Texas Rangers Ian Desmond: Second Half Expectations

Ian Desmond has been nothing short of phenomenal this season for the Texas Rangers. But, what should we expect from him over the second half of 2016?

Every fantasy owner’s dream is to draft a breakout player in the later rounds of the draft. But, usually these type of players are either unknown or under the radar type of selections, not eight year veterans.

Ian Desmond has arguably been, not only the steal of fantasy drafts so far, but possibly a AL MVP candidate as well. The Rangers own the best record in the AL., and the key to their success has been Desmond’s ability to spearhead the team’s offense. He currently has a, .322/15 HR/55 RBI/15 SB/.899 OPS line, which easily ranks him in the top 10 fantasy performers this season.

Even with his success this season, there still seems to be this underlying sense that Desmond is bound to crash back to Earth, especially after seeing him struggle last season. He is often mentioned as a “sell-high” trade chip, but should fantasy owners have more faith in that his production is legit, and more importantly, sustainable?

Ian Desmond is undoubtedly one of the most athletic players in baseball, and the move to the OF has only reaffirmed that. He has settled in nicely, especially in center field, so that initial distraction has been nullified.

From a fantasy perspective, having the benefit of Desmond still qualifying as a SS plays a large part in his value, and was basically the only reason owners drafted him again this season.

In 2015, Desmond was downright terrible the first half of the season. He did turn things around offensively over the second half, but he was not able to escape having a career worst season. Coming into 2016, it was hard to predict what version of Desmond would show up, but owners still expected another potential 20 HR/15 SB campaign.

Desmond’s biggest knock was that his swing and miss tendencies killed his AVG and weekly consistency. He his a career .269 hitter, which is more than acceptable, but his .233 AVG last season was unbearable. Some will see his .322 AVG this season, and think it is purely a mirage based on his AVG dips the previous two years. But, what if Desmond’s improvements are because of tangible reasons, and not just luck driven?

His success so far can be simply tracked to a change in his approach at the plate.  Throughout his entire career, Desmond has swung at over 30% of pitches out of the strike zone.

But in 2016, he has cut that by nearly 6% from last season, which has resulted in a career low 28.5% rate. This more refined approach at the plate has opened the door for Desmond to attack more pitches in the strike zone, do more damage at the plate.

Ian Desmond’s improvement in plate discipline has given the ability to raise his LD rate to a career best 23%, and raised his Hard contact rate by 4% from last season, bringing it to 32% in 2016. Desmond owns the natural bat speed to excel in the majors, and the talent has been evident during his career. Fantasy owners can look to his change in plate approach as a direct and tangible cause for his breakthrough this season.

Even with all the improvements he has made, detractors will still point to his .402 BABIP as the root of his success. His BABIP is without a doubt high, nearly over 100 points the league average, yet his change in approach surely negates some of the concern. Desmond has played in 89 games this season, and has struck out 94 times while taking 28 Walks. This also happens to be another area of optimism, as his 24.5 K% and 7.3 BB% are up from last season.

All signs seems to point to that Ian Desmond owners should expect more of the same production wise. The AVG will drop some thanks to his BABIP evening out, but at worse, his AVG will drop into the .280 range. Texas remains a hitter’s haven, and it will be no surprise to see him once again eclipse the 20 HR mark. Desmond has routinely been hitting in the two hole as well, and with the Rangers’ lineup still being one of the most dangerous in baseball, the counting stats will surely be there.

In an effort to legitimize a player’s success, it is key to see if their peripheral stats support the standard stat outputs. In Ian Desmond’s case the peripheral stats not only validate his stat line, but offers an exact area of improvement which has launched him to one of the top fantasy performers this season.

Even though Desmond may have been one of the most frustrating talents in the league, he has finally repaid those fantasy owners that gave him another chance.