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Towards Opening Day: Arizona Diamondbacks position players

We're ten games into Cactus League play. What have the early signs been for Arizona's position players?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Diamond-backs and Cubiczirconia-backs

Thus far, there have been more positives than negatives to come out of the early going for the Arizona offense. They are batting better than .300, with a triple-slash line of .306/.359/.493, resulting in an .852 OPS which trails only the Dodgers among National League teams. The main area of concern would be a high strikeout rate; at 24.1%, it's lower than just the Brewers (24.4%). However, it's hard to complain too much about averaging more than six runs per game, even if the current BABIP of .383 is certainly not sustainable.

Here are the players who have stood out thus far, albeit in sample sizes so small they need to come with a magnifying glass.

  • Welington Castillo - Five hits, all of them for extra bases, and a pair of home-runs, give Castillo the early OPS lead, at 1.628.
  • Jean Segura - Not far behind is Segura, who has blown the doors off to start his AZ career, going 9-for-13. But speaking of BABIP: .800?
  • Socrates Brito - Injury may have opened the door for Brito to claim more regular playing time, and batting .583 over his five games hasn't hurt.
  • Brandon Drury - Tied with Castillo for the team lead in HR, and trailing just Segura in hits, Drury is making an early case not to go to Reno.

At the other end, there are not many who seem to have been struggling, and in some cases, like A.J. Pollock, those struggles appear to have a health factor. There is also Paul Goldschmidt and his .563 OPS, about whom I have exactly zero concern. When you were MVP runner-up, you get that slack. But here are a few others who, while it's still too early for worry, might be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Yasmany Tomas - Yeah, health here. But given fitness was a major concern and expected focus for this winter, showing up with a gammy knee is less than ideal.
  • David Peralta - The Freight Train has been slow pulling out of the station, going 3-for-14 with no extra-base hits and a .481 OPS over his first five games.
  • Peter O'Brien - His 21 plate appearances are most on the team, but a K:BB ratio of 7:1 along with a .211 average have left him lagging in the outfielder battle.
Playing Position

10 games in, can we tell anything about the team's plans, based on who has played where so far? Here are details of the ten line-ups used by Chip Hale thus far.

Date C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF DH
3/2 vs. COL Castillo Goldschmidt Owings Segura Drury Tomas Marzilli Bourgeois Herrmann
3/3 vs. COL Gosewisch Herrmann Gosselin Ahmed Lamb Brito Marzilli Peralta Weeks
3/4 vs. OAK Castillo Goldschmidt Segura Owings Arias Tomas Pollock Guerrero Weeks
3/5 vs. LAD Herrmann Jensen Gosselin Ahmed Drury Weeks Bourgeois Peralta Lamb
3/6 vs. CHC Gosewisch Goldschmidt Owings Segura Lamb O'Brien Pollock Brito Borenstein
3/7 vs. SEA Castillo Rivero Gosselin Ahmed Drury Tomas Bourgeois Peralta Weeks
3/8 vs. SDP Herrmann Goldschmidt Segura Ahmed Lamb Glaesmann Pollock Borenstein O'Brien
3/8 vs. LAA Gosewisch Jensen Gosselin Owings Drury Brito Marzilli Peralta Weeks
3/9 vs. SDP Castillo Goldschmidt Drury Owings Lamb Bourgeois Brito Guerrero Herrmann
3/10 vs. LAA Gosewisch Arias Gosselin Ahmed Drury Weeks Bourgeois Peralta O'Brien

Going through each position, here's what we see

  • Catcher: Castillo 4, Gosewisch 4, Herrmann 2
  • First base: Goldschmidt 5, Jensen 2, three with 1
  • Second base: Gosselin 5, Owings 2, Segura 2, Drury 1
  • Shortstop: Ahmed 5, Owings 3, Segura 2
  • Third base: Drury 5, Lamb 4, Arias 1
  • Left field: Tomas 3, Brito 2, Weeks 2, three with 1
  • Center field: Pollock 3, Marzilli 3, Bourgeois 3, Brito 1
  • Right field: Peralta 5, Guerrero 2, three with 1
  • Designated hitter: Week 4, O'Brien 2, Herrman 2, two with 1

Of course, this is still the early going. But based on this information, we can perhaps get a sense of how some of the spring questions will be answered. For example, it looks like the team is leaning toward Tuffy Gosewisch as a backup to Welington Castillo, over Chris Herrmann, with Tuffy having made twice as many starts thus far. It also appears Nick Ahmed is indeed going to be the regular shortstop - as many people here wanted to see, and in contrast to what was said by the front-office when Jean Segura was acquired. However, Segura's playing time has been limited, making only four starts in the 10 games thus far.

