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SnakePit Round Table: The Arizona Diamondbacks and left-field

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David Peralta followed up his surprising rookie season with an even better sophomore one. What did the panel think, and what are their expectations for the position in 2016?

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It was a platoon of Ender Inciarte and David Peralta in left to begin 2015, with the pair splitting the first 20 games evenly. What were your hopes?

freeland1787: For Peralta to mash right-handed pitching and Inciarte to be good enough to not be a liability. Peralta had a pull-happy tendency and Inciarte is more of a slasher type at the plate, so it made sense at the time.

Makakilo: I wondered why do we need Inciarte, a defense first outfielder? So my hope was for more offense from both Inciarte and Peralta. However, as the year progressed, my hopes were realized and my evaluations of Inciarte's and Peralta's values kept increasing.

Piratedan7: I was hoping that 2015 wouldn't entirely suck. Both players showed some promise in 2014 and this was Hale's way to see which one would earn a regular spot. I had no issues with it.

Jim: That they would get rid of Trumbo as quickly as possible? It did seem kinda weird that they moved Trumbo to a defensively-harder position, and gave Inciarte half the starts in left-field. Perhaps it was a case of showcasing Trumbo's talents to "best effect", but we'll get to that in a couple of weeks. It also seemed kinda weird to "platoon" two left-handed hitters.

Preston: As I was higher on Inciarte than just about anyone on the ‘Pit, I had decent expectations. I would say that I expected Inciarte to be a .300 hitter and show more control at the plate than he had in 2014 while playing top-level defense. I would have preferred to see a Trumbo-Peralta platoon, as Peralta had pretty big splits heading into last year (as did Trumbo) but the FO clearly wanted Trumbo to play himself out of town.

Xipooo: I was hoping to see one of them be a break-out star. I was a bit more concerned about David Peralta because we didn't know how he would fare against left handed pitching, but it turned out quite well for him.

Were you concerned whether Peralta could reproduce his early success as a rookie who turned 27 in his debut year?

freeland1787: Peralta is pretty new to being a position player with only a few years of experience. Right now he is in his athletic prime and his game is not dependent on speed, even though he basically led the league in triples. Chase Field plays right into Peralta's strengths as a hitter with deep gaps in center field. I expected him to perform about as well as he did, although I definitely was even more encouraged by his change in approach. Peralta has the best bat speed of all the position players, so he should be able to sustain a Goldschmidt-level BABIP if he doesn't become pull happy again

Piratedan7: I had zero expectations. Peralta was a surprise, as such, anything he could give us was a bonus as far as I was concerned. Remember, in 2014 we were still being fed the expectation that Cody Ross was recovering from his injury and would continue to get paid to patrol the position no matter what we all believed. After him, it was conceded that Trumbo would handle it. So David and Ender's sudden ascension into everyday status was not something that any of us were projecting for either of those guys. They just happened to be the most ready when bad things happened and they seized their opportunities.

Jim: I must confess, I was worried. He'd done well in his rookie campaign, but there was a feeling BABIP helped and with any players at the major-league level, there's always a process of adaptation, as pitchers probe for weaknesses and hitters look to counter that. He only had 104 games as an outfielder in the minors before being called up, which would be incredibly quick, even for a high-round draft-pick - even Justin Upton had more than twice as many (216). I worried we would have a Carlos Quentin-like scenario; he had a similar OPS+ to Peralta in his first year (115 vs. 112), then imploded the following season. Yeah: didn't quite call that right!

Preston: Replicate a year where he posted an OPS+ of 112 while playing slightly above-average defense? Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. Especially since his offensive numbers in 2014 were largely thanks to his crazy hot start, and after pitchers figured him out a bit he struggled more. And, of course, he didn't replicate it. He got better.

Xipooo: Yes.

The departure of Trumbo allowed Inciarte to move over to RF and gave Peralta more starts. Was that why he exploded in the second half with an OPS higher than Goldy?

freeland1787: I think it was a more balanced approach at the plate, which regular at-bats help doing so. I think the three weeks that Inciarte was on the disabled list was a blessing in disguise. In the first half, he was very pull-happy and hit into a lot of the shifts that teams put against him. There were times he would drive a ball to the opposite gap and it would drive me nuts he wouldn't do that more. When he started staying back on pitches and driving the ball to center and left field, the uptick in numbers followed.

