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Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training Position Battles: Outfield

Health questions are likely as significant here as ones of performance

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MLB: Spring Training-Texas Rangers at Arizona Diamondbacks Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

On today’s General Hospital...

At time of wriring, the team have only two full-time outfielders on the 40-man roster who are currently taking part in Cactus League games: David Peralta and Jeremy Hazelbaker. With little more than a week left under Opening Day, this is a potential area of concern. However, things could begin to look better, as soon perhaps as this afternoon. Let’s start by reviewing the current health situation of those carrying injuries:

Socrates Brito. Last pre-season game: March 8. Dislocated the fourth finger on his left-hand on an ill-advised head-first slide into home-plate against Mexico: let this be a lesson to everyone. He had surgery to repair the damage, but he won’t be ready for Opening Day, and there’s no real estimate of when he might be back. He’s a potential candidate to go onto the 60-day disabled list, in order to open up a much-needed spot on the 40-man roster.

A.J. Pollock. Last pre-season game: March 12. He was initially lifted from the game as a precaution, as he felt something in his groin on his trot around the bases after hitting a home-run. At the time he said it was “more of a cramp than anything,” but the team has been very cautious with Pollock - this was the same area that ended his season last year, so it does make sense. The good news is, he is close to returning to action: he was originally intended to play yesterday against the Cubs, but the wet grass caused Torey Lovullo to think better of it. All things being equal, he should be in the line-up today, and I imagine will be close to an everyday fixture the rest of the way, to get AB.

Yasmany Tomas. Last pre-season game: March 8. Was having a thoroughly sucky pre-season, going 0-for-20 including the Mexico contest that was his most recent appearance, before being diagnosed with a strained oblique. He does not seem to have played in any minor-league games, but hit in the batting cage yesterday, and will do further work today. Given what seems a relatively early stage in his rehab, I was therefore rather surprised to hear Lovullo say “I feel very comfortable in saying that if he has another good day on [Friday] that he's going to be ready for Opening Day.” We’ll see how that works out.

At least the last two would be guaranteed roster spots if healthy, as will Peralta. We’re more interested in the fringes, so let’s look at the spring numbers for the other possible outfielders, whom we may - or may not - need come Opening Day. Minimum of 10 AB to qualify, with the following in alphabetical order.

Spring performance, 2017 OF candidates

Arcia 45 9 9 2 0 4 6 4 9 .200 .260 .511 .771
Blanco 40 9 9 1 3 0 2 4 9 .225 .295 .400 .695
Hazelbaker 43 5 8 1 0 0 3 3 12 .186 .239 .209 .448
Ijames 10 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 5 .100 .250 .100 .350
Marzilli 18 1 4 0 1 0 2 1 7 .222 .300 .333 .633
Pridie 35 5 7 0 1 1 6 4 10 .200 .282 .343 .625

No-one has really stood out this spring - for a yardstick, the D-backs overall have posted a .793 OPS, and none of the above reach that mark. Arcia, to his credit, has shown power as expected, and actually leads Arizona in pre-season home-runs. As a left-handed bat, he does seem to offer potential pop, but reports on his defense have been very bad - as in, “unfavorably compared to Tomas” bad - that he would seem almost entirely restricted to a bench role. Contrast Hazelbaker, who has done so little, the only plus point he apparently offers is being already on the 40-man roster. He may still be a DFA candidate, and as a minimum salary guy, wouldn’t cost much to let go.

After a rough 0-for-12 start, Blanco seems to have found his footing. Especially after the loss of Brito, he would appear to be the leading candidate, offering a bit more in terms of fieleding, along with decent plate discipline. The team are expecting “a competent fourth outfielder who can play solid defense at all three positions; a pesky, left-handed hitting option to help balance a right-handed heavy lineup; and a fundamentally sound player who can do the little things that can help win games.” If the now-healed torn rotator cuff was indeed the source of his offensive woes in 2016, we could likely do a lot worse for our fourth man.

For Blanco or another of the non-roster candidates, the same applies as with regard to the bullpen: we would need to clear a 40-man roster spot for them. The same potential candidates apply: there’s no concept of position, so you can DFA a pitcher to make room for an outfielder, for instance. But if both Pollock and Tomas are indeed fit for the Opening Day roster, that would certainly ease a lot of the pressure in terms of the need there.