SAN JOSE — It isn’t easy for a prospect to make a name for himself when suffering injuries at the outset of one’s career, but the A’s knew what they were getting into when they drafted outfielder Grant Desme.
The power-hitting outfielder had recently broken his wrist when the A’s selected him out of Cal Poly as a second-round pick in 2007. Then wrist surgery and a shoulder injury in 2008 sidelined for most of last season. So the luster on any burgeoning prospect status had paled, with Desme totaling just 49 professional at bats entering into this year.
With an explosive power display in this his first full pro season though, Desme should be garnering some fast attention from baseball prospectors. Currently hitting in the heart of High-A Stockton’s order, the right-hander surged into double-figures in California League homeruns Saturday. After being stuck on nine homers for a week, Desme strode into San Jose and went deep in each of his first two at bats to help Stockton down the High-A Giants 4-1.
"Hopefully (I’ll stay in the) middle of the lineup,” Desme said. "I like hitting with guys in scoring position. That’s why you play as a hitter, to contribute … and help your team win.”
Having started the season at Low-A Kane County, Desme has totaled 22 homeruns in 371 at bats between both levels this season. He turned on both homeruns Saturday, leading off the second inning with a towering shot into the bullpen down the line in left field. In the fourth, he crushed a shot to the left-center power alley.
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.”
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,” Desme said.
Desme demonstrated his improvement Friday night in the top of the fourth in a 6-5 win against Modesto. Modesto’s manager and third-base coach Jerry Weinstein served his final year as the pitching coach at Cal Poly in 2006. Weinstein decided to challenge his former player’s throwing arm by waiving home Nuts base runner Matt Repec all the way from first on a single that got deflected off the glove of second baseman Michael Richard.
Desme tracked down the ball and threw a one-hopper to Ports all-star catcher Yusef Carter to cut down the run.
The 6-foot-2-inch Desme can run as well, as evidenced by his 31 stolen bases this season. He was a perfect 24 for 24 at Kane County, and has been thrown out just three times with Stockton.
"For a big guy, he runs,” Nieckula said. "He runs a tick above average and he’s a very good center fielder.”
Meanwhile, the Giants organization had their hands full yesterday with a pair of one-time A’s greats. While former A’s closer Huston Street was nailing down the save for the Rockies in Colorado’s 4-2 win over San Francisco, two-time all-star Justin Duchscherer was in San Jose making a High-A rehab start.
Duchscherer, who was making his first appearance since undergoing elbow surgery in March, retired all six San Jose batters he faced, throwing 17 pitches -- 14 for strikes -- over two innings of work. He was on a strict pitch count, with a 30-pitch limit.