Makakilo: The Trumbo trade was arguably the best trade of last year. If the Trumbo trade was inspired by the acquisition of Yasmany Tomas, that is one plus in acquiring Tomas. More to the point, I'd like to think that the Tomas acquisition gave Peralta the energy and desire to explode - he knew the Diamondbacks would continue to make winning moves, and he wanted to be part of a winning team!

Piratedan7: I think David applied himself to the coaching he was given and to the advice from his peers. Repetition and application followed equaling success. I also think David got to feast a bit on what is a natural letdown reaction from pitchers facing Goldy, no matter the outcome, I think Paul scares the crap out of a lot of hurlers and as such, I think that there's a let down that happens with the next guy up. All David did was square up what was offered (which is awesome when compared to the previous #4 guys) and his game and plate approach were evolving. In that way he was ahead of what the old scouting report was showing.

Jim: It may have helped: between that and the success of Welington Castillo, there did seem to be evidence on the 2015 D-backs that regular playing time can help. I think it can only have given both Peralta and Inciarte a boost, realizing the team was putting its confidence in them. But I think a second-half BABIP of .436 was just a little bit of a help for him too! I would have liked to see him take more walks - his BB% in after the break was 6.6%, compared to 10.2% before it. But I guess, when you're seeing the ball like a grapefruit, you're going to want to take your hacks.

Preston: There were several factors, of which Trumbo leaving was one, acquiring Castillo another, and Inciarte missing time a third. Since all of those things happened at about the same time, it's hard to say which was most important; probably some combination of all three. Batting between Goldy and Welington Castillo may have been the biggest difference-maker.

Xipooo: That and the fact that he's talented. More reps, especially against LHP, will help most players. But it was his talent as a hitter that made him the threat that he is.

While he improved this year, Peralta still had a very large split, with an OPS 250 points worse against LHP. Is this cause for concern?

freeland1787: Not really, most left handed batters tend to have issues against left handed pitchers because of the rarity of the latter. Peralta batted .250/.311/.375 vs. LHP in 2015, which is enough to keep him in the lineup everyday. They just have to bat him lower in the lineup when they face a lefty. I doubt that Chip Hale bats Socrates Brito against lefties often because he's the 4th outfielder. I'd like to see Phil Gosselin or Brandon Drury get looks in Left Field just in case they need to complete the platoon

Makakilo: My concern is that the Dodgers have left handed pitchers and those games would be the sweetest wins for the Diamondbacks. Nevertheless, I'm optimistic that Chip Hale will find ways to beat the Dodgers!

Piratedan7: I hope that David will continue to improve. Looks like he's trying to emulate Paul in trying to take what is given without forcing the issue. Will added reps continue to fuel his development?

Jim: As Makakilo mentioned, the left-handed heavy Dodgers' rotation isn't going to be fun. It was good to see him improve, but the gap was still big enough that he's going to see a steady diet of left-handed relievers in late and close situations. If he is going to pull a Goldy, and take his game to the next level, it's likely going to be that which will power the improvement.

Preston: I seem to be somewhat alone in thinking there is no cause for concern, so let me demonstrate why. First, Peralta has 171 career plate appearances against left handed pitching, which is far too small a sample size to draw any definite conclusions. But more importantly, he has posted better numbers against left handed relievers than against left handed starters, despite left handed relievers being basically in the game for the express purpose of getting him out. Still, he's hit .250 against primarily LOOGYs, vs. .205 against LH starters. He went 6-for-17 against LOOGYs in 2015. It's basically a question of which small sample you want to take, but since his better numbers come against the tougher pitchers, I think he'll be fine, given the chance.

Xipooo: He's not amazing against lefties, but he's also not an automatic out. I still feel confident with him in a pressure situation facing LHP in late innings. If they continue to run him out there against LHP and don't platoon him too much, I think he'll continue to improve.

