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MLB Washington Nationals

Ian Desmond Quietly Establishing Himself As Washington Nationals’ MVP

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

He doesn’t have the All-World talent of Bryce Harper, the nine-digit contract extension of Ryan Zimmerman, or the semi-famous beard of Jayson Werth.

That, however, hasn’t stopped Ian Desmond from being the most valuable player for the Washington Nationals in 2013. Whether you happen to take his team-leading 2.2 fWAR with a grain of salt or not, it’s difficult to not say that in a tumultuous season for the Nats thus far, it’s been the shortstop that has provided the most stability.

He might not be as good as Harper, but he has the durability that the 20-year-old sophomore doesn’t have this year — ditto for Werth. Remember when Desmond played half of last season with an oblique strain? It’ll take more than that to get him out of the lineup now.

And despite being buried lower in the lineup, he is outpacing no. 3 hitter Zimmerman in production with a team-leading 38 RBIs, and has as many SBs as leadoff man Denard Span.

In short, Desmond is bringing the complete package of defense (1.0 fielding runs above average) and offense, and his .280/.318/.447 is one prime example of how weaknesses in a player’s skill set (ie. he doesn’t really get on base) can be diminished by proper usage (ie. hitting fifth or lower in the lineup).

Though, considering the streak that the 27-year-old is on, you could probably make an argument that he can hit just about anywhere.

Including his 1-for-5 performance where he just about single-handedly won a 6-2 contest for the Nats over the Philadelphia Phillies with an extra-inning grand slam off Michael Stutes, Desmond has now safely hit in all but three of his 16 games in June, with a .344/.394/.574 triple-slash that ranks him third among shortstops in OPS for the month, while he has the sole lead with 18 RBIs.

More impressive than the fact that he’s on his way to yet another 20-20 season though, is that fact that he’s doing so with a reduced 13.9 percent HR/FB rate. Instead, he’s swinging much less at outside pitches (33.7 percent vs. 38.3 in 2012) and hitting baseballs harder when he gets his bat on it, as a career-best 22.0 percent line drive rate tells you.

Best of all, of course, is that he’s just entering his prime at 27-years old.

Desmond might not get a whole lot of attention around the league, as he isn’t even close to getting that on his own team. But with Harper out and bats like Zimmerman struggling, the shortstop might be the only thing keeping the Nats offense from rock bottom right now — and that makes him more valuable than just about anyone else on the team at this point of the season.