Interestingly, at the hot-corner, Brandon Drury has slightly edged Jake Lamb, with almost no-one else getting a look-in. The situation in left has been muddied by Tomas's knee issue, which has caused Arizona to use six different LF so far. A.J. Pollock's early absence has led to a three-way tie between him, Evan Marzilli and Jason Bourgeois in center, and with A.J. missing more time, be interesting to see what changes by the next time we revisit this. Finally, no great surprise to see that David Peralta has a commanding lead in right field; given his shift to a new position there for 2016, it makes sense to give him as many innings there before Opening Day as possible.

Batting Order

It's not just a question of where some people play on the field that needs to be decided, it's also the issue of what order they hit. Let's see if the first 10 games' worth of lineup cards shed any line on that.

Date #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9
3/2 vs. COL Segura Owings Goldschmidt Castillo Herrmann Tomas Drury Marzilli Bourgeois
3/3 vs. COL Ahmed Brito Gosselin Peralta Weeks Lamb Gosewisch Herrmann Marzilli
3/4 vs. A's Segura Pollock Goldschmidt Castillo Tomas Weeks Arias Guerrero Owings
3/5 vs. LAD Ahmed Lamb Gosselin Peralta Weeks Drury Herrmann Jensen Bourgeois
3/6 vs. CHC Pollock Segura Goldschmidt Lamb O'Brien Brito Owings Borenstein Gosewisch
3/7 vs. SEA Ahmed Drury Gosselin Peralta Castillo Weeks Tomas Rivero Bourgeois
3/8 vs. SDP Segura Pollock Goldschmidt Lamb Herrmann O'Brien Glaesmann Borenstein Ahmed
3/8 vs. LAA Owings Brito Gosselin Peralta Weeks Drury Jensen Gosewisch Marzilli
3/9 vs. SDP Owings Brito Goldschmidt Lamb Castillo Herrmann Drury Guerrero Bourgeois
3/10 vs. LAA Ahmed Gosselin Drury Peralta Weeks O'Brien Bourgeois Arias Gosewisch
  • #1. Ahmed 4, Segura 3, Owings 2, Pollock 1
  • #2. Brito 3, Pollock 2, five with 1
  • #3. Goldschmidt 5, Gosselin 4, Drury 1
  • #4. Peralta 5, Lamb 3, Castillo 2
  • #5. Weeks 4, Herrmann 2, Castillo 2, two with 1
  • #6. Drury 2, O'Brien 2, Weeks 2, four with 1
  • #7. Drury 2, eight with 1.
  • #8. Borenstein 2, Guerrero 2, six with 1
  • #9. Bourgeois 4, Gosewisch 2, Marzilli 2, two with 1

Well, that's hardly cleared things up much, has it? Especially at the bottom of the order - I mean, in ten games, we have had nine different players hit seventh? The only spots to have reached even 50% of stability are third and fourth in the order, and seeing Goldschmidt and Peralta's names there hardly counts as any shock, given they started in those spots last season, far and away more than anyone else. The question of how will hit ahead of them, however, is still clearly up in the air. Interesting to see Ahmed with more lead-off starts than anyone else: I would have said he needs to get that on-base percentage up a good way (career .269 OBP), for that to be a credible proposition.

Going forward

Heading into the middle of March, we should probably start to see more roster cuts on the position side, and the "regular" starters going deeper into games. By the time we revisit this - ten more games would take us to the end of Sunday March 19 - I'm also hoping we see Pollock and Tomas back in full effect, and hopefully no further injuries have occurred. I suspect our run-scoring will probably take a step back, as BABIP regresses; hopefully, we'll start putting more balls in play to help make up for that. Oh, yeah: and I'm predicting the first Goldy home-run of spring to occur between now and then as well!