The last two times Grant Desme has put together a full season of playing baseball, he has put up dazzling numbers. It is the season that separates those two standout years that he would like to forget.
In 2007, Desme was named the Big West Conference's Player of the Year when he hit .405 with 15 homers, 53 RBIs and a 1227 OPS for the Cal Poly Mustangs. In 2009, Desme has put up similarly outstanding numbers with Low-A Kane County and High-A Stockton, batting .287 with 29 homers, 87 RBIs and a 919 OPS to go along with 40 stolen bases.
The 2008 season saw Desme post an 1833 OPS. Unfortunately for him and for the Oakland A's, it was an OPS achieved after only two games in the Arizona Rookie League. Desme began the 2008 season at extended spring training, where he was working through the final stages of rehabilitation on his left wrist, which was broken with only six games left to play at the end of his 2007 collegiate season. Although Desme got into a handful of games with the A's short-season affiliate in Vancouver at the tail-end of the 2007 season, his wrist was still bothering him at the start of spring training the next year.
Desme was nearly done with his recovery from the wrist injury in June of last season when he encountered another major hurdle. Two games into a stint with the A's Rookie League team, Desme tore the labrum in his non-throwing (left) shoulder on a swing and missed the remainder of the season. Desme spent the next six months rehabbing the surgically repaired shoulder. Being without baseball for that extended period of time was trying for the A's 2007 second-round pick.
"It was pretty frustrating, especially at first because I have never really been hurt before. It was an adjustment to get used to not being able to play," Desme said.
The 2009 season represented a clean slate for Desme, who finished spring training healthy and a part of the Kane County Opening Day roster. The rust from missing virtually an entire season was evident with Desme early on. He went 0-for-his-first-20 with seven strike-outs before breaking through with a four-hit night on the season's seventh day. After that, he found his rhythm and quickly became one of the Midwest League's more dangerous hitters. He posted a 732 OPS in April, but that climbed to 822 in May and 906 in June.
"It definitely took me a little while to get my feet wet and to get used to playing baseball again. I was pretty bad to start off the first month. It took me awhile to get comfortable with playing on an everyday basis," Desme said.
Desme spent exactly half of the season with the Cougars, earning a promotion to Stockton during the Midwest League All-Star break. He hit .274 with 11 homers and an 825 OPS for Kane County and left the Cougars with the highest OPS on the team. Desme also left the Cougars with a perfect 24-for-24 statline in the stolen bases category, a stat that came as a surprise even to him. Desme has continued to rack up the stolen bases with the Ports, as he is 16-for-21 in the California League. His 40 stolen bases put him second in the A's organization behind Sacramento speedster Eric Patterson and his River Cats' team-record 43 steals.
Although Desme has always been a good runner, especially for a man of his size (6'2'', 205), he has never been a prolific base stealer until this season. His career-high in college was 12. However, Desme found success stealing bags early in the season, and since then, the outfielder has had the green light to go.
The A's didn't draft Desme with their fourth-overall pick in 2007 for his stolen bases. They took him because of his ability to hit for power and for average. Desme has not disappointed in either of those categories this season, especially with the Ports, for whom he is batting .303 with 18 homers and a .638 SLG in 59 games. Desme is only one homerun away from being the first 30 homer-40 stolen base man in the A's system in as long as anyone in the organization can remember.
"I have been surprised [with those numbers.] I don't really sit down at the beginning of the season and say, ‘I want these stats.' I just let it play out throughout the season and see where it goes," Desme said.
"It has been a surprise, especially the stolen bases, because I never really stole in college this much. It has been really nice."
Desme hails from Bakersfield, California, so coming to the Ports and the California League was a bit of a homecoming for the Cal Poly alum. Happy to be back in the Golden State, Desme has responded with improved numbers across the board as compared to his stint with the Cougars in the Midwest League. Desme had 259 at-bats with the Cougars and, as of Thursday, was sitting on 218 at-bats with Stockton. He has improved his average by 29 points with the Ports, his slugging percentage by more than 125 points, his on-base percentage by nearly 60 points, his walk total by 10, his homer total by seven and his RBI total by 11.
"I haven't noticed a difference [between the two leagues] really, except obviously that the ball carries a lot better [in the Cal League] than it does out there. The parks are more hitter-friendly than in the Midwest League, but other than that, the talent level is pretty similar," Desme said.
"It's really nice to be back in California."
Even in college, Desme has always been a hitter who has racked up a lot of strike-outs and that has carried over into his professional career. Thus far this season, he has 144 strike-outs in 128 games. He has worked hard to have a good approach at the plate, however, and has seen some positive results recently. In August, Desme has whiffed 18 times in 84 at-bats after striking out 34 times in 110 at-bats in July.
"I just try to have a good, quality at-bat each time up. I'm just trying to get a pitch that I can do something with and not swing at a pitcher's pitch. I try to work counts and try to get into a count where I am more likely to get a pitch I can do something with," Desme said.
Missing virtually all of last season hasn't affected Desme's stamina this year, as his 128 games played through Tuesday put him among the leaders in games played in the A's system. As the season has worn on, Desme has gotten better, posting OPSs above 1000 in both July and August. His shoulder has been healthy and he has been especially pleased with how his wrist has responded to the long season.
"The wrist has felt good. I am happy with the way that has gone. It dragged on for so long, I wasn't really sure how it was going be coming back and if it was going to feel good, but it feels pretty much normal, so I am happy with it," Desme said.
Desme will have an opportunity to add even more games to his ledger this fall when he takes part in the prospect showcase Arizona Fall League. He was told by the A's on Saturday that he would be taking part in the league and was visibly pleased with the news.
"It should be a really cool experience," Desme said.
Desme Making Up For Lost Time
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