The Speed of Bill James, The Power of Grant Desme, and the chance to move Desme back to a Short-Stop.

I am going to take you on a little drive.  It can be a long drive or a short drive depending on if you want to access the many links provided in this post. I hoped to have answered many of my own questions in writing it.  I have succeeded in that regard and maybe more.  Now for the drive...

This is an extensive scouting profile of A+ Stockton Center Fielder Grant Desme, using some Bill James statistics and primers.  When I started this profile, I wanted to know more on how Desme's injury's affected him and the chance of moving him back to his High School and Early College position of Short-Stop.

6'2, 205lb.  Age 23. 2009 Combined Stats between A and A+....105 gm..... 29D, 6T, 26 HR, 80 RBI, 37 for 41SB, 900+OPS.

Selected by Oakland Athletics in 2nd Round (74th overall) of 2007 amateur entry draft. He was the fourth player taken in that draft by the A's after Simmons, Doolittle and Brown. Bats right, throws right.

Coming out of Hi-School he was a highly-regarded, swith hitting short-stop who could play either middle infield position...Had the ability to hit with power to all fields. High School: Played four years of baseball at Stockdale High School...In 2003, batted .419 with 25 runs scored, 18 runs batted in, five doubles, three triples and a home run....Co-MVP of the SWYL as a senior. He then went to San Deigo St and transferred to Cal-Poly the next year. His last year in College he earned the Big West’s triple crown for the regular season with a .405 batting average, 15 home runs and 53 RBIs in 50 games. He also stole 12 of 15 bases that season despite missing the final six games of the year due to a fractured wrist.

Desme also led the Big West in slugging percentage (.733), on-base percentage (.494) and total bases (143) en route to Big West Player of the Year and Louisville Slugger second-team All-America honors.The junior led the Mustangs in a total of 12 offensive categories. In national statistics for the regular season, Desme was 16th in slugging percentage (.733), 22nd in home runs per game (0.3), 28th in batting average (.405), 57th in runs scored per game (1.08) and 71st in RBIs per game (1.06).

With the broken wrist, the A's knew recovery should be expected to take at least a year. So the A's expected to not be able to play him until around July 2008.   However,  Improvement on a wrist injury will continue for at least two years. And thats right about now.  To see if that might be making a difference in his hitting,  I'm going to do his OPS splits by month. (split info here)

April-732.......May-822......June-(before call-up) 918......June ( after call-up)-658..........July-1086.......Aug-1227 (that just so happens to also be his OPS his last year of college before breaking his wrist, also 1227).  Info on broken wrists here. 

His shoulder injury happened in 2008 and was a torn labrum.  I could could not find much information on the injury but it took him most of 2008 to heal. torn labrum info here.   Whether its regular playing time or a completely healed wrist, Desme is now putting up numbers rarely seen. To see how rare, I want to look at his speed, check out his defense to find his future position, and also want to look at  his power with some comparable OPS. 

What I'm not going to do right now is spend any time looking deeper into his strikeout/contact problems.  I think it is a big problem that needs steady improvement.  And that, along with his age, is the reason he is not higher up on the prospect lists at the moment. However a post can only be so long and this one will be long enough without the weaknesses analysis. This is his rookie year, and even though he is old for the league, a move to Midland may not depress his numbers considering the Team OPS of Midland is 807 and for Stockton is a much lower 732.


First- I want to show his Speed and Defense.


Here are some different scouting report blurbs-2007-he's an average runner in terms of pure speed, although he does have good first step quickness. Desme has shown good instincts for stealing bases. 2008- he is just an average runner to first (4.3 seconds).

Here is also a scouting report number. The ratings are based on formulas that sum a player's entire career based on available statistics in their database, including minor league and college data. Full Summary here

Scouting Report
Power: 95
Speed: 71
Contact: 19



He has a better speed number  than 71% of all other players. I think his speed number is on the low side (for him) because of what he didn't do in college. In almost 500 at bats in college. Desme went  20-5 in Stolen Bases. In almost 500 at bats in the minor leagues, Desme has gone 39-5 in Stolen Bases. I'm not sure what happened between "average" and now but somethings changed for the better.  Now look at his power score. Wow, He's not going to improve much on that one.

