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Arizona Diamondbacks 2017-18 off-season issues #8: Shortstop

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Perhaps surprisingly low, considering the volatility of the position this season.

Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

A broad selection of opinions here, with no one category reaching even 20% of the vote. However, most were on the “not a major issue” end, 58.5% of respondents having this at a concern level of four or lower. That pushed it down to third-lowest overall, with an average score of 4.30.

2017 starters

  • Ketel Marte: 57
  • Chris Owings: 51
  • Nick Ahmed: 41
  • Adam Rosales: 9
  • Kristopher Negron: 3
  • Jack Reinheimer: 1

Production

  • 0.8 bWAR below average at the position (22nd in MLB)
  • .261/.312/.411 = .723 OPS. 17 HR, 63 RBI

2018 depth chart

  1. Ketel Marte
  2. Nick Ahmed
  3. Chris Owings
  4. Jack Reinheimer

I’m a little surprised to see this one ranked so low, considering how far short we were of an “everyday shortstop”, with no-one starting even 60 games there. We lost both Opening Day main players to injury - eerily, they were almost the same. First, Ahmed had his hand broken by the CardinalsTrevor Rosenthal at the end of June. He was almost ready to return, when the same hand was struck while on a rehab assignment with Reno in late August. The broken wrist ended his season. Meanwhile, Owings had his middle finger broken by a pitch, also by a Cardinal [though CO was trying to bunt]. He almost returned for the playoffs but in the end, couldn’t quite make it back.

Those injuries left the D-backs scrambling, the injuries leading respectively to the promotion of Marte, and a trade for Rosales. When Marte suffered the sad loss of his mother, the team had to dig even deeper, promoting Reinheimer to cover the position for a short while. It’s hard to be sure without a deep dive into line-ups, but looks like the six players to start at shortstop for the Diamondbacks in 2017 was a new team record. Given this, and how far into our depth we had to dive, it’s perhaps quite surprising that the results overall weren’t worse. Not that, overall, the numbers were good, with shortstop one of the team’s weaker positions this year.

The main reason for relative optimism is probably the rise of Marte, proclaimed the team’s future shortstop as recently as settenson23’s FanPost last week. It would certainly be a change to have an everyday name there. Since 2010, the only man to have started even a hundred times at short in a year for Arizona is Nick Ahmed in 2015. This has been due to a mix of injury, ineffectiveness (2012, when Willie Bloomquist started most games there) and trading players away such as Didi Gregorius. The result has been a revolving door, but the hope is, Marte might be the one to stop it. He put up 1.1 bWAR in little more than a third of a season (519 total innings in the field).

Whether the job is his to keep, may end up depending on other pieces of the interlocking puzzle which is our infield. For instance, does Brandon Drury stay at second, or move back to third to form a platoon with Jake Lamb? Health is another factor. Owings’s rehab from his finger injury has been problematic, and he underwent a second surgical procedure on it Friday, a little more than three months after the first one. Ahmed’s bat continues to lag behind his defense, and he has been unable to stay healthy, his last two seasons ending in surgery. Over 2016-17, he appeared in only 143 total games, and was worth 0.4 bWAR over those two seasons.

What I’d be inclined to do is have a semi-platoon of Marte and Ahmed at short. Ahmed has hit LHP much better over his career (.755 vs. .562), while Marte - though a switch hitter - prefers RHP (.705 vs. .632). Put the two together, and you’d have a very slick fielding shortstop, who can hit reasonably well from both sides of the plate. Meanwhile, Owings has almost no career difference in his numbers (just a 13-point edge for RHP), so make him the everyday second baseman, and platoon Drury and Lamb at third. This is the basis on which I put Ahmed ahead of Owings at short in the depth-chart above: I’d have Owings at 2B instead.

The range of options is likely part of the reason why this position scored relatively low: the team has alternatives, and most would be decent enough. However, who’s to say if we’ll reach spring training with the same personnel? We could end up trading Ahmed, with Reinheimer taking over the role as glove-first SS in 2018. It is one of the few areas where the team has decent depth at the major-league level, so can deal without ransacking the farm system, or having too much negative impact on immediate performance. I’d not be surprised to see Mike Hazen use that depth this winter, to strengthen areas of greater concern.