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The Tomás effect on the 2015 Diamondbacks

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Do we have any idea what Yasmany Tomás might do as a Diamondback next year? And what are the dangers in the signing?

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Projecting Yasmany

Trying to project the production of players who come from foreign league to the majors is an inexact science, to say the least. We can't even project, with any degree of accuracy, what minor-leaguers will do, and we tend to have a far better idea of the numbers and their meaning, e.g. park factors, level of competition, etc. Witness the struggle to predict the performance of Masahiro Tanaka in the majors, for instance. But that hasn't stopped some brave souls from putting their heads over the parapet and gazing at entrails, in an attempt to figure out what we might expect. As a start, here are his stats in Cuba: [H/T Royals Review]

Age PA AVG OBP SLG ISO HR BB% K%
2009 18 102 .297 .350 .385 .088 1 8 19
2010 19 27 .192 .185 .385 .193 1 0 26
2012 21 240 .301 .333 .580 .279 16 4 18
2013 22 144 .346 .403 .638 .291 8 8 13
2013.5 22 180 .240 .333 .453 .213 7 12 18
2014 23 170 .258 .324 .411 .152 4 9 18
2014.5 23 87 .350 .391 .525 .175 2 7 18
Totals 950 .290 .345 .504 .214 39 8 18

The most detailed attempt to project Yasmany's production comes from Kiley McDaniel over at Fangraphs. He concluded, "Tomas has a short bat path for a power hitter and quick hands that move through the zone quickly.  The tools are here for at least an average hitter, but Tomas’ plate discipline has been questioned and he can sometimes sell out for pull power in games... Carries some risk but generally projects as a solid 2-win player with upside to become a 3-win player. .. $10-15 million per year is a reasonable expectation for a winning bid." The D-backs bid, at about $11.4m AAV, is at the low-medium end of that range.

The risks

Given previous chatter was along the lines of a nine-figure deal, at around $15 million per season, there has been some surprise that the final number ended up so low. However, it is worth noting that Tomás's numbers in Cuba were a great deal lower than, say, Jose Abreu. In the season before coming to the major-leagues, Abreu had an on-base percentage of .535, with a slugging percentage of .735. That's pretty much Barry Bonds v.2003 numbers. Tomás, on the other hand, hit only .290/.346/.450. Realizing that he isn't going to be Abreu, might have helped restrain the bidding frenzy among franchises.

Those numbers may have been depressed by Tomás suffering a wrist injury when he hit the wall early in the season - certainly, the slugging percentage was significantly down on the previous season (.289/.364/.538). But the relatively low number of walks, compared to his predecessors, is somewhat concerning, and when he faced good college pitchers when the Cuba national team was on tour here, they were consistently able to get him to swing outside the zone at soft breaking pitches (in 19 AB, he had eight K's). But it's worth bearing in mind he's fractionally younger than Jake Lamb, so should be considered a work in progress, with his best years to come.

Where to play him?

Tomás has mostly been an outfielder in Cuba, but his speed has been rated as a tick below average in major-league terms, though there have been good reports on his arm. He's clearly a corner-outfielder, but with Mark Trumbo and Cody Ross already being well-paid to occupy those spots, and also being right-handed hitters, there would seem to be a surfeit of players for the position, unless we're going off-book and using four outfielders - which might conceivably make some sense with the more flyball oriented of our pitchers! Back in the real world, however, it seems further trades appear inevitable.

Third is another possibility, although that would simply block Lamb from an everyday spot, given our current roster. Might he then become trade bait to get us a much-needed starting pitcher? But how decent a defender Yamany would be at the hot corner is open to question. Right now, it seems certain this is just the first move, as Dave Stewart seeks to deconstruct the problems created by the previous regime, and negotiate his way out from under contracts that have trapped the franchise in a corner. If Tomás can demonstrate some positional flexibility, that will make things just a little easier for our new front-office.

Conclusions? Oh, if you insist...

Things will hopefully become much clearer by spring-training. But one thing is already apparent: this is the kind of high-risk, high-reward move that was almost never carried through to completion by the previous administration. Inking the biggest contract in franchise history, after being in charge for only a couple of months is undeniably a bold statement by Stewart, and it's a commitment that can also be seen as a sign he has the backing of ownership. That this is not the 2014 Diamondbacks any more, could hardly be clearer, and I suspect we will see a lot more changes before pitchers and catchers report in February.