We’re passed the halfway point in June and the Arizona Diamondbacks are leading the National League West Division. One player who has helped the offense while star players A.J. Pollock, who is out with a fractured thumb, and Paul Goldschmidt, who is starting to hit again after his early slump is Daniel Descalso. Descalso is a 31-year old veteran and is currently on pace for a career season. The veteran had a productive May with three home runs, 11 RBIs, and a .290 average and has nearly matched that in June with two home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .351 average. Suddenly the Diamondbacks’ utility man has provided the spark when the team struggled to score runs. Can this type of production be sustainable for the entire season? Let’s check out his last five years in the majors.
Descalso has been a versatile utility player for a several years. He doesn’t have eye-popping numbers and has never really had a high average until this year. What he’s had is his walk rate slowly increase each year with 2018 at a career high of 14.0%. With his walk percentage in double digits that certainly helps OBP leagues and we’re going to have to check out his plate discipline to make sure there aren’t any outliers.
After the 2015 season with the Colorado Rockies, Descalso made a conscious effort to stop swinging at pitches off the plate and that percentage is now just over 20%, which is great. Other than that he is swinging inside the zone 67.8% of the time, resulting in a higher swinging strike percentage at 9.7%. Most of the other numbers are pretty similar so we’ll have to see if the way he’s hitting the ball is any different from the earlier years to draw a better conclusion for this season.
So right away the biggest change is he has stopped hitting ground balls and has totally bought into the Fly ball Revolution. With his fly ball percentage near 50% it’s no wonder he has nearly matched his home run total from last year. His home run to fly ball ratio is well within reason at 13.1% and seems sustainable with his 43.8% hard contact rate. With the focus on hitting more fly balls, he is popping up more than last year at an 11.5% rate. Statcast shows an xAVG of .261 which is a bit lower than his current .278 average. His average exit velocity has increased from 87.0 MPH last year to 89.4 MPH this year and his average launch angle has increased from 12.8° to 19.4°. The increase in exit velocity and launch angle has resulted in more fly balls with some of them going over the wall, sending him well on his way to a new career high in home runs.
Daniel Descalso was once a bench bat but is hitting so well that the Diamondbacks are forced to play him. His plate discipline is great and he is showing off his new approach at the plate. Even with the increase in exit velocity, it’s still a little low compared to top home run hitters and that could mean he won’t clear the wall as much as he wants to. The launch angle tells us there was a real change to how he hits the ball and that’s exciting. Descalso may not keep up that average but in OBP leagues he won’t hurt you. We’ll see if he can keep up this kind of production for the rest of the season, but at the end of the day, he will have career numbers.