his .473 slugging percentage ranks fifth.
Desmond has hit five homers in his past 90 at-bats, including three in the past week. They have not been cheap, either. His blast last night rocketed on a rope over the center field fence, a line drive that never stopped until it cleared the wall.
“I’m just hitting the ball,” Desmond said. “It’s not like I’m trying to lift. That was a line drive. It just went out. I’m just trying to make contact and not strike out.”
The home runs have come from out of the blue. He drilled 50 homers over 2,662 minor league plate appearances and 18 in his first two major league seasons. He doesn’t necessarily expect it to be the start of a trend.
“I’ve never been a home run hitter at any point in my life, and I don’t think I am now,” Desmond said. “I’m just trying to hit the ball, and I’m getting lucky I guess.”
It may be more than luck. Desmond, at 26, has reached an age when power sometimes starts to emerge. He has seemingly always had the ability within him – during his September call-up in 2009, Desmond crushed a homer to the back wall in center field. Manager Davey Johnson has said before he believes Desmond has the potential to hit around 25 homers in a season, that he could even bat third someday.
“Ian is an awful strong and awful talented shortstop,” Johnson said. “When he connects, he’s got as much power on this ball club as anybody, when you watch him in BP.”
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