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MLB Opening Day 2016: Who'll be the Arizona Diamondbacks 25th man?

With less than two weeks now until Opening Day, there are still a number of roster spots left. Not least is the final bench spot, which offers a number of interesting candidates...

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Presuming the Diamondbacks go with a traditional seven-man bullpen (though the question of that 7th man will be receiving an article itself!), that means a five-man bench. Four of those spots appear almost assured. Presuming 100% health, those seem highly like to go to: a backup catcher, most probably Tuffy Gosewisch; outfielder Socrates Brito; and infielders Chris Owings and Phil Gosselin. The middle infield situation is somewhat fluid, and I think the line between everyday starter and the bench will be blurrier than, say, at first-base. But I imagine preference will be given to the guys batting .525 (Jean Segura) and .422 (Nick Ahmed) in spring.

For the purpose of this article though, it doesn't particularly matter. You're either on the roster or you aren't, and with both Owings and Gosselin hitting over .350 to this point, there seems no reason for them to lose the spots they had, even before rosters expanded last September. This seems likely to leave one spot still undecided, and there are a number of interesting candidates who have made an impression this spring. Let's take a look at who has thrown their cap into the ring for that 25th and final locker.

Brandon Drury

Drury has been having a good spring too, with a triple-slash line of .311/.380/.644 for an OPS of 1.024, including three home-run. His K:BB ratio has been solid, at 7:4, and his glove has looked solid, with just one error at the hot-corner thus far, compared to the five made by fellow third-baseman, Jake Lamb. He has been seeing almost equal play-time to Lamb, both having made a dozen starts, which indicates the team wants to get a good, long look at the 23-year-old before Opening Day.. As a right-hander, he would mesh nicely with Lamb, if the team decides to continue its policy from last year, of keeping Jake away from left-handed pitching.

The main question would be whether Drury might be better served in the long-term with getting regular at-bats in the minors, rather than riding the pine as a backup in the major leagues. He split 2015 almost evenly between Double-A and Triple-A and, given his youth, there's a case that he can become a more complete player with some additional time, especially since there's currently no need to rush him into action here. There was a suggestion earlier this spring he could also be used as an outfielder, but if that is to be the case, all the preparation must be taking place on the back-fields at SRF. But Drury does have positional flexibility, and could also be used at 2B.

Chris Herrmann

The Diamondbacks traded for Herrmann back in November, and it seems credible that they did so partly as an insurance policy, in case Gosewisch didn't recover from his torn ACL in time for spring training. Everything seems fine in that department: indeed, it has been Chris who has been forced to skip games during the pre-season, missing 11 days before yesterday's contest with a hip problem. If he's healthy, there's still a chance he could displace Tuffy. Said manager Chip Hale, "We were very happy with his games before the injury. We think his defense is much better than was advertised at the start."

I know Preston has an article pending, touting Herrmann, so I probably shouldn't say too much more here, but a couple of things do weigh particularly in his favor - whether it's as backup catcher or as the 25th man. He bats left-handed which would help to balance out the squad: Lamb, Brito and David Peralta are the only other southpaws among the position players on the 40-man roster. Secondly, he's out of minor-league options, so a spot needs to be found for him on the 25-man roster, or he will have to be put through waivers and would quite possibly be lost to another team.

Peter O'Brien

[Insert GIF of Tuesday's home-run here] And the defense rests its case, m'lud. Yeah, that was quite some bomb, leaving the bat at 119.5 mph, faster than any home-run tracked in 2015. It showcased exactly what you would expect from O'Brien, and what we also got a glimpse during his September cup of coffee, when his first major-league HR was the fourth longest launched by a Diamondback all of last season. A man who can potentially change the course of a game, if he connects in the appropriate late-inning situation. We've had our share of that this spring, Peter's four home-runs leading the team, and an .851 OPS would be entirely acceptable as well.

However, there are significant questions about his defense, which has been shaky at best, as was seen in the error he committed in left field yesterday. In his defense, he is still learning the position, having been mostly a catcher on his journey through the minors, and if he could follow in the footsteps of Peralta and become acceptable with the glove, Peter's power would go a very long way. Literally. With that power though, will come strikeouts. Lots of strikeouts. O'Brien's 15 whiffs also lead the team this spring, and with just one base on balls to go against that, the name in team history which comes to mind is Wily Mo Pena.

Rickie Weeks Jr.

Booooo! Boooooo! Oh, I'm sorry: I thought I was still at the 2011 Home-Run Derby there for a moment. Letting bygones by bygones, it'd be a feather in our cap to have an All-Star as our 25th man - even one who was sub-replacement level (-0.8 bWAR) with the Seattle Mariners last year, batting .167 over his 37 games. However, the addition or the "Jr" to his name seems to have turned the clock back a few years, batting .357/.514/.500 for an OPS of 1.014. Hale said earlier this week, "He has been very impressive in camp. I’ll tell ya, we’ve been pleasantly surprised," and the same piece says many "industry insiders" think he might have done enough to make the roster.

Certainly no shortage of experience for Weeks, with almost 4,800 major-league PA to his name. That means he is perhaps also best suited to a bench-role, with no development to be hampered by lack of everyday at-bats. Worth bearing in mind he is being considered, defensively, strictly as an outfielder, even though he never played there until last season, the rest of his playing time coming at second-base. Historically, he hasn't done too well off the bench, with a career average of just  .228 as a pinch-hitter, though that's actually eight points higher than the National League average last season.

The Pollock scenario

In the end, we may have two of these on the roster for Opening Day, if A.J. Pollock doesn't come back from his elbow problem in time for that. That would probably mean Socrates Brito becoming the everyday starter in center, and would improve the chances of those able to play the outfield. That would be O'Brien and Weeks in particular, with a nod to Drury. There is also the possibility that the team would go in another direction: if Pollock goes down, they may want to add the most "Pollock like" replacement, who could be someone like Evan Marzilli, another prospect who has impressed in spring, with a line of .353/.389/.676.

There may just be 11 days remaining until the first game of the season, but there is still plenty to be decided for the Diamondbacks.