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Countdown to Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day: D-31, Jeremy Hazelbaker

One month until Opening Day!

Arizona Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks.

D minus 31: Jeremy Hazelbaker

  • Date of birth: August 14, 1987
  • Ht/Wt: 6’3”, 190 lbs
  • Position: Outfielder
  • Status: 40-man roster
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • 2016 MLB numbers: 224 PA in 114 games, .235/.295/.480, 12 HR, 28 RBI
  • SnakePit Rating: 4.57 [pattern of votes below]

It’s a fair question to ask where Hazelbaker came from, given he spent 2011-2015 bouncing around between Double-A and Triple-A. He ended the last of those seasons at age 28, still without a major-league appearance to his name. So how did he end up appearing 114 times for the Cardinals in 2016 after making their Opening Day roster? It came late in spring, when an injury to Ruben Tejada gave him a chance. Hazelbaker seized it with both hands: his first nine games in the majors included an eight-game hitting streak, 13 hits in only 27 at-bats and three home-runs.

He couldn’t maintain that torrid pace, and was sent back to the minors in mid-June. He returned shortly after the break, mostly in a bench-role: Hazelbaker had only sixteen starts in the second half. But he was effective there batting .268 with an .871 OPS. His four pinch-hit homers were tied for the major-league lead last season, and came in only 42 PAs. This is encouraging given it seems likely he’ll occupy a similar role on the D-backs, if he makes the roster. He’ll also be used to get a platoon advantage, and again, did well there in 2016. Facing left-handed pitching, his line was .245/.318/.503, an .822 OPS that was 237 points better than against RHP.

The downside? He’ll swing and miss a lot, with a 28.6% K-rate (MLB average us 21.1%), and walks at a below-average rate of 8.0%. While he can play at all three outfield positions, none of the metrics are impressed with his fielding at any of them. But there is some evidence his power is the result of a mechanical change: speaking to Fangraphs in August, Hazelbaker said, “I kind of revamped. Everything from my stride to my barrel positioning to my hand positioning. I kind of worked some kinks out. My swing was already pretty short and compact. This was more to free myself up. It was about letting my hands work, and letting my god-given ability take over.”

We’ll see how that works out for him this season. But I imagine Hazelbaker will at least be glad no longer to be living in Lance Lynn’s house...

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