In Thursday’s 5-4 win over the Colorado Rockies, shortstop Ian Desmond scattered four hits across the field, drove in a run and scored a crucial run in the seventh inning after back-to-back balks. He extended his career-best 15-game hitting streak and during the stretch is hitting .404 (23 for 57) with four doubles, two home runs, 11 RBI and four walks. He hasn’t made an error since April 21, a streak of 46 games and the longest such streak among major league shortstops. He has raised his season slash line to .293/.326/.483, has an OPS of .809 with eight homers and 32 RBI.
Is this enough to make Desmond, a first-time all-star last season, an all-star again?
Given a recent injury to the leading candidate and Desmond’s torrid of late, he has vaulted himself into consideration.
In the most recent fan vote tallies released earlier this week, Desmond wasn’t even among the top five shortstops receiving votes. Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki is having an MVP caliber season and leads all NL shortstops with 1,691,262 votes. San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford sits in second with 1,015,633 votes. Milwaukee’s Jean Segura, St. Louis’ Pete Kozma and Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons round out the top five. Some are deserving candidates, others less so, but Desmond should be among that group..
Deservedly, Tulowitzki leads all voters. He is among the NL leaders in several categories. And among league shortstops, he leads them in average (.347), home runs (16), RBI (51) and OPS (1.048). But after feeling discomfort in side in recent days, Tulowitzki broke a rib while fielding a Desmond infield single in the eighth inning. He faces a disabled list stint and an all-star game appearance seems out of the question.
With Tulowitzki likely out, Segura is the most logical choice, as of now, to nab the starting spot for the NL based on his body of work. The Brewers’ shortstop, one of the players acquired in the trade with the Los Angeles Angels for Zack Greinke last season, has blossomed this season. He has 87 hits, most among NL shortstops, and boasts a .339 average, .374 on-base percentage and 19 stolen bases. He has also hit 10 home runs and drive in 30 runs.
After Segura, San Diego’s Everth Cabrera and Desmond boast the next best offensive resume. (Andrelton Simmons of Atlanta is perhaps the best fielding shortstop in the league but his offensive numbers don’t stack up.) Here’s how Desmond ranks: average (fourth), homers (third), RBI (second), extra-base hits (second) and OPS (third).
After early struggles defensively, Desmond has settled down and played stellar defense. Desmond’s seven errors are tied for seventh most among shortstops, the same number as Crawford. Desmond’s relatively low on-base percentage (.326) is simply a product of the hitter he is, an early-count swinging, extra-base and RBI producer. Desmond is a team leader, a candidate for a long-term extension, a well-respected player and a growing name around the sport.
“I think he’s definitely in the top group of shortstops,” said Manager Davey Johnson when asked about Desmond’s candidacy before his four-hit game on Thursday. “Although, a couple other shortstops are having a great year. [Jean] Segura. This guy here [Troy Tulowitzki]. I would rather see him get the time off. Let those other guys get worn out.”
Johnson could help nudge Desmond into the game. He was picked by Giants Manager Bruce Bochy to serve on his NL All-Star team staff. Johnson could convince Bochy to select Desmond as a manager’s reserve pick. Bochy was asked by reporters about the all-star merits of his own players, outfielder Hunter Pence, he responded bluntly: “Fortunately I do have some say.”
Consider the stat lines of several top NL shortstops, including WAR (wins above replacement, per FanGraphs.com):
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: .347/.413/.635 with 16 homers and 51 RBI, 3.9 WAR (1st among NL SS)
Jean Segura, Brewers: .339/.374/.545 with 10 homers and 30 RBI, 3.1 WAR (3rd)
Everth Cabrera, Padres: .295/.374/.413 with 4 homers and 24 RBI, 3.3 WAR (2nd)
Ian Desmond, Nationals: .293/.326/.483 with 8 homers and 32 RBI, 1.8 WAR (5th)
Brandon Crawford, Giants: .289/.353/.431 with five homers and 27 RBI, 1.9 WAR (4th)
Andrelton Simmons, Braves: .253/.286/.356 with five homers and 32 RBI, 1.0 WAR (7th)
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: .262/.326/.381 with four homers and 25 RBI, 1.2 WAR (6th)
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Toledo 9, Syracuse 7: Danny Espinosa began his rehab assignment and went 1 for 2, scored a run, struck out and played three innings at second. In his second game since being optioned here, Tyler Moore went 1 for 4 with four RBI. He is 1 for 7 with three strikeouts in two games. Eury Perez homered and Corey Brown drove in two. Danny Rosenbaum started and allowed four runs and walked three over four innings.
Harrisburg 9, Richmond 0: Taylor Jordan tossed a complete game shutout on 112 pitches, struck out 11, walked one and allowed only five hits. Jordan, who underwent Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2011, has a 0.44 ERA, 39 strikeouts and six walks over 41 innings since his promotion to Harrisburg. Brian Goodwin and Justin Bloxom each drove in two runs.
Potomac 8, Frederick 0: A.J. Cole tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out 10 batters while walking only two. Jason Martinson went 3 for 5 and smashed three home runs and drove in four. The Nationals claimed the Carolina League Northern Division First-Half championship.