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Ordering the 2014 Diamondbacks

The D-backs will need a new lead-off hitter this year, with the man who finished 2013 in that spot, Adam Eaton, no longer part of the team. Who'll fill that role, and how should we arrange everyone else?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

If previous years are anything to go by, I would counsel the Diamondbacks' players not to get too comfortable in any one spot, because the odds are - unless your name is Paul - you probably won't be playing there tomorrow. Over last season, Kirk Gibson arranged numbers 1-8 in his lineup 138 different ways, and that was actually two down on the number from the previous season.The lower half of the order was particularly pulled from a hat, it seems: there were no less than 16 different players who started at #7 (everyone from Miguel Montero and Eric Chavez to Josh Wilson and Cliff Pennington), and 15 at #8. Here are the most common starters:

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, #3 - 143 starts
  2. Gerardo Parra, #1 - 70 starts
  3. Cliff Pennington, #8 - 59 starts
  4. Didi Gregorius, #8 - 52 starts
  5. Miguel Montero, #4 - 44 starts
  6. Cody Ross, #5 - 44 starts
  7. A.J. Pollock, #1 - 42 starts
  8. Martin Prado, #2 - 41 starts
  9. Gerardo Parra, #7 - 35 starts
  10. Three players tied with 34 starts

vs. RHP

As you can see, after Goldschmdt, who should probably be printed in the three-hole on the line-up cards this year, to save time, there was a steep drop-off. Parra does seem the most obvious candidate to get this going, at least against a right-handed starter. His career on-base percentage vs. RHP is .341, which would be more than respectable - across the NL last year, lead-off men had an OBP of .333. Of course, new first-base coach Dave McKay will have his work cut out in the stolen-base department. Over the past two seasons, Parra has been a mediocre 25 of 44 there, well below the break-even point.

One slight issue with using Parra at the top, is it exacerbates the problem that the current roster is very right-hand heavy. Montero and Gregorius are the only other "true" left-handed regulars, with Eric Chavez also being carefully removed from his packing peanuts on occasion. So firing one of those bullets at #1 will lead to longer stretches of RHB elsewhere. However, we don't have many alternatives. As we saw when we looked at platooning players earlier this month, a lot of our right-handed bats dominate lefties, but don't handle righties nearly as well. Goldie is the only guy with a credible major-league OBP better than Parra, and he ain't hitting lead-off.

I think Arizona's optimum line-up for this situation - which would include Chavez, as available - would be something like this:

  1. Gerardo Parra, CF
  2. Martin Prado, LF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Eric Chavez, 3B
  5. Aaron Hill, 2B
  6. Miguel Montero, C
  7. Cody Ross, RF
  8. Didi Gregorius, SS

vs. LHP

Against a left-handed starter, the options are more open. It certainly should not be Parra hitting leadoff, since his OBP slumps to .294. Pollock was often used there in 2013, and his OBP of .331 would be okay: I suspect that's who we will see most often, but thinking outside the box, we might do better with Prado, whose career OBP vs. LHP is an excellent .379. He does have some experience there, having batted lead-off in 136 career games. It doesn't seem Gibson sees him as a good fit for us, with only two starts for Arizona last season, but Prado has two of the three main lead-off tools: good OBP and sees a good number of pitches (career 3.82/PA, slightly above league average).

Sure, he isn't exactly a threat on the basepaths (33 of 57 in SB), and we'd be sacrificing a bit of power - don't forget, Prado was second on the team for homers last season. But with Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and Cody Ross all having an OPS above .900 vs. southpaws, we have plenty of alternatives for the heart of the order. Indeed, that practically writes itself, simplifying the rest of the line-up considerably. The only real question is how low you want to drop Montero, and his OPS against left-handed pitchers of .665. We don't want to embarrass Miggy, by batting him just ahead of Trevor Cahill (career line: .103/.110/.127), so let's go with seventh.

  1. Martin Prado, 3B
  2. A.J. Pollock, CF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 3B
  4. Mark Trumbo, LF
  5. Cody Ross, RF
  6. Aaron Hill, 2B
  7. Miguel Montero, C
  8. Chris Owings, SS

I suspect, in reality, we will probably see the top two in that line-up flipped, but it wouldn't surprise me if we actually do see the above at some point during the season. Admittedly, given Gibson's fondness for shaking the line-up dice, that's probably true for just about any other line-up you can concoct as well!