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SnakePit Round Table: The Arizona Diamondbacks at third-base

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It was Jake Lamb! It was Yasmany Tomas! It was... others! Welcome to the hot corner in 2015. Will 2016 be any different? Let's ask our panel...

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Jake Lamb started the season like a rocket, before getting injured. Overall, how do you rate his season?

James: Given how much time Lamb missed and how often Chip Hale chose to platoon him, I think he did just fine. He managed to do everything required of him, and without much of a rough adjustment period. On a scale of 1-10, I give it an 8.5.

Preston: The hot start was great. How he played after returning? It seemed great, but a lot of that was simply not having to watch Tomas try to play third. He was good in the field, but his slash of .249/.313/.671 after returning really isn't enough to cut it. His BABIP was .333 too, so that's not the reason. While I've been very bullish on Lamb, he'll either have to show more power or better plate control, and hopefully both, if he is going to be the answer at third base. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give him a 6. He provided positive value, but didn't exactly show that he could hold the position long-term on a competing team.

Piratedan7: I think Preston has the right of it, we were so grateful to not see Tomas there that there was a definite extended honeymoon. Was he competent in the field, I don't remember any games where his fielding made the difference. Maybe it's something akin to good umpiring, if you don't notice it then you're exceeding expectations. Would have liked to have seen more stick though as it appeared that he was really mismatched out there (welcome to the bigs kid!) so perhaps we'll see some growth in his approach and results.

One of the things that really surprised me was that not many teams challenged him with the bunt (or so it seemed).

Jim: I think it certainly proved the need to have good defense at the hot corner. I can't help wondering if he came back too quickly from the injury; it wasn't too dissimilar to the one which proved problematic for Mark Trumbo. Maybe that sapped his power too? Certainly, given Lamb slugged .551 for Mobile in 2014, I was expecting a better SLG this year than .386. He is still young, being 24 for the entire season, but the other 24-year-old third basemen in the division were Nolan Arenado and Matt Duffy, so it's clear Lamb could have done better at the plate.

After Lamb went down, Yasmany Tomas took over, and it didn't end well. What should the team have done?

James: I think the team should have stuck with Hill and Pennington over at third. Or, they could have released Hill and tried Drury, with Drury sliding back over to second once Lamb returned.

Preston: Well, Lamb was under-utilized before going down with injury, but that's more for the next question. To be honest, there weren't a lot of options. Tomas at least provided offense, something that neither Hill or Pennington provided as starters (both were not only solid, but above-average off the bench.) But there aren't words to describe his fielding, and that's not a compliment. I can only imagine how bad it would have been without Nick Ahmed next to him.

I guess I'm fine with what the team did, for last year, in a year where there wasn't a real shot at competing. It gave us a chance to see what we had with Tomas, and settle once and for all that he can't play third base. But going forward, there's going to have to be more options, whether that is Brandon Drury or someone else.

Piratedan7: I don't blame the team for trying out Tomas at 3rd. Granted he wasn't a solution and perhaps they were under the impression that Tomas could have become Panda Medium (because there is no such thing as Panda-Lite) if given the opportunity to "grow" into the position. I'm just thankful that they didn't try Mark Trumbo there.

As such, they used their other options with Hill and Pennington and tbf, I wouldn't have been in favor of them trying to shoehorn yet another utility guy or another established 3rd sacker there because we knew that Lamb needed to be given the opportunity to thrive there. Besides, who was available to obtain? Could they have put Drury there, yes, they could have, but they didn't. Why didn't they and who was responsible for that call, I can't say. Is it something to get pissy over, not really imho.

Jim: Hey, worth a shot... I guess? It wasn't as if the Tomas Experiment was the difference between us making the playoffs and missing out. I can see why they gave it a try: as Preston noted, it wasn't as if we had any other potentially decent offensive options there. Shifting any player to the right on the defensive spectrum was always going to be problematic. But it does kinda illustrate the issue with the whole Tomas situation - signing him without apparently having a clear plan in place for how he would be developed and handled. Credit to him for giving his best college try, to be honest.

Jake got just four starts against a left-handed pitcher in 2015. Discuss...

James: I honestly have no idea why he is being so heavily platoons. His career splits say he can handle left-handed pitching just fine. This just feels entirely counterproductive. In many ways, it feels like they are unnecessarily sabotaging themselves at third.

Preston: I felt that Hale, as a rookie manager, was trying to do things too much "by the book" and sitting Lamb against lefties was a part of that. But while I'd like to see Lamb get more opportunities, while his batting average hasn't been substantially lower against LHP in the minor leagues, his slugging percentage has been substantially lower (over 100 points in 2013, over 200 points in 2012.) So there are reasons to suspect that he might struggle more against LHP in the majors than he has in the past, but he should have been given the opportunity to see what would happen last year, so that the team would have known more going into 2016.

Piratedan7: I blame Turner Ward because he isn't here anymore to defend himself.

Jim: I think i was shoe who suggested that the team might have some evidence of a flaw in his approach at the plate which would have been ruthlessly exploited by left-handers. This would be kinda weird, because his 2014 OPS in the minors was virtually identical against RHP and LHP. Chip said, ""I don't want him to think we don't think he can hit lefties. We usually leave him in games when a lefty comes in. So it's not a straight up platoon, but we try to pick the better matchups." However, how is he going to learn to hit them, if he hardly ever sees them? We'll see what happens this year, as to whether the team sees him as more than the dominant half of a platoon.

