A couple of transactions took place today, which you might have missed, what with all the fuss about the new Diamondbacks manager. Arizona lost reliever Vicente Campos, who made his major-league debut in very long relief on August 27. But they picked up outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker from the St. Louis Cardinals, who also made his major-league debut this season, but appeared a good deal more, playing in 112 games for the Cardinals. Let’s take a deeper look at the two players in question.
Campos was acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline in July, in exchange for Tyler Clippard. He started off in Mobile and made four starts, posting a 3.60 ERA. He was pulled up to the big leagues on August 25, as the team shuffled relievers to help out a taxed bullpen. He took the mound in the third inning, two days later, after Zack Godley had been shelled. Campos ended up working 5.2 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Only one NL player since 1999 has had as long a relief outing in their first game; coincidentally, it also involved Arizona, Kris Johnson of the Pirates working innings 11-16 against us in August 2013.
Campos was returned to the minors, going to Reno, but in the second inning of his first start for the Aces, walked off the mound in pain. On September 6, it was announced he had fractured the ulnar bone in his right arm, and surgery was needed. The recovery time at that point was estimated to be eight months, which may explain why the D-backs left him unprotected, and lost him to the Angels, while Dominic Leone continues to occupy a 40-man roster spot... However, it means that the team effectively now gave away a season and a half of Clippard to New York, for no return more than salary relief. Given the woeful state of our bullpen, this looks like it just became another wretched Dave Stewart trade.
Hazelbaker took a roundabout route to the majors, finally arriving when he made the Cardinals’ roster out of spring training, in his 28th summer. He had a staggeringly good first month in the majors, batting .317 with a 1.040 OPS for April, but regression then kicked in, and his May figure was less than half that (.502 OPS). He finished the year with an overall line of .235/.295/.480, and although he did play 114 games for the Cardinals, that was mostly off the bench - he had only 38 starts. The left-hander started games at all three outfield positions (19, 15 and 4 in LF, CF and RF respectively), and also had 42 pinch-hit appearances. Minute sample size, but he seemed to like Chase Field, going 4-for-8 with a homer and a triple here.
There’s some pop there, with Hazelbaker hitting 12 home-runs in exactly 200 at-bats. [His last homer, on Sep 12, broke up a Kyle Hendricks no-hitter in the ninth inning] Being a left-handed hitter might make him a credible fourth outfield option and bat off the bench for the D-backs in 2017. Socrates Brito, another left-handed outfielder, probably gets pushed down the depth chart a bit as a result of this pick-up, and it may be a battle between Hazelbaker and Mitch Haniger for the roster spot in spring training. Small sample size applies - we’re talking barely 400 combined outfield innings - but the early metrics weren’t that impressed with his defense, taking his overall value back down to near-replacement (0.2 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR).
Here’s an interview with Hazelbaker, in which he talks about his journey to the majors, and proving the skeptics wrong. I just wouldn’t recommend getting on our new guy’s wrong side. In a June Triple-A game against the Marlins affiliate, Hazelbaker took exception to a pitch near his head from Jose Urena, and charged the mound.
A month later, when both players were back in the majors, he homered off Urena...