Now, for  a different way to check his speed,  I will use a speed Score formula originally proposed by Bill James in 1987. His formula took six elements and put them on a scale of 1-10, then took the average of the six elements. These elements included stolen base percentage, stolen base attempts, triples, runs scored, grounded-into double plays and range factor.  The higher the number  the better.  5 is average.

Desme's (fangraph) speed score right now is around 8.2.  For some perspective, that's 2nd in the California League (Min 190 PA). and 4th in all A+ ball.  However the 1st-3rd place guys have an OPS of  603, 745 and 646 respectively.  Looking into all the higher AA leagues we see there are only 3 total players there with a speed score over 8.

For what that means- its time for a Bill James primer:

"Talent in baseball is not normally distributed. It is a pyramid. For every player who is 10 percent above the average player, there are probably twenty players who are 10 percent  below average."


scout blurbs- Jan 2008-I like his arm strength in CF but feel his range will deteriorate and be pushed to an outfield corner.

April 2009-On defense, Desme has been thrown into the center-field fire this year, and has shown he can indeed play both sides of the ball. While he profiles as a future corner outfielder, he possesses range, speed, and a good throwing arm. Yet, he hasn’t played center field since his sophomore college season at Cal Poly, and admittedly not very well. "I wasn’t a very good outfielder in college really," Desme said. "The first year was really rough."

The 2006 season was his first year in the outfield, having played shortstop through his freshman year at San Diego State. Since transferring, he has patrolled the outfield, and has shown considerable improvement, much in part to his downtime with the wrist injury. For most of his stay in the Arizona League last season he could not swing a bat, limiting him to outfield practice. "The only thing I could do is just shag B.P. every day, so I think that helped me a lot," 

full article here

It would seem like being injured actually helped him to spend all of his time on upgrading his Defense and somehow his speed, maybe he just observed pitcher's move's more than he ever did before out of boredom, so now he's just smarter?  Running around for B.P. balls all day got his legs to grow some muscles he didn't have before? Is it almost to the point where it might be time to think about trying him at SS again?

  • Before we are tempted to move him back to Shortstop, lets look at a Bill James primer about defense:
  • The defensive spectrum looks like this:

                   ( - - 1B - LF- RF - 3B - CF - 2B - SS - C - - )

with the basic premise being that positions at the right end of the spectrum are more difficult than the positions at the left end of the spectrum.  Players can generally move from right to left along the spectrum.

"Right-ward shifts along the defensive spectrum almost  never work"

"True shortage of talent almost  never occurs at the left end of the defensive spectrum."

List of Bill James primers here. I like the primer about the lead off batter the best (Ricky ball anyone?).

Almost never works is a good reason not to try. But Desme may be the exception to the rule with his unusual improvements. According to that defensive primer,  It would seem like a move to 3rd could be a good/easy move, especially for someone with his SS experience and arm. A move to 2nd would be the next step to the right of the spectrum if the A's did want to try and move him to a harder position than 3rd. Otherwise it seems CF seems to be a good spot to keep him right now and a move to SS is not going to happen.



A blurb- While the power display harkened memories of Dave Kingman, Ports manager Aaron Nieckula said Desme is equipped with more than just dead-red pull power. Nieckula’s take is Desme’s power ranges from left field to the right-center gap. "He’s not a dead pull guy," Nieckula said. "You can pitch him away if you want … but he’s going to punish you." .......................Dave Kingman's career major and minor league stats here

Isolated Power, or ISO, is a statistic that was created-invented by the famous general manager Branch Rickey and Al Roth in the 1950's (this pair also invented On Base Percentage). Isolated Power attempts to separate and measure a player's ability to hit for power as exhibited in extra base hits (doubles, triples, and home runs). Where batting average counts all hits equally, and slugging percentage gives credit for total bases, but also counts singles, ISO measures just the player's extra-base abilities. Isolated power is basically a ratio of Extra Base Hits per at bat.

Desme is leading all the (A+) leagues in Isolated Power at .368Jonathan Gaston is the only other (A+) player with an ISP over 300.  Gaston also has a speed score of 7.6 and is one of the only two other comparable players too Desme I found in A+.  T.J. Steele is the other with a great speed and power combo.  He has a 7.5 speed score and a .232 ISP.  There was no one in (AA) that broke even a 7 speed score that had good power. 