Brandon Drury appeared most often at third in the minors during 2015. How will he fit into the picture this year?

James: I think it will largely depend on what the team does with Hill. Drury most directly replaces Hill in the field and at the plate. If Hill is around, I could see it being very difficult for Drury to break through. I do think his future with this team is to primarily be a second baseman that also spells third on days when Lamb is not starting.

Preston: In a perfect situation, we'd see Lamb seize control of third and Drury play above replacement level at second. The team has no shortage of back-up options for second and third, but really needs to have both of those positions stabilized if they are to compete for a title. If the Diamondbacks can land a second baseman like Howie Kendrick, look for Drury and Lamb to start 2016 in a platoon at third. Otherwise, Drury might well start in AAA to see if Owings and Lamb can hold down their respective positions, to be called up when one falters.

Piratedan7: If he couldn't break into the lineup last year with the Spring he had, who knows? If Hill shows a pulse and Gosselin shows that he can still spray the ball to all fields, he may remain the MI insurance policy at Reno. If he outplays everyone again this Spring, he may make Gosselin flippable to some other team that would like a high OPS bench bat.

Jim: If Lamb still can't hit, Drury may get a chance, sooner than later. It's also possible we may see him as the other half of a platoon at third-base, and given his handedness matches up better with Lamb than Owings/Hill, that may be a better option than having him as a fifth right hander who can play the middle-infield. If we do pull the trigger on another 2B, and no-one leaves, it wouldn't surprise me if he goes back to Reno for the year.

Here's his stats, along with the best of our minor-league third-basemen. Anyone of interest?
Name            Age    Lev  PA  AB   H HR RBI BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Sean Jamieson    26     AA 346 294  80  6  14 40  79 .272 .376 .381 .757
Kevin Medrano*   25  A+/AA 405 362 106  1  39 34  58 .293 .358 .384 .741
Gerson Montilla  25  AA/A+ 427 383 102 18  61 37  78 .266 .335 .454 .789
George Roberts   25     A+ 104  95  24  1  10  7  20 .253 .317 .368 .686
Cody Regis*      24      A 535 476 138  1  58 41  66 .290 .355 .361 .716
Brandon Drury    22 AAA/AA 567 524 159  5  61 32  76 .303 .344 .412 .756
Jose Munoz       21      A 406 349  86  7  38 45 106 .246 .337 .364 .701

Piratedan7: Depends, do you want a slugger (Montilla)? or an all-arounder (Drury)? The other guys I am not familiar enough to know about in regards to the fielding or baserunning to know if they would be considered as alternatives.

Preston: No real answers in that bunch, other than Drury. Jamieson will likely see some time, with his ability to play shortstop, but the rest of that group is either too old to think they'll do much, or too far away to do anything in 2016.

Jim: Yeah, kinda meh. Everyone is either older than Drury and/or didn't hit as well.

How do you see playing time breaking down at third this season?

Piratedan7: I see Lamb at 75% and Hill at 25% for the season, meaning that it will be roughly 50/50 until they DFA Hill in May/June and they try Owings at 3rd base on the times we face Kershaw.

Preston: I think Lamb will at least be half of a platoon, which should give him 60-65% of the playing time there. The other ~35% will likely be split between Drury, Gosselin, and Hill, with Jamieson having a shot at a bit of time, too. If Lamb continues to be above-average defensively, I hope they'll give him chances against LHP too. But to start the year, I see Lamb and Gosselin in a platoon at third.

Jim: Mostly Lamb, with some Drury against left-handers, providing he makes the Opening Day roster. Otherwise, we'll likely see Hill, but sooner or later, the team is just going to cut bait entirely on him, I think.

Will Lamb's offense be good enough? Can he hit left-handers? Will he get the chance?

Piratedan7: Only the Shadow knows what lurks within the lineup cards that Chip Hale assembles in the dark of night.

Preston: I'm not optimistic that his offense will be as good as we hope, but it should be at least good enough to make him an average third baseman. I don't think he'll get a chance to hit LHP unless he is tearing it up offensively and defensively.

Jim: Given he'll still be earning league minimum through the end of 2017, he won't have to be very good at the plate to justify his cost, especially if his defense remains solid enough to provide significant value. Whether he'll get to hit left-handers, or if it will be the Lamb/Drury platoon going forward, only Hale knows...

What should the back-up plan be?

Piratedan7: Brandon Drury is the backup plan atm, he's Plan B thru G, unless you think it's possible to put Ahmed at 3rd, Owings at SS and Drury at 2nd.

Preston: Drury is the backup plan right now for both second and third, with Hill and Gosselin providing depth, but neither looking like full time starters at third (Gosselin might be able to hold down second full-time, but doesn't really have the arm for third.) If Hill has a bounce-back year offensively he could turn himself into the backup plan, and Sean Jamieson has a decent chance to be the backup at both left side of the infield positions. There's depth, but none of it is top-level.

Jim: Yeah, Drury, though I'd rather not see another young 3B rushed to the majors, simply due to lack of alternatives.

And finally, watched The Martian this week. When do you think mankind will land an astronaut on Mars?

Piratedan7: Good flick, better book and I'm hoping 2025.

Jim: As long as I'm still alive to see it, that would be fine. I'm saying 15-20 years time, the first half of the 2030's. Wonder if Colorado will have won a division title by then?