- Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 35.24 (13/40/24)
- Seasons: 2014-2015
- Stats with Arizona: 250 games, .292/.329/.386, 95 OPS+, 8.9 bWAR, 5.9 fWAR
- Best season: 2015- 132 games, .303/.338/.408, 100 OPS+, 5.3 bWAR, 3.2 fWAR
Since he entered the league with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014, Ender Inciarte has been one of the best outfielders in the game. Inciarte was signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in 2008 and quickly found success at every minor league stop along the way. He was nearly the best player the Diamondbacks have ever lost to the Rule 5 draft when he was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, but he was returned to the Diamondbacks after Philadelphia designated him for assignment following Opening Day 2013. Inciarte was selected as a Southern League All Star that season as a member of the Diamondbacks AA affiliate, the Mobile BayBears, and stole 43 bases that season.
The Diamondbacks promoted him to the majors on April 30th, 2014 and he was supposed to play that night, but his flight was canceled and he would not make his debut until May 2nd against the San Diego Padres.
“It makes me feel happy to finally be back here,” Inciarte said. “Last year, I wasn’t feeling like I belonged to a team. It was weird. This year I feel like I can be here and I want to stay here for a long time.”
Turns out he had little to worry about as fellow outfielder A.J. Pollock was lost for much of the 2014 season at the end of May with a broken hand, so Kirk Gibson had to rely on Inciarte more than anticipated. His first season in the MLB was successful as a 24 year old, and he wound up producing more bWAR (3.7) than that season’s NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (3.5) while finishing 5th place in the voting. Much of his production came during the second half of 2014 batting .306/.352/.417 with 13 stolen bases in 64 games. Inciarte finished among the top 5 among NL Rookies in runs, hits, doubles, steals, and multi-hit games. He also set a Diamondbacks rookie record with an 18 game hit streak that season.
2014 was a disappointment for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and after the season ended both skipper Kirk Gibson and General Manager Kevin Towers were fired. Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa were brought in as the head decision makers. With A.J. Pollock returning from injury and the emergence of Inciarte and David Peralta, there was little room for the defensively inept Mark Trumbo. Yasmany Tomas was initially signed that season to play third base, but his defensive ineptitude became painfully apparent rather quickly. He was sent to the outfield which resulted in Trumbo being shipped to the Seattle Mariners for Wellington Castillo on June 3rd, 2015. The trio of Pollock, Inciarte, Peralta, would form one of the better defensive outfields in baseball in 2015. They could have been even better were it not for the whirling mass of Yasmany Tomas roaming the outfield on their off days, but I would rather not let him hijack Ender’s article.
Inciarte received his only Opening Day nod for the Diamondbacks in 2015 getting the start in left field. His speed and defensive prowess was perfectly suited to the expansive outfield of Chase Field, and he was ultimately awarded the Fielding Bible Award for players who appeared at multiple defensive positions. Ender had the 2nd most defensive runs saved that season in the majors at 29. An extra year of experience at the major league level advanced his ability at the plate as well seeing him improve to .303/.338/.408 with 21 stolen bases batting primarily as the leadoff hitter. Inciarte was second only to Bryce Harper in batting average against right handed pitchers. Again, he did not fade during the dog days of summer this time hitting .319/.358/.443 over 69 games in the second half of 2015.
His 2015 splits were staggering which makes his inevitable trade, along with Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair, to the Atlanta Braves for Shelby Miller unbearably painful. There is little doubt that his presence in the outfield could have lessened the impact felt by the loss of Pollock and Peralta in 2016. It was assumed he would continue to play a large role on the team when he was modeling the unveil of the Diamondbacks current uniforms, but a few short days later his trade to Atlanta was announced. As fate would have it, he has managed to win 2 Gold Glove awards with the Atlanta Braves and was named a National League All Star in 2017. Atlanta wisely signed him to a 5 year $30 million dollar extension at the conclusion of the 2016 season which will likely produce surplus value over its entirety. He holds the honor of recording the first defensive out, hit, and home run at Sun Trust Park which was opened in 2017.
Most casual fans will forget Ender’s time here because nothing he did was particularly flashy or “sexy” in the sense that he did not hit for a ton of power. Dedicated fans will remember him because of how fundamentally sound his style of play was and continues to be to this day. Although he only suited up for the Diamondbacks for 250 games, it felt much longer to me because I could not get enough of watching him play. Given the opportunity to play for the Diamondbacks longer, he arguably could have been among our best outfielders of all time. His 3.82 fWAR/162 and 5.76 bWAR/162 in a Diamondbacks uniform put him on par with Gonzo depending on your flavor (4.58 fWAR/162, 4.07 bWAR/162), Steve Finley (3.47 fWAR/162, 3.43 bWAR/162), and A.J. Pollock (4.91 fWAR/162, 5.62 bWAR/162). Do not allow me to use that as an argument to say who is the best among those 4, and it is important to consider the small sample size I am discussing, but it helps demonstrate how special of a player he truly was. His 49 defensive runs saved with the Diamondbacks is second behind Gerardo Parra’s 73 in less than a third of the innings played. He has shown little sign of slowing down, and his team friendly contract should bode well for the Atlanta Braves.
Please excuse me as I go sulk in a corner.