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Diamondbacks Pre-Winter Meetings Outlook: Outfield

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The biggest weakness I see on the major league club starts with the pitching, but another significant weakness comes in the outfield. The Diamondbacks were one of the worst teams in terms of fWAR at both corner spots with Yasmany Tomás’ second consecutive sub-replacement level season plus injuries to starters AJ Pollock and David Peralta. One of the few bright spots was the development of Mitch Haniger, but that shipped has sailed. The top 5 outfielders in the organization are Pollock, Peralta, Tomás, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and Sócrates Brito. Going into 2017, I’m not very comfortable with this being the look for the outfield at all, but signing someone in free agency might not be doable either.

AJ Pollock: The biggest issue for Pollock is health, as he’s only played 244/486 games over the last three years. Over that time period, Pollock has 10.2 fWAR over barely 1000 PA, which puts him on a 6.0 WAR pace from 2014-16, including a 6.5 WAR 2015 season. Pollock is recovering from both a devastating elbow injury that derailed the 2016 season before it could start, but picked up 0.4 fWAR in 46 PA before sustaining a groin injury legging out a double. Pollock should be healthy in 2017 and is playing likely for his next contract even though he isn’t scheduled for free agency until after 2018.

David Peralta: Peralta is an average defender in the OF that can handle either corner spot. Due to Tomás’ poor defense in right field, it makes more sense to move Peralta to RF where his arm turns him into a break-even defender. Peralta’s contributions to the team mostly come in the form of his bat. Peralta fits the ideal mold of a #2 hitter due to his strong bat control, power to all fields, and strong baserunning. Peralta is under team control through 2020, although I see him more likely getting traded as he gets more expensive through arbitration. With a strong 2017, the Diamondbacks could leverage Peralta into some high upside talent.

Yasmany Tomás: I didn’t get the signing back in 2014 because I thought the team had three promising young outfielders in Ender Inciarte, Pollock, and Peralta. Two years later, the contract hasn’t worked out as Tomás’ power hasn’t translated well relative to his overall value. Despite hitting 31 HR and 62 extra base hits in 2016, his oWAR was only 1.2 off of a 109 wRC+ (tends to favor OBP more than ISO). The problem is the lack of defense is compounded by the fact his bat isn’t as productive as it should be just to crack 2.0 WAR, which is the type of player they paid for. Now if Tomás could improve his wRC+ to his 2nd half number of 133 for a full season, that could be enough. Of course in order to do that, he needs to get on base more frequently than a below average .310 clip even though his wOBA outperforms his OBP due to the power in his swing. Even if he hits like an All-Star, I’m not looking forward to see him play LF.

Jeremy Hazelbaker: Hazelbaker was a former Red Sox prospect that washed out in the upper minors and bounced around LA and STL before getting a look in 2016. Hazelbaker doesn’t hit much for average, but crushed RHP to the tune of .245/.318/.503 or a 113 wRC+. While Hazelbaker strikes out a ton (24.7%), he walks a fair amount (9.9%) as well and provides pop (.245 ISO, .258 vs. RHP). Hazelbaker will be coming off the bench against righties and occasionally spell Tomás in LF, even though he isn’t exceptional defensively either. His bat plays well at Chase Field where hard and fly ball contact is often rewarded with extra base hits and should be a critical bat off the bench for the team. He has really bad platoon splits and at age 29 isn’t likely more than a bench bat or a platoon player.

Sócrates Brito: Brito would no doubt be a better defender than Tomás in the outfield, but the problem is hitting well enough to stick. Part of the issue was he was supposed to spend 2016 developing in AAA Reno, which never happened due to injuries in the Diamondbacks outfield. Defensively, his game is already MLB caliber and he runs well when on the bases. However, the issue comes down to the bat and how much he can give you. Brito has decent power with a .179 ISO in 2016, but has a tough time barreling up pitches other than his hot spot of down and in. Brito could probably use a year in AAA recovering from the hamate bone injury suffered in winter ball that could delay his Spring. Brito’s defense and baserunning puts him on a path where if he can manage a wRC+ of 75 or better that he’s a 2.0 WAR player. I would still like to see him make improvements in plate discipline as a 30/3 K/BB ratio in the majors is not ideal for him to develop towards his ceiling.

In terms of depth, the team could use a right-handed hitting option off the bench. Initially I had Haniger as the 4th OF and Hazelbaker also off the bench, but Haniger is now in Seattle although I won’t say no to Taijuan Walker, whose upside (4-5 WAR) outperforms the combined projection of Segura and Haniger (4-5 WAR) per season.

Top FA options: Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, Ian Desmond, Michael Saunders, Carlos Gomez, Peter Bourjos, Rajai Davis

The team is probably out of the market for Fowler and Sanders, but could be looking at a short-term deal with Gomez, Desmond, or Bourjos as they rebuild value for their next FA run. Davis would be a solid fit as a top of the order guy as well. I would prefer more outfield depth than what they have now considering only Peralta and Pollock are players that I have projected over 2.0 WAR if healthy. I’m not sure what the team will do with Tomás even if he is available because while Tomás has the tools to be a solid power hitter, he doesn’t produce enough at the plate to offset his flaws in the field. Let’s see Mike Hazen make chicken salad out of this mess of an outfield.