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Arizona Diamondbacks 2017 Preview: Catchers and Outfield

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A myriad of injuries, a revolving door of outfielders, and a lack of production hurt both the catcher and outfielder positions in 2016. Will 2017 be any different?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Catchers and Outfield preview... Chris Herrmann must have had a say in this preview considering he played all three outfield positions and catcher at one point or another for the Diamondbacks in 2016. In addition to Hermann, the Diamondbacks used 14 additional outfielders, and 3 other catchers in 2016. In this preview, we'll take a look and see if 2017 will offer any new hope, or if we can expect to see an outfield consisting of pitchers, catchers, and infielders again.

Outfielders:

The following is a list of all of the players that appeared at an outfield position for Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2016 season:

  • Rickie Weeks
  • Peter O'Brien
  • Brandon Drury
  • Mike Freeman
  • Michael Bourn
  • A.J. Pollock
  • Socrates Brito
  • Chris Owings
  • Chris Herrmann
  • Yasmany Tomas
  • David Peralta
  • Mitch Haniger
  • Phil Gosselin
  • Kyle Jensen
  • And of course, Shelby Miller

These 15 outfielders was a big increase over the 10 that we used in 2015 and injuries was a big reason why. The two biggest injury losses in the 2016 season was the 129 games that A.J. Pollock missed and the 107 games that David Peralta missed. As Jim noted a couple of months ago, these two players lost the equivalent of roughly 8.4 bWAR during the 2016 season, and needless to say the success of the 2017 outfield will largely depend on whether or not these two can stay healthy. However, this is easier said than done.

In the five years that Pollock has been in the big leagues, he has only had two season in which he has competed in more than half of the team's games (granted one of those years was his rookie season). So saying that he can stay healthy for an entire season is very much a crap shoot. However, if he can stay healthy, he has produced a 5.97 bWAR per 162 games played clip as a major leaguer.

David Peralta is in the same boat as A.J. Pollock, with likely a little less upside. David had a rough year last year with three separate trips to the DL, but managed to play 149 games in 2015 and was worth 3.9 bWAR that year. Both David and A.J. are in their age-29 seasons and their health this year could be a game changer for the Dbacks. I have been spending a lot of time covering A.J. and David (rightfully so, with both combing for 11.3 bWAR in 2015, and both combining for a whopping 1.1 bWAR in 2016). But since the feast and famine machine that is Perallock has been well documented, let's see what else we will have in 2017 in the outfield.

From 2016 to 2017:

Departures Arrivals Stayovers
Rickie Weeks Jeremy Hazelbaker A.J. Pollock
Peter O’Brien Gregory Blanco * David Peralta
Michael Bourn Yasmany Tomas
Phil Gosselin Chris Hermann
Mitch Haniger Chris Owings
Kyle Jensen Socrates Brito
Mike Freeman Brandon Drury
Shelby Miller (haha)

*Recently released

It is easy to see from this graph, that there have been a lot of departures, and not too many arrivals. In fact, with the recent release of Gregory Blanco, Jeremy Hazelbaker is the lone addition over 2016. In the Stayovers list, we see a plethora of outfield uncertainty there as well... A.J. and David have the health concerns, Yasmany appears to have forgotten what a baseball bat was this spring, Socrates Brito is injured and out until at least May, Chris Owings will be playing mostly infield this year, Brandon Drury seems to be locked into the second base position, and Shelby Miller is actually a pitcher. Needless to say, the outfield has some pretty serious questions heading in to the 2017 season.

Despite the uncertainly, the potential is there. If Yasmany can build off a 2016 where he hit 30 doubles, 31 homers. and slugged over .500 he could be a positive contributor (so long as his defense isn't awful). If A.J. Pollock and David Peralta can stay healthy, then we could see 10.0+ bWAR between the two of them. With some positive growth, Hazelbaker and Brito could be solid bench players.... Or we could use 15 more outfielders, and try out a handful of minor leaguers trying to get through the year.

Catchers:

The Dbacks used four catchers last year, and they are listed as follows:

  • Welington Castillo
  • Chris Hermann
  • Oscar Hernandez
  • Tuffy Gosewisch
Castillo did a great job as our starter last year, but he was due a hefty raise through arbitration, and our new front office deemed that luxury either not necessary or foresaw a pending downturn in performance. The other departure from last year is Tuffy Gosewisch. Tuffy was a below replacement level player last year, and was coming off of an injury, so he too was a casualty of the new regime. This leaves Chris Herrmann and Oscar Hernandez as the main catchers for 2017 right? Not so fast.

The new front office came in and appears to have found two catchers that they thought were worth the price tags; Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis. Iannetta is entering his age-34 season, and is coming off of a season where he played in 94 games, hit .210, and was worth 0.3 bWAR. Mathis will also be entering his age-34 season and he is coming off of a season in which he hit .238 and was worth 0.4 bWAR across 41 games at catcher. It is uncertain if one will be the backup and one will be the starter, or if perhaps they will be platooned based on matchups and pitching battery mate.

Chris Herrmann provides a left handed bat at the catcher (and outfield) position, but it remains to be seen where he plays and how much. The other wild card at the catcher position is Oscar Hernandez. He was a Rule V draft pick by the Tony La Rusa and Dave Stewart regime a few years ago, and he rode the pine so hard in 2015 that we got to keep him for good. He sat so much that year because he was very young, just now entering his age-23 season. It remains to be seen if he is still to young to take the next step in his big league maturation process, or how much he will be able to contribute.

The four catchers that appear to be the candidates for a 2017 game are listed as follows:

  • Chris Iannetta
  • Jeff Mathis
  • Chris Herrmann
  • Oscar Hernandez

Conclusion:

There is indeed a boat load of uncertainty surrounding both the catcher and outfield positions (among others) for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. A healthy Pollock and Peralta will go a long way towards having a very productive outfield, while strong performances from a couple of aging catchers could provide some stability for our pitching staff. Despite the uncertainty, this is why every season is so perfect to be a baseball fan. You never know what is going to happen, and this could be the year where your team defies the odds or does something truly remarkable. Just ask the fans of the 2016 Chicago Cubs, we all know there are plenty here in the Valley!

Just for fun, I added a little poll to see which option you think will be more feasible.