How do you feel Peralta's defense stacked up?

freeland1787: He's a net zero value guy, which is pretty good given his inexperience at the position. If he can take better routes in the outfield, he might be a small positive value there. Defense isn't why he's in the lineup anyway.

Makakilo: Defense is not Peralta's strength. In 2015, Baseball Reference shows Peralta with oWAR of 3.9 and dWAR of -0.9. My philosophy is that a winning team needs offense first from outfielders. The Diamondbacks are blessed with Pollock, who has great offense and defense. The offense first description applies to Peralta and Tomas, so the Diamondbacks are on the right path for corner outfielders. Although defense is less important in that position, it is reasonable to expect that Peralta's defense will improve because he is relatively new in the position, having switched from being a pitcher.

Piratedan7: He's no Mark Trumbo, nor is he a Yasmany Tomas. The more he plays, the better I think he'll get. He's STILL a work in progress.

Jim: I think this goes back to the sheer lack of experience mentioned earlier. Even now, and including all levels, independent baseball and foreign winter-ball stints, Peralta still has just 716 pro games as an outfielder. Most major-leaguers there will have accumulated many more than that, typically playing the OFsince high-school, in college and up through the minor-leagues. He has good raw skills, and they help make up for some smarts that come simply with playing on an everyday basis. He didn't embarrass himself, and I think will still get better.

Xipooo: I suppose I'm a bit lighter on my expectations for defense than most people. When I watch someone make a play on a ball I tend to think in terms of "I couldn't have done that". I don't believe a player has to make ALL the plays, just not be bad at their position. Peralta does a fine job and isn't as error prone as I'd be out there, so I give him a pass.

What are your expectations and concerns for 2016?

freeland1787: I expect Peralta to start 140 games and rack up more than 600 plate appearances. With his breakout 2015 campaign, he's going to be batting in the middle of the order and most likely right behind Paul Goldschmidt. I do think that Peralta will get games off against the Kershaws and Bumgarners of the world, although the lack of available right handed bats in the Dbacks OF is a bit of a concern. I wonder if they try to get Drury or Gosselin to take on the Willie Bloomquist Super Utility role.

Makakilo. More often than most hitters, Peralta hits the ball hard (37% over 100 mph). At 28 years old, this skill will not go away and I expect continued success. And because of hard hit balls, his BABIP will not regress. I agree with Shoewizard's fanpost projection (9 January 2016) of 550 plate appearances and zWAR of 2.5 with upside possible.

Piratedan7: I think guys will test his arm more than they did last year. I have no idea if David will continue to grow at the plate or not, I don;t know how pitchers will adjust and focus on him nect year. I think he caught a bunch of folks by surprise, can he make the adjustments to his approach as the league adjusts to him?

Jim: It's going to be interesting to see how Hale works things. Will we have a four-man rotation for the outfield spots again? Or will we have more or less the same three everyday, with a true "fourth outfielder", mostly on the bench. I think that may depend who the fourth man is: if it's a defence minded player like Socrates Brito. I can see him perhaps coming in to replace Peralta in the last couple of innings. But if it's a hitter, how much playing time Peralta gets may well depend on how well he handled those left-handed pitchers.

Preston: There was good and there was bad. Peralta has the range to play all three outfield positions. He also has an above-average arm. The issue is that he doesn't have a great deal of experience in the field and does tend to misjudge balls, leading him to overcompensate with extra effort. I love the effort, but with him being an important part of the offense, I'd hate to see him get hurt, and I'd rather have him miss a few more balls than run into a few more walls. I think he'll do fine.

Xipooo: My expectations are at least winning the West. My concern is not winning the West. We have the most potent offense in MLB. The missing piece has been starting pitching. In all honesty that's been the buggaboo about this team since 2011. Has the FO done enough? I'm not sure they have. I think it's going to come down to injuries. Ours vs theirs. Theirs being all the other NL West teams.

