The unlikeliest of MVP Candidates; Ian Desmond

Neither the National or American league have one player currently running away with the MVP race. There are four, maybe five guys in each league that will likely continue to challenge one another for the award. The Mike Trout’s and Bryce Harper’s of the world are two of the names that will probably end up challenging for the award by seasons end. But with that said, there’s a dude in Texas who is flying completely under the radar that has been as valuable as anyone in the league. His name is Ian Desmond.

Offensively, Desmond has done a little bit of everything thus far in 2016. Here are his American League rankings:

 

If Desmond continues on the pace he’s played at, he’d end the season two hits shy of 200, score 115 runs, hit 43 doubles, 25 home runs, drive in 104 RBI and swipe 29 bags. All that while hitting north of .300, with an OPS near .900. This is all happening just a year after hitting .233 and a lot of people wondering if he’ll ever be an everyday player once again. Desmond has been especially good in the friendly confines in Arlington, as he’s strumming his guitar to a tune of .366 at home.

Where Desmond has made his money this season is when runners have been on base. With nobody on base, Desmond has hit just .252 this season but when at least one person’s on, he’s lighting opposing pitching up, hitting .398. Even more impressive is his .343 average with runners in scoring position. In 70 at-bats with RISP, Desmond has driven in 32 runs. His ability to come up clutch for the Rangers this season has helped them achieve the best record in the AL currently.

When Desmond signed in Texas, he knew Elvis Andrus was their shortstop as he agreed he would move to the outfield. In his seven professional seasons prior to 2016, Desmond had played 7.1 innings in the outfield. He has a .983 fielding percentage in center field which is right on par with the league average and already has five assists from the OF, putting him 11th in the entire league in that category.

When we think about the Texas Rangers, the first names that come to mind are Fielder, Hamels, Beltre and Darvish. All of a sudden, not a single of those aforementioned cornerstone players have been as valuable as Ian Desmond has for the Rangers this year. Don’t be surprised if Desmond is fighting for the award comes years end.

Let’s not forget where the Rangers were 72 games into the season in 2015. With virtually the same construction of the roster, they were 37-35, four games out of first place. 72 games into ’16, the Rangers have the best record in the American league at 46-26. It isn’t only because of Desmond and his fantastic first-half, but it is a very big reason as to why.

AL West Predictions

AL WEST

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1) Texas Rangers

  • Notable acquisitions: Justin Ruggiano, Ian Desmond
  • Notable losses: Yovanni Gallardo, Mike Napoli, Leonys Martin

 

Strengths: When Texas convinced Ian Desmond to sign on to playing left field for them, it officially gave the team the perfect balance in their lineup. Texas has some big boppers in the heart of their lineup, but they can steal bases and hit for a high average. They have depth off of their bench as well, especially if and when Josh Hamilton returns. Looking up and down the Rangers lineup, I don’t see any holes.

Weaknesses: This could be a stretch because the Texas rotation could be somewhat dominant, but past injuries could loom large. Yu Darvish missed all of last year and Derek Holland missed a large portion of it. Both have to prove they’re at full strength. Colby Lewis also had a very unexpected season in 2015 and I’m not sure it’s realistic that he’s a 17-game winner again in ’16. Like I said, the rotation could be just fine, in fact dominant, but there are questions that have to be answered before we proclaim them the perfect team.

Team MVP: Prince Fielder

W/L Prediction: 93-69

 

2) Houston Astros

  • Notable acquisitions: Ken Giles, Doug Fister
  • Notable losses: Mark Appel, Chris Carter, Scott Kazmir

 

Strengths: Houston’s strength is their youth. There oldest everyday player is 30-years old. That’s still in the midst of their respective prime. The middle of their infield is the best in the game and we’ve only gotten half a season out of them together. Each member of their outfield can hit for power, play plus defense and steal bases. Houston is young, fun, entertaining and should win a lot of games in 2016.

Weaknesses: Like their strength, their youth could also be their weakness. Let’s look at Game 5 against the Royals in last year’s ALDS. They had the series wrapped up in a bow, but everything came unraveled for the young ‘Stros. They’ve learned what it’s like to lose the hard way which should help this team build character and respond well in the face of adversity. Key word in that last statement was should. It may have crushed them in all crunch time situations. We will have to wait and see how it plays out.

Team MVP: Carlos Correa

W/L Prediction: 90-72

 

3) Seattle Mariners

  • Notable acquisitions: Steve Cishek, Wade Miley, Nori Aoki, Joaquin Benoit, Adam Lind
  • Notable losses: Carson Smith, Logan Morrison, Leonys Martin

 

Strengths: The Mariners rotation has a lot of interesting arms hat should carry their team for the 2016 season. Resigning Hisashi Iwakuma was huge. As we getting Wade Miley in a trade with the Red Sox. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are the most intriguing of the bunch. Both have an immense amount of talent but both are unproven at the big league level. The Mariners success could ride on how well both Walker and Paxton pitch in 2016.

Weaknesses: The Mariners have a strong infield heading into the 2016 season, but the outfield has a lot of question marks. With Nelson Cruz likely moving over to DH full-time, the outfield doesn’t have a real identity. None of their guys hit for much power or for average for that matter. Matter of fact, not one of the top four outfielders on Seattle’s depth chart had north of 355 at-bats last season. Who’s going to be the leader of this crew when it’s all said and done?

Team MVP: Robinson Cano

W/L Prediction: 83-79

 

4) Los Angeles Angels

  • Notable acquisitions: Yunel Escobar, Craig Gentry, Andrelton Simmons, Cliff Pennington,
  • Notable losses: Erick Aybar, David Freese, Mat Latos

 

Strengths: Mike Trout, Fish Boy, Trout, Mike. Whatever you want to call him, he’s the Angels strength. The Angels haven’t exactly surrounded Trout with a lot of help, so Trout is going to have to put together an astronomical season in order for Angels to compete for a playoff spot. And if anyone can do it, it’s Trout. He’s currently the face of baseball and expect nothing short of greatness for Trouty once again in ’16.

Weaknesses: As it was mentioned in the strengths, management has exactly helped Trout in terms of putting really good pieces around him. Other than Trout, Pujols and Calhoun, the Angels have no real power threats. They also don’t have a true leadoff hitter or anyone that will wow you with their ability to spray the ball over at the field at the dish. They need Trout, Pujols and Calhoun to really provide them with an insane amount of production. We shouldn’t expect Yunel Escobar’s addition to mean that much. I doubt he can do anywhere close to what he did last year again in 2016.

Team MVP: Mike Trout

W/L Prediction: 77-83

 

5) Oakland Athletics

  • Notable acquisitions: Henderson Alvarez, Ryan Madson, John Axford, Yonder Alonzo, Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis, Chris Coghlan
  • Notable losses: Brett Lawrie, Drew Pomeranz, Ike Davis

Strengths: The Athletics aren’t going to be very good in 2016, but they do have a plethora of outfield depth. They honestly have four-to-six guys that could start at any outfield spot. The three that will start – Davis, Burns and Reddick – have a great combination of speed, average and power. When one of them need a day, Coghlan, Crisp and Fuld can provide them with an day off.

Weaknesses: Other than Sonny Gray, Oakland’s staff is really going to struggle. Nobody on the staff other than Gray made north of 21 starts last season. With some high-powered American League offenses this year, the A’s staff is going to run into some problems. They have a lot of depth in the outfield I’m sure some teams would be interested in. Acquiring a starter or two wouldn’t be the worst idea Billy Beane would have.

Team MVP: Sonny Gray

W/L Prediction: 75-85