78 votes later, we have a ranking of the six issues outlined as concerning the Diamondbacks this spring. From now through next Friday - the eve of the Cactus League opener against the Colorado Rockies - we’ll be going up the list, looking at each question in more detail, and reviewing possible answers.
A backup outfielder: SnakePit concern level 2.74 out of 5.
Presuming health, the regular outfield appears likely to be Yasmany Tomas in left, A.J. Pollock in center and David Peralta in right. Tomas moves from right to left, the team apparently hoping to reduce the issues caused by his fielding. However, this may also reduce the potential to use Chris Owings on occasion. He was mooted as a possible replacement for Peralta against left-handed starters, but that makes a bit less sense if he’ll end up playing in right. But, hey: CO was our Opening Day starter in center, so... Insert shrugging emoticon.
Outside the trio (and setting Owings’ use to the side), we have two additional outfielders on the 40-man roster, and four non-roster invitees, from whom the team can draw. It’s possible the team may go with five outfielders, but I think it’s probably more likely that they will use Chris Herrmann as a Swiss Army knife, capable of playing the outfield if necessary. He did start games at all three positions there in 2016, so we’re likely in a kinda weird position where the fifth outfielder is more certain than the fourth one!
The chart below has three blocks of info for each player, as well as their age on Opening Day this year. The first is for their career, and shows the number of major-league games and plate-appearances, their OPS and WAR (an average of bWAR and fWAR for the player). The same information is then repeated for the 2016 season, and finally, as projected for the 2017 season by Steamer - although it only deigned to provide games and plate appearances for half the candidates!
2016 backup outfielder candidates
If we presume Herrmann is indeed the fifth outfielder, that would give us two left-handers (Herrmann and Peralta) and two righties (Pollock and Tomas), so there would seem to be no particular demand for the fourth man to possess any specific handedness. However, about the one thing we can say with near-certainty is, the D-backs will go with a southpaw, simply because all six of the potential candidates bat left-handed. Though as you can see from the projections, none of them appear to be expected to deliver particularly much at the plate - but it’s worth bearing in mind, whoever is chosen will likely see heavy platoon usage, which should help their output.
Let’s take a quick look at what each of the possibilities brings to the table, and a keyword to sum them up.
Oswaldo Arcia: "Potential". Smashed 20 home-runs in the majors as a 23-year-old, in just 410 PAs. Since 2010, just one player his age has hit as many in fewer PAs (Gary Sanchez, 2016 NYY). The problem has been too many strikeouts, particularly against left-handers, where his career K:BB is 103:16. But if kept to seeing RHP, the results would be better. He certainly has the power: 38 HR in 750 PAs with the platoon edge.
Gregor Blanco: "Experience." Two World Series rings and has averaged 130 games a season over the last five years, so knows his way around a baseball park at the highest levels. Last year was a bad one for him, there’s no denying it. But even including it, since 2012, he has averaged 1.2 bWAR per season, and there’s reason to think his poor 2016 was the result of a shoulder injury he carried for much of the year.
Socrates Brito: "Defense". He’ll still only be 24 until well after the All-Star break, and will be seeking to rebound from a 2016 campaign rudely disrupted after Brito broke a toe by fouling a ball off it. He then had surgery for a broken hamate bone in his wrist in November, while preparing for winter ball. So, showing he’s back to 100% health will be important. But if Socrates is, he’s likely the best defender among these options.
Reymond Fuentes: "Speed". As we noted earlier this week, he could be described as a younger version of Blanco. But Fuentes would also pose the biggest threat to opponents on the base-paths, having averaged 29 stolen bases per year in the minors, with only 7 CS. He has shown decent on-base skills there too, with an OBP of .356 in his time at Triple-A, though that has yet to translate to the major leagues.
Jeremy Hazelbaker: "Power". A late bloomer, Hazelbaker finally reached the majors at age 28, and in his first 20 games hit .321/.355/.714. It couldn’t last, of course, but he still had a dozen homers in only 200 at-bats and was the top producer at the plate in 2016 of these six players. Hazelbaker was particularly tough on right-handers, with a slugging percentage of .503. Fun fact: was born exactly the same day as David Peralta.
Jason Pridie: "Opportunity". In his career, Pridie has had six MLB seasons with ten or fewer PA; no other active position player has more than four. He had one year as a regular, and recapturing that is likely still a driving force. After a failed campaign in Japan, he’s back to his native Arizona with something to prove. Pridie has over 5,800 minor league PAs under his belt, so has every incentive to give his all this spring.
So, who’s your pick?