Side note:   Both Gaston and Steele both play for the Astros (A+) affiliate in the California League.  The Astro's AA affiliate also plays in the 8 team Texas League with the A's (AA) team the Midland Rockhounds. The A's have pulled off  trades with three of those 8 teams (S.Deigo, Colarado, St.L)  in less than a year and seem very comfortable  trading with each other.

How about OPS? What does OPS tell us? It gives up a great tool to compare players on their overall offensive contribution. In order to be among the league leaders in OPS, a player must hit for average, display a great batting eye (to collect walks), and hit for power. An OPS over 900 is considered quite good, and an OPS over 1000 is sure be among the league leaders.

Desme is hitting +320 OPS points better than his team (1052 vrs 732).  AA player Chris Carter +189 ( 1004 vrs 807).  Abert Pujols +389  (1134 vrs 745) . ......For more on the A's,  (AA) Midland Rockhounds team with my player analysis go here.


Now I want to look at  how many 1000+ OPS guys are in  each level of baseball (min 190 PA) 2009. 

players in A or A- ball,... 0....... players in A+,... 6.......... Players in AA ball,.. 3........ AAA players,.. 8.........  ML players 2.  Or less than 20 in all of the major and minor leagues (down no farther than A- ball).   Pyramid says Bill, Pyramid. 

Here is another interesting  Bill James Primer:

"Minor league batting statistics will predict major league batting performance with essentially the same reliability as previous major league statistics." can only hope Mr. James, one can only hope........

Even more on Desme-............ don't worry,  the ride is almost at an end.

He is one of the most athletically gifted players in the A’s system, something that has been evident in his speed-and-power numbers, as well as his defense. However, his approach at the plate is, at times, overly aggressive, something that may be a product of the missed season.

Here is a really, really good mid-season top 50 prospect report which includes this years rookie A's.  here . I liked it a lot because of the inclusion of our rookies.

another  2007 scouting report

Hitting Ability: Desme has the potential to hit for average and makes adjustments, but struggles with good breaking stuff.
Power: He's got decent power now and has the chance to have solid-average to plus power in the future.
Running Speed: He's an average runner in terms of pure speed, though he does have good first step quickness.
Base Running: Desme has shown good instincts for stealing bases.
Arm Strength: Cal Poly's right fielder, he throws well enough to stay there as a pro.
Fielding: Recruited as a shortstop, Desme is a very athletic outfielder.
Physical Description: Desme is a strong athletic shortstop-turned-outfielder.
Strengths: Desme has five-tool potential and can do just about everything well.
Weaknesses: While he does make adjustments at the plate, he struggles with breaking stuff.
Summary: Desme was a college bat on the rise before a broken wrist ended his season early. It’s not expected that his injury will have a huge impact on his draft status. A five-tool player, he could be one of the better college position players in the draft, especially considering the dearth of college offensive talent in this class.


a nice article about Desme 12 games after being called up to A+ in early July,  when he was hitting .227  here

Here's is Desme's total college and minor league stats: here

One last Bill James primer,   "The chance of getting a good player with a high draft pick is substantial enough that it is clearly a disastrous strategy to give up a high draft choice to sign a mediocre free agent." 

Now Mr. James actually said that about a first round pick,  but I think it still applies. Essentially, by signing a Orlando Cabrera,  you may never get a Grant Desme.  And although it doesn't look like Desme is ever going to be a SS again, he may have the athletic ability, arm and infield comfort level of a prior Short Stop  to be able to man one of the other defensibly important infield position's.

As far as his injury's go, I never was able to determine just how he broke his wrist or tore his labrum. I  don't know if it was baseball related, a freak accident or chronic weakness. I do know that no one seems to be concerned with it at this point and that he seems to have fully healed and maybe even oddly benefited from it. 

I hope to have opened some eye's about one of my two favorite A's prospects. The name drop of Dave Kingman was one I really liked even though the speed does not compare.  Kingman was the reason I was an A's fan for 3 years, even though Rickey Henderson got me started.  I hope everyone enjoyed the ride.

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