Peter O'Brien was mostly a left-fielder this year in the minors. Does he have any future in the Arizona outfield?

freeland1787: No, unless he consistently puts up Mark Trumbo numbers from 2012. O'Brien makes Mark Trumbo look like a Gold Glover in comparison. The problem is O'Brien is really a first baseman and obviously he's not going to play there in Arizona. If he does wind up making the roster out of camp, he will likely get starts against LHP.

Makakilo: With the trade of Ender Inciarte, Peter O'Brien has a small chance at fourth outfielder. However, Socrates Brito is likely a better choice. Brito was rated higher by Baseball America (#8 vs #10 for 2016). And O'Brien needs to compete with talented prospects such as Gabriel Guerrero (acquired in Trumbo trade) and Chad Oberacker (Acquired in Dec 2015 via AAA rule 5). Guerrero was the Mariners #6 prospect in 2014, has fast bat speed, an outstanding throwing arm, and is on the Diamondback 40-man roster. Oberacker hits well, steals bases well, and I saw a video of him making a game-winning catch as he collided with the center-field wall. In addition, the Diamondbacks have given four outfielders non-roster invites to spring training - Jason Bourgeois, Zach Borenstein, Todd Glaesmann, and Evan Marzilli . Although there is plenty of competition, this year is Peter O'Brien's best chance to win an outfield spot. Given the talented competition, perhaps Peter O'Brien would be better off competing for backup catcher.

Piratedan7: You never say never, you don't know who can get hurt and how serious it can/could be. Did anyone expect the beady-eyed one to damage his hip? Did anyone expect plantar fascitis to derail Trumbo? I hope that we don't need him and I hope that the Reno ladies DO like the long ball.

Jim: If Peralta and Inciarte are "everyday":outfielders, there's something to be said for having a right-handed power bat as the fourth man, both to counter the LOOGY potential and as to start against the likes of Clayton Kershaw. But he has even less experience there than Peralta, so he would need to show he can handle the spot defensively - the jury still seems out on that at the moment.

Preston: O'Brien looked, in brief action, like everything Yasmany Tomas was supposed to be. And he's cheaper. He'd be fine as a replacement for Tomas, most likely. But he doesn't have a role on this team, if they are going to truly be contending.

Xipooo: No. Not without a trade opening a spot for him. I seriously doubt anyone will be taking Tomas's contract from off our hands, and in truth Tomas's offense was good enough that with some more defensive training I think he'll be our starter in RF.

Here are the rest of our LF prospect stats. Anyone of interest?
Name            Age Lev      AB  R   H HR RBI BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Stewart Ijames*  26 A+/AA   333 58  91 21  56 33 110 .273 .339 .547 .885
Peter O'Brien    24 AAA     490 77 139 26 107 31 124 .284 .332 .551 .883
Zach Borenstein* 24 AA/AAA  332 48  96 10  60 39  69 .289 .363 .461 .824
Alex Glenn*      24 A+/AA   403 57 100 11  57 29  88 .248 .305 .434 .739
Fidel Pena#      23 A+      342 49  94  3  21 23  79 .275 .324 .404 .728
Grant Heyman*    21 A/A-/Rk 231 33  63  2  28 18  46 .273 .332 .372 .704
Victor Reyes#    20 A       424 57 132  2  59 22  58 .311 .343 .389 .732
Frank Polanco    20 FRk     192 38  52  0  20 34  37 .271 .388 .370 .758
Logan Soole*     19 Rk      138 12  36  0  10  3  22 .261 .282 .319 .601
Ger. Hernandez*  19 A-      155 16  30  2  18 10  41 .194 .233 .290 .523
Oscar Moreno     17 FRk     111 23  27  0  10 23  24 .243 .392 .288 .680
Remy Cordero*    17 FRk     148 17  29  1  13 10  57 .196 .261 .257 .518

freeland1787: I was on the Grant Heyman bandwagon when the Dbacks drafted him in the 8th round (the Dbacks money round of the draft). Borenstein and Ijames are both left-handed, which doesn't help their prospects of sticking long term. Alex Glenn was plucked in the Minor League phase of the Rule V Draft, so he's not going to be an option this year. Overall, there isn't much to inspire confidence in this group. The good news is that they can look at their CF prospects as possible corner outfielders.

