Nationals Park tonight could have hosted a showcase of two of the National League’s best shortstops: Troy Tulowitzki, the hands-down current king of the position, against Ian Desmond, a contender for the next spot. Tulowitzki, though, is on the disabled list with a fractured rib, an injury that will have an impact this series and in two weeks, when the all-star teams are announced.
Because of both injuries and his own strong performance, Desmond has a strong case to be named an all-star for the second consecutive season. Tulowitzki will not return in time to play in the Midsummer Classic. Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, the NL stolen bases leader, landed on the disabled list yesterday with a mild hamstring strain.
Other than sensation rookie Jean Segura, Desmond has a claim as the best shortstop in the NL with Tulowitzki down. Per FanGraphs.com, Desmond ranks fourth in wins above replacement among NL shortstop with 2.2 behind Tulowitzki (3.9), Cabrera (3.6) and Segura (3.2).
Last year, the National League’s all-star roster included three shortstops, including Desmond, who did not play in the game because of a strained oblique. If they take three shortstops again, Desmond has a strong chance to make it with Tulowitzki out.
“Shortstop is such a premium position,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “When you got guys that can also hit 20 home runs and hit in the middle of the order, that’s obviously important. It’s not an easy position to find an impact player at. And Desi is definitely one of those guys.”
Desmond can hit for power like few shortstops, slugging .477 with 11 homers following the one he hit off Roy Oswalt on Thursday night. His defense has been spotless after a rocky start. He had made seven errors by April 21. He has not made one since, a span of 52 games without an error.
“He’s about as solid as you can get there,” Zimmerman said. “He’s making the routine plays, and then he gets to balls to make plays look easy that shouldn’t look as easy as he makes them look.”
Despite an offense that produces fewer base runners with less frequency than any team aside from the Marlins, Desmond has 38 RBI, including seven game-winners, most on the Nationals. The Nationals have vastly underachieved, but Desmond has helped them cling close to .500 with his consistency. He may not reach much himself – his on-base percentage is .318 – but he does everything else well.
“There’s not too many shortstop that can do what he’s doing – play defense, extra-base hits,” Zimmerman said. “He’s a very dynamic player. He’d be my vote.”