Desmond feels he “just scratched the surface last year”

Entering spring training, every Nationals player - every player in the major leagues, for that matter - has the same goal for 2013.

That goal is to be holding the World Series trophy at the end of the year.

Pretty simple stuff, really. Nothing too groundbreaking.

Beyond that, however, there are individual goals that many players set for themselves, goals that, if accomplished, will help their team get closer to the overarching goal of winning a World Series title.

Ian Desmond goes into the 2013 season trying to prove that his 2012 campaign was the start of the next stage of his career and not just a positive outlier.

Desmond set career highs in batting average (.292), home runs (25), RBIs (73), doubles (33), on-base percentage (.335) and OPS (.835) last season, and did so by wide margins in all of those categories.

What specific areas will Desmond target this season as he tries to take things to the next level?

“Striking out over 100 times isn’t something I feel like I should be doing,” he said. “I’d like to cut down on my strikeouts, work some more walks. Just be a little bit more aggressive running the bases. Things like that. Pick up some more stolen bases. And just try to help the team every way I can.”

Desmond struck out 113 times in 547 plate appearances last season, a 20.6 strikeout percentage. That’s down slightly from the 2011 season, when Desmond struck out 139 times in 639 plate appearances, or 21.7 percent of the time.

As far as the stolen bases go, Desmond swiped 21 bags in 2012, down from 25 in 2011. Because the Nationals had a pretty stocked lineup last season, there wasn’t much need for guys to be stealing bases in order to make stuff happen offensively.

The lineup is still pretty loaded entering this season, but general manager Mike Rizzo has talked about wanting to see his team be a little more aggressive on the bases. That could give Desmond, among others, more opportunities to boost those stolen base numbers.

Most importantly, Desmond will be looking to prove that he can back up his performance last season. The 27-year-old broke onto the scene last year, finished 16th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting and showed the potential that led Rizzo to refuse trade offer after trade offer for his struggling young shortstop in previous years.

Desmond showed he can become an elite shortstop in this league. Now he wants to take the next step.

“Every year, you try and get better,” Desmond said. “I’m obviously sticking to a lot of things I did last year, but I’ve added some things. Basically just dissecting my game and realizing my weakness areas, I guess you could say, and just trying to turn the corner even more.

“I think we just scratched the surface last year.”

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