Going into the 2016 season, a very strong argument was viable for singling out Yasmany Tomás as possibly the biggest X-factor for the Arizona offense. Missing most of spring due to an injury and watching his position as an everyday starter placed in jeopardy by the surging Socrates Brito did nothing to help this perception.
The Diamondbacks have played 15 games so far. Due in no small part to the team losing A.J. Pollock for the season, Tomás has played in 12 of them. In that time, Tomás has been both somewhat as expected, and something of a pleasant surprise. On the defensive side of things, there has always existed the question of whether or not he could hold his own enough to simply not be a paragon of suck. Losing arguably the best defensive center fielder in the league did nothing to make the job of playing left field any easier for Tomás. To date, he has, unsurprisingly been worth -0.1 dWAR and -27.7 UZR/150. While this is not encouraging by any stretch of the imagination, it is no worse than was expected, and might in fact actually be better than expected, given the loss of Pollock to help make left field a smaller place. Offensively, however; is where things are looking decidedly different for Tomás in 2016. Granted, small sample size still applies, but the approach has looked more confident, leading to realistic hopes that there might indeed be something at work here.
Through April and May of 2015, Tomás posted numbers somewhat similar to what he has done so far this year. However, last season he was hitting for less pop. Now granted, this year's power is helped by the two-homer game Tomás just had in San Diego. That though, is more the problem with small sample sizes than his actual hitting. Home runs often come in bunches for some players. It's where that OPS+ is at the end of the year that counts. So far in 2016 Tomás has posted a 131 OPS+ (131 wRC+), slightly below what he posted through the end of April in 2015 (a month he only played about half of). The biggest difference though seems to be in his power. This year Tomás is not slapping lots of singles the other direction. Six of Tomás' 13 hits this year have been of the extra base variety. Going into tonight's game against the Giants, Tomás will be sporting a triple slash of .295/ .360/ .523. This .523 slugging percentage is far beyond the best mark he posted in a single month all of last season (.489 in June). What may be even more encouraging still is that Tomás' success in 2016 has come with a significantly lower BAbip. In 2015 Tomás was the beneficiary of very favorable BAbip. In 2015 Tomás ended the season with a .354 BAbip, helped in large part by a May in which he was the beneficiary of a .411 mark in that column. He managed these marks despite not hitting with power, or even much authority, especially as the year wore on.
Thus far in 2016, Tomás is the recipient of a very modest .333 BAbip. What is encouraging about this mark is that it appears sustainable. Unlike last year's performance, in which smoke and mirrors often seemed to be involved, Tomás is hitting the ball with authority this year. While his soft-hit % is almost identical to his 2015 rate, his hard-hit has taken a massive jump, almost entirely from the medium-hit category. No longer is he tagging soft liners to the gap. He is now hitting with authority. His BAbip is over the league average, but very much in line for that expected of someone with an OPS over .850. All told, this has made Tomás worth 0.3 bWAR and 0.1 fWAR, this despite his fielding woes. If Tomás can keep up this level of production for the season, then the offense is going to be in good shape, having a second right-handed bat capable of driving in runs to pair with Goldschmidt - a bat to nearly (but not quite) replace the loss of Pollock from the lineup.
So which is the real Yasmany Tomás? Is it the light-hitting, strikeout prone lumbering outfielder from 2015? Or is it the authoritative bat with more sustainable rates that has shown up ready to play in 2016? Obviously, the sample size for 2016 is still too small to make a definitive call. The most concerning factor may still yet to rear its ugly head - Tomás' conditioning. Even if this early-season Tomás is the real one, is there enough gas in his tank to get him through the long, grueling summer? Last season Tomás began to not only fade, but nearly fall off a cliff once July rolled around. By the end of September, the young Cuban barely looked like he belonged on a professional team, limping into the offseason clearly out of energy. Will that be the case again this year? Or will the offseason conditioning program, along with the experience gained in 2015 of playing a long season pay off, helping keep Tomás going through the dog days and into October?
Regardless of which it is, Yasmany Tomás is quickly shaping up to be a fun player to keep track of in 2016.