You can't hit a grounder over the fence, even in Coors Field. You can't hit anything over the fence if you're on the disabled list. Ian Desmond's Rockies debut was delayed until late April after his left hand was fractured by a pitch early in spring training. He spent two weeks on the DL in early June with a calf injury and aggravated it a little over a week after his return, costing him an additional month. All told, Desmond played in 95 contests, mostly in the outfield, but enough at first base to gain dual eligibility. When healthy, 62.7 percent of his batted balls were grounders, all but mitigating the advantage of playing at altitude. Desmond maintained a high BABIP, fueling a respectable .274 average, which he parlayed into 15 steals. Entering 2018, Desmond is expected to play every day. Expect a fantasy-friendly average and stolen base total, along with runs and possibly 20-something homers if he can get more loft on the ball.
Desmond is expected to open the season as the Rockies' everyday first baseman, Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post reports. The Rockies' recent signing of Carlos Gonzalez leaves no room in the outfield, so Desmond will head over to first base, despite prospect Ryan McMahon staking a serious claim to a full-time role at the position with his outstanding spring. It appears McMahon's path to the Opening Day roster will have to come as a utility man, however, as Desmond's five-year, $70 million contract ensures that Colorado will want some return on investment. Desmond was mostly a disappointment in his first season at altitude with a meager .274/.326/.375 batting line, prompting him to modify his swing in the offseason. With a .135 average and 18 strikeouts in 37 at-bats this spring, the changes haven't seemed to pay dividends, though Desmond has collected three of his five hits this spring in his last three contests, including two home runs.
Desmond has started at first base in both of his appearances during Cactus League play thus far, going 0-for-5 in those contests. The hitless start to the spring is less significant than the fact that Desmond has yet to see duty in left field, where the 32-year-old said prior to spring training that he expected to see most of his action in 2018, according to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Even so, it appears the Rockies are still viewing Ryan McMahon as the leading candidate for the everyday first-base gig, as he's made three of his five starts at the position this spring and has strengthened his case for the job by getting off to a hot start at the plate. As the Rockies ramp up the workloads for their veteran players later on in the spring, expect Desmond to see more starts in left field and establish himself as the top option at the position heading into Opening Day. Though David Dahl and Gerardo Parra (hand) represent appealing alternatives in the corner outfield, Desmond's team-high $22 million salary should give him some leash in a full-time role following a disappointing first season in Colorado.
Desmond might move over to first base against left-handed pitchers in 2018, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports. As the Rockies' roster stands now, it seems like the veteran will see most of his time in left field like he did last season. Top prospect Ryan McMahon will likely take over at first base at some point in the season, but Harding speculates that having Desmond spell him against southpaws would help take some pressure off the young corner infielder. Things could change during spring training (as they did last season when Desmond got injured), but it seems like he's in line to maintain his dual position eligibility through this season.
Desmond is not in the lineup against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday for the wild-card game, Jenny Carver of AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain reports. Desmond will occupy a spot on the bench in favor of Gerardo Parra with right-hander Zack Greinke on the hill for Arizona. Although Desmond didn't crack the starting nine for this winner-takes-all elimination game, he will likely appear off the bench once, or if Greinke is removed from the contest early, more than once.
Desmond went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run, four RBI and two runs during Wednesday's win over Miami. It's been a disappointing fantasy campaign for Desmond, as his .278/.329/.381 slash line is well below the marks he posted last season, and he also has just seven homers, 40 RBI, 14 stolen bases and 45 runs. Multiple injuries have taken their toll, but Desmond also hasn't taken advantage of his favorable home hitting environment.