Holding Court: Is Ian Desmond Cooked? Or Will Twitter Save Him?

@IDesmond20

Ian Desmond has two weeks to resemble some form has his recent self. By then Anthony Rendon *should* be back. So should Jayson Werth. Maybe even Ryan Zimmerman. The trading deadline of July 31st is also in two weeks. Convenient. If the Nats had a big division lead they would have the luxury to let Desmond play his way out of whatever it is this is. But they don’t.
The top priority for this team is getting @ouij a new hat winning the World Series, not Ian Desmond’s next contract.
He’s had 350 plate appearances in 85 games (prior to Saturday’s games) and with 14 games left in July, he’ll have about 400 PAs by the end of the month. The next 50 or so at-bats won’t change his terrible numbers (.209/.254./.332, -0.9 WAR) much but they can at least be an indication of progress. What does progress look like? Fangraphs has a great article breaking down his troubles – swinging and missing high fastballs, a past sweet spot  – so progress would be less Ks and more extra-base hits. If he can show any sort of progress in those two areas, his experience and leadership make it worth the gamble to let him try to improve by the playoffs.
But if not, it’s time to bench him. Danny Espinosa has put up the numbers Ian Desmond was supposed to (.255/.331/.433, 2.2 WAR) so he’s the one that should keep playing. Yunel Escobar has put up the numbers expected of him (.325/.372/.423, 1.4 WAR) so he should keep playing. Once Rendon and Zimmerman come back, someone will have to sit.
If Desmond doesn’t show some kind of turn around, and maybe even if he does, I think the better bet would be to let Zim and Rendon play their way back into shape than to sacrifice ABs from them to give to Desmond. At some point he is what he is. Maybe next year will be different. But the priority must be this year. And this year he’s been terrible.
The falloff in his play happened after he left Twitter. Now he’s back. If it’s not Twitter, then it’s because he’s slowing down. Let’s hope it’s Twitter. 

Friday Spring Training Thoughts

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Will Ferrel is outstanding.

There’s been a little over a week of spring training games, and here are some of my reactions to the headlines from this last week.

The Big Picture is that most things look fine right now. Apart from what I’ll discuss below, most players seem to be doing very well. Pitcher be pitchin’, hitters be hittin’, fielders be fieldin’. Except as outlined below, no alarms, no surprises. Of course, it could be a dumpster fire of performance and I still wouldn’t be concerned. It’s spring, for cryin’ out loud! The one thing you don’t want to happen is to have…

Injuries Abound: The Nationals are far and away the best team on the field in the National League East, and are as good as any other team in baseball. Don’t believe me? Read this Fangraphs article explaining why they are the heaviest favorite of all favorites to win their division.

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Get To Know Some Nats: Infielders

Every year, we put together player profiles for the Nationals players likely to make the 25 man roster. This way you’ll have a better idea of just who is taking the field. Except for a few notable exceptions, the Washington Nationals of 2015 will be the same team you’ve been watching for a few years. So we’re going to forego lengthy profiles of stuff you already know, and focus on capsules for a few players at a time. A quicker, more forward focused view for the savvy fan.

You can read our outfielder preview here, and our starting pitcher preview here.

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Ian Desmond, SS

Fangraphs | 2014 Preview

On a team when every infielder has a story going into 2015, Desmond’s demands the most attention. Lo beware the shortstop who can hit, for they shall be in demand and cost lots and lots of money: And Desmond can hit. The list of shortstop with three 20 HR / 20 SB seasons is very short: Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramierez and Ian Desmond. (Seriously, buy Baseball Prospectus).

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Spring Training Question 3: Old (and New) Faces in New Places?

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The Nationals will feature four position players not playing the position they primarily played last year.  In his Monday chat, T. Boswell (oh Lord save me I am linking to a BOZ CHAT) remarked that the Nats shaky 2014 defense (which is a suspect sentiment given he’s employing fielding percentage, and Fangraphs ranked the Nats 7th overall) would now feature Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and the newly added Yunel Escobar all playing different positions on the field.

If I put aside the general grating against my brain every time I read something Boz writes, he’s right that this is a pretty big question. How will these guys fare in their different spots? We’ve touched on this already in our outfielder post (positing that Harper ought to flourish in right, while Werth may be able to handle left a bit better than he handled right). Shortstops tend to do well at second, and I’m not sure anyone has assumed anything other than Ryan Zimmerman can do a passable job at 1B, where his throwing (typically considered his weak spot) ought not come into play nearly at all.

Now with this post: I could postulate, what-if, speculate or pretend I can give you some direct, informative answer on how these guys will do in their new position. Or, I could fear-cast, telling you this will all end poorly based on nothing . I don’t want to do either of those things mostly because neither really answers the question. Frankly, nothing short of spring training and, ultimately, the 2015 season will tell us how they will fare.

Even though we can’t know what will happen, we can take a look at the reasons behind some of these moves. When faced with a question without a certain answer, we can only do the best we can with the information we have. So, instead, (in 101 style) let’s ask why these moves are being made at all, and look at some evidence for why.

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Nats Spring Training Question #5: Is the 25 Man Roster Already Set?

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As far as I can figure, the 2015 Nationals will head into Spring Training with at least 23 of their 25 slots filled and ready to go. A luxury to be sure, and not one that will repeat itself anytime soon. Over the next few seasons, at least a handful of free agents will be leaving each year, many from key positions. For example, the 2016 Nationals could be starting the season without Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Denard Span: And that’s just me thinking of starters off the top of my head. Each year after next, similar names may be on the way out the door, each requiring a spring training for new players to become acquainted with the team, young players trying to play their way on, and a parade of healthy competition for starting spots.
But the future is the future, and today is today: And today, the Nats won’t have to think too hard about a lot of the spots on the team. Each MLB club is allotted a 25 man roster to play day-to-day with, and an expanded 40 man roster where the additional 15 players are in the minor leagues, but available for call up at a moment’s notice.
Seriously, I just went through the roster and I’m not sure there is anywhere for anyone to break into the top 25. There, legitimately, may be no camp battles in 2015. So let’s count them up.

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