Just nine players in 2013 finished the baseball season with 20 home runs and 20 steals. All of them were outfielders.
All but one, that is.
He doesn’t have the appeal of Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki, but shortstop Ian Desmond may very well be the top fantasy player at his position. It was Desmond, not Hanley or Tulo, that finished the year with 20/20 numbers. It was impressive, but more what’s even more impressive is the fact that he has now done it for two consecutive seasons. Oh, you like impressive numbers? Okay. Well consider the fact that only three other shortstops in the history of baseball have had more 20/20 seasons in their entire careers. These numbers are awesome, but still, Desmond seems to get little love in fantasy circles.
The buck stops here, folks.
Desmond took some steps forward last season, which clearly helped him post very strong numbers. For starters, his new stance from 2012 allowed him to cover more of the plate, resulting in a career-high 25 home runs. He followed it with 20 homers the season after. Desmond also posted by far the lowest GB/FB ratio of his career (1.27), and his 38 doubles (17th-most), prove that he may even have some more untapped power potential, though 20-25 home runs from a shortstop is perfectly fine. Only four shortstops in baseball last year hit 20 home runs or more, so combined that with Desmond’s 20-steal floor, and there is no doubt he is capable of finishing as fantasy’s number one shortstop.
But at age 28, is it possible that he is getting better?
In 2013, Desmond improved on his walk rate, raising it to 6.6 percent. He also swung at about four less pitches landing outside of the strike zone, while also swinging at four percent less total pitches. His plate discipline is improving, which, as a result, could lead to even more steals if he gets on base more often.
There are three ways of drafting the shortstop position this year. Either pay up for Tulo or Hanley and pray they stay healthy. Or you could wait and grab a guy solely for his stolen base potential like Jonathan Villar. And finally, you can play it safe with Desmond, a money in the bank 20/20 guy with upside for a bit more.
I think I prefer the latter.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.