Posted on April 30, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After surviving nearly the first month of the season without him, the Colorado Rockies are poised to activate their top free agent acquisition: Ian Desmond. As of Sunday morning, the team has not made the move official, but several reports indicate that Desmond will indeed be activated in time to start Sunday when the Rockies go for the sweep against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Desmond suffered a fractured left hand when he was struck by a pitch during spring training, delaying the start of his season after signing a five-year deal with Colorado over the winter.
Desmond has not played in any minor league rehab games but instead has been playing in extended spring training games against some of the club’s minor league prospects. He reportedly had four doubles in seven plate appearances during a game on Saturday, making the Rockies comfortable with the idea of activating him on Sunday.
“As far as I know, the bone is healed,” Desmond said. “Now, it’s just about getting motion back and seeing what it’s going to feel like.”
The caveat to Desmond’s return is that he may not play the position the team intended for him when they signed him. Despite having no prior experience at the position, the Rockies signed Desmond to be their starting first baseman in 2017. However, veteran Mark Reynolds has done such a great job filling in at first base in April that the Rockies are expected to play Desmond elsewhere.
Through 25 games, Reynolds is hitting .301 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs. He’s more than halfway to equalling his home total of 14 home runs in 118 games last season with the Rockies. With an OPS of 1.003, Reynolds has been one of Colorado’s most impactful players this year.
“It’s obviously unfortunate what happened to Dez. He makes our team better and I think he’ll be back real soon,” Reynolds said after going 2 for 5 with a home run in Saturday’s win over the Diamondbacks. “But I just want to make it hard for (manager Bud Black) to take me out of the lineup. That was my goal when I got the job.”
Reynolds is more or less locked in at first base defensively, but the athletic Desmond has the ability to move around to different positions, which appears to be the plan at the moment. At least initially, Desmond may find himself sharing time with Gerardo Parra in left field, a position he played with the Texas Rangers early last season.
“I feel comfortable (moving around), it’s going to be more about them (the Rockies),” Desmond said. “I played left field 40 games last year and that was the first 40 games of the season. That was a long time ago. I’m trying to get as much work out there as I can but it’s a pretty short period of time I’ve got to work with.”
Parra is off to a solid start this season, although he has traditionally struggled against lefties, so a timeshare with Desmond in left field could work well. Of course, outfielder David Dahl is also working himself back from injury and is expected to play in rehab games soon. Before the season, Dahl was expected to be part of the equation in left field, so Colorado’s outfield could get quite crowded rather quickly.
The only other plausible position for Desmond could be shortstop, where Trevor Story has struggled over the first month of his sophomore campaign. Story has contributed six home runs, so he’s providing plenty of power, but he’s hitting just .184. If Reynolds keeps hitting at first base and the Rockies prefer to have Parra and Dahl in left field, Desmond may actually find himself playing his natural position in place of Story.
Of course, regardless of where Desmond ends up playing, the Rockies will be excited to have him back. Even without their top offseason acquisition, the Rockies have ascended to first place in the NL West and are tied with the Nationals for the most wins in the big leagues. If Desmond can return to Colorado’s lineup and become the kind of offensive force the Rockies expect him to be, they could prove to be even more dangerous moving forward.