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Arizona Diamondbacks 2017-18 off-season issues #6: Second base

Will we be living on Drury Lane again in 2018? Or is another change of address impending?

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MLB: NLDS- Arizona Diamondbacks Workout Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This position came in with an average score of 5.22, and with the exception of a suspicious number of ones [I’d like to thank the Drury family for visiting the SnakePit!], makes for a nice bell-curve. The majority of respondents (53.3%) were in the 4-6 range, with slightly more on the up-side of that than below it.

2017 starters

  • Brandon Drury 109
  • Daniel Descalso 37
  • Chris Owings 15
  • Adam Rosales 1

Production

  • 0.9 bWAR below average at the position (21st in MLB)
  • .246/.301/.424 = .725 OPS, 20 HR, 85 RBI

2018 depth chart

  1. Brandon Drury
  2. Daniel Descalso
  3. Chris Owings
  4. Ildemaro Vargas

There were conflicting signals sent by Brandon Drury’s 2017 season. His bat took a step back in his sophomore season, Drury’s OPS+ dropping from 101 to 89. But his defense was greatly improved: both defensive WAR and Def had him going from severely below average to pretty decent. Brandon’s dWAR went from -1.7 to +0.7, while his Def improved from -18.5 to +1.5. Part of that should obviously be attributed to changing in position: or rather, less changing position. Drury was almost nothing but a 2B in 2017, his only other game in the field being one at 3B. That’s a sharp contrast to 2016, where he started at four positions, and spent most of the time in the outfield.

The drop at the plate can partly be attributed to his K- and BB-rates, both of which went somewhat in the wrong direction this year. He did show better pitch recognition, swinging at fewer balls out of the strike-zone, and more in it. But the percentage of contact in both areas also dropped, leading to a increased swinging strike rate of 9.9%. That’s not excessive, by any means, putting Drury between David Peralta (9.6%) and Paul Goldschmidt (10.3%). But you would generally want to see an increase, going hand-in-hand with additional power. That didn’t happen for Drury, whose home-runs dipped from 16 to 13, despite slightly more plate-appearances this season.

He certainly seemed to enjoy playing at Chase: he batted over .300 there, and his OPS at home was .897, 257 points better than he managed on the road [both Yasmany Tomas and J.D. Martinez had a bigger difference]. Drury’s platoon split was a lot smaller: indeed, it was actually reverse, with a higher OPS against RHP (.775) than LHP (.738), though that’s likely a result of small sample size. Even smaller, he was one of our better hitters off the bench, going 6-for-16 as a pinch-hitter. But Drury ended up getting benched for a spell in early August, Torey Lovullo cryptically saying, “It’s been quite some time since he has started a game, and I’m well aware of that.”

Though Drury did start more after that pronouncement, it’ll be interesting to see his role in 2017, with Descalso’s option being picked up, As we’ve discussed previously, a shift to platoon with Jake Lamb at third might be possible, if the team wants to get both Owings and Ketel Marte in the line-up. Owings would then become the everyday 2B. That could mean a hit on defense. Over their careers, Owings has a UZR per 150 games at 2B of -1.8, while Drury is at +1.8 by the same metric. However, I should mention that about 34 of all Owings’s time there was back in 2015, so may not reflect his current skills. Last year, he was +4.2 at second, albeit in only 138.2 innings.

However, both last season and for their careers, Drury has the better bat. The OPS+ for 2017 were in Brandon’s favor, 89-83, and over their careers, the gap is even larger, 94-79, despite Drury being a year younger. I was a bit surprised by the difference. On that basis, moving Drury to the weak side of a platoon at third might cause a bigger hole than it fills. Shame Owings doesn’t have any experience - even at the minor-league level - playing the hot corner. It seems to me that even if none of the positions are especially problematic on their own, figuring out how the infield pieces will fit together is likely to be a major conundrum this winter for Mike Hazen and his team.