Makakilo: Stewart Ijames looks interesting. He has the highest percent of home runs per at-bat (21 HR in 333 ABs). Like Peralta, he played in an independent league (Frontier League in 2013). Perhaps the Diamondbacks found a source of high quality players who can quickly transition to the majors.

Piratedan7: I don't know if Ijames is another opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle, but he's intriguing imho. Borenstein seems like the next guy in the queue if they ever find an AL home for O'Brien. Heyman is hext semi-toolsy guy to watch. Polanco may be a sleeper to keep an eye on because his walks are high and his K's are low.

Jim: Damn, our indie league scouting truly does appear to be on point, doesn't it? Ijames does appear the best of the bunch, especially after the departure of Glenn. But a quick nod in the direction of Polanco, and his K:BB ratio of 37:34. More walks than anyone else on the list save Borenstein, in only 56 and at the age of 20 (although that is old for the Dominical League). Sustainable? I dunno.

Preston: Ijames and Borenstein could both wind up contributing as soon as this year if we have a (knock-on-wood) 2014 level situation in the outfield. But neither really projects to be more than a backup.

Xipooo: Ijames is probably someone who will get a real chance at playing this year. Sure O'Brien will as well, but defense is half the game. I don't know enough about Ijames's defense to say one way or the other. I'm just not sure we'll see anyone in the outfield called called up from the minors until September. Management is going all in this season. It's not as if we're all expecting a year of seeing what we've got. Starters are going to start.

The Hall of Fame elected Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr last week. Too few, too many or just right?

freeland1787: I was surprised that Jeff Bagwell and Trevor Hoffman didn't make it. They'll both be in by 2020. We knew Griffey was going to get in and I thought Piazza had a strong chance of getting in because he didn't fail any drug tests over his career. Fortunately, the next five years there may be only 1 slam dunk HOF candidate in Mariano Rivera. I believe that Curt Schilling will also eventually get in as well.

Makakilo: One too few. Curt Schilling deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The primary reason is that he teamed with Randy Johnson to win the world series for the Diamondbacks in 2001. Secondary reasons include: six all-star seasons, he was a great competitor, and he says what he thinks - such as he blamed chewing tobacco for his mouth cancer. And, his bloody sock from game 2 of the 2004 World Series is on display in Cooperstown World Series exhibit. When he is voted into the Hall of Fame, he will be re-united with Randy Johnson and his bloody sock!

Piratedan7: Too few imho. I'm not sure why, but there are at least 10 deserving guys out there, Bagwell, Hoffman, Wagner, Schilling, Mussina, Raines, Bonds, Clemens, and yes, even Macguire and Edmonds imho. Strong cases can be made for many others, McGriff, Trammell etc and here we are bitching about the line between very good and awesome and who gets to be arbitrarily decided upon as the best of the best by a bunch of guys who write about the game who have their own agendas and criteria (apparently) as to who should be in and who shouldn't.

Jim: I'd rather it was too few than too many. It should be an entirely exacting process, allowing only the best of the best, virtually impeccable in every way [yes, it hasn't been in the past, but that's no excuse to let standards slip going forward]. While his numbers would justify it, I think Schilling has probably pissed too many people off to get in - not least taxpayers in the state of Rhode Island I'm probably going to get another sternly-worded email for that crack...

Preston: I think too few. But here's the deal. It's the Hall of Fame. Not the Hall of Great Stats, or the Hall of Liked Players. I think guys like Bagwell, Schilling, Mussina, Raines, and the steroid users Bonds and Clemens should get in. Possibly even McGwire and Sosa, even though they certainly wouldn't have achieved those numbers clean, you can't really argue with the "fame" part. Basically, I think that to get in, a player should be famous (which rules out Raines, Hoffman, and some others) and at least one out of well-liked or great stats. Also, looking at the SnakePit voting, while we seem to all agree that more should get in, 75% of us can't agree on who those players should be.

Xipooo: Lots of guys that deserve a spot, but it's supposed to be the elite that make it in. Just because a name is popular doesn't make them deserving. I'm surprise Piazza made it honestly, but good for him. I'd say it was just right.