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Four Possible Diamondback Acquisitions in Center Field

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Will the Diamondbacks acquire a center fielder in the off season?

Keon Broxton
Keon Broxton
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks continue to look for depth in the outfield. Pollock may be susceptible to injury, and he will be a free agent at the end of this season. A wise choice would be to acquire depth in center field.

Center fielders who are free agents or rumored to be available via trade include: Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Cameron Maybin, Rajai Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Tyler Naquin, Brandon Nimmo, Brett Phillips, Ben Revere, Domingo Santana, and Nick Williams.

First, I narrowed my list by removing 6 players with the worst defense in 2017 (as measured by UZR/150). I removed Aaron Altherr (-27.5), Rajai Davis (-5), Jon Jay (-6.1), Brandon Nimmo (-11.4), Domingo Santana (NA), and Nick Williams (-13.3).

Second, I narrowed my list by removing 2 players with the lowest percent of hard-hit balls in 2017. I removed Jarrod Dyson (15.8%), and Ben Revere (21.6%).

The four remaining players were Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips, Cameron Maybin, and Tyler Naquin. Maybin is a free agent; the others would require a trade between clubs.

Before we talk about these four players, let’s look at some information.

Center Fielders

Player UZR/150 games Hard-Hit % Earliest FA Year
Player UZR/150 games Hard-Hit % Earliest FA Year
Keon Broxton -4.0* 35.3 % 2023
Brett Phillips 20.9 29.6 % 2024
Cameron Maybin 10.0 27.4 % free agent
Tyler Naquin   4.5 31.0 % 2023
Data from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

‘*’ Statcast showed defense was better than his UZR/150 metric.

Keon Broxton. In 2009, he was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the third round. Currently, he plays for the Brewers. This season, they have other outfielders including Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Brett Phillips, and Domingo Santana. The Brewers were rumored to be shopping outfielders.

“I have had to learn the mental part of the game…which includes which counts to steal in, who I am at the plate…I had to learn everything about this game and that’s the beauty of it.” -- Keon Broxton

In 2016, he was awesome with OPS+ of 107, DRS of 9, and UZR of 5.4. The next season, 2017, was worse (OPS+ of 85, DRS of -7, and UZR of -2). The problem months were July and September. He is very much worth acquiring for five reasons.

  • Statcast showed his 2017 defense as far better than it appeared. He ranked 11th in NL for outs-above-average, 4th in Majors with 4 five-star-catches, made 86% of catches compared to 82% for average outfielder (stats from Isaac Buttke article).
  • He has extraordinary speed (ranked eighth in Majors in statcast’s average sprint speed (29.5 feet per second)(stat from Buttke article), ranked fourth in NL for stolen base percentage (85.2%) in 2016.
  • He has hitting power (29 HR in 709 PAs) and with the right coaching he can improve his hitting consistency. Down months like July and September of 2017 can be long-ago memories.
  • Broxton has one option remaining,adding roster flexibility to his value.
  • He plays 5 seasons before reaching free agency.

Brett Phillips

In 2017, Baseball Prospectus ranked Brett Phillips 75th in the top 100 prospects. In 2018, Baseball America ranked Phillips as 80th in the top 100 prospects. It is likely his arm is as strong as many pitchers because he can throw at 104 mph.

He plays for the Brewers. In his first season in the Majors, 2017, he excelled in both offense and defense. His OPS+ was 107 and his UZR/150 was 20.9.

Brett Phillips has a unique positive impact to team culture because he has a “world renown laugh.” Nevertheless his focus is to “work hard”, “be a good teammate”, and “contribute any way I can.” During spring training, he said he and his teammates “get our minds right.”

He is 23 years old, and he will continue to develop increased skills. He plays 6 seasons before reaching free agency. Brett Phillips would be an excellent acquisition.

Cameron Maybin

Maybin is a free agent. The Astos had a fourth outfielder (Jake Marisnick) and they had little reason to extend Maybin. Mark Polishuck (MLB Trade Rumors), in his Offseason Outlook for Arizona Diamondbacks, named Maybin as a possible acquisition if the Diamondbacks decided to trade away AJ Pollock. A different view is that because of the possibility Pollock suffers an injury, acquiring Maybin adds good depth to the D-back outfield.

“I feel like my character has been tested the past couple years. And I always seem to rise to the occasion or come through when I feel I need to.” — Cameron Maybin, March 12, 2011.

If he could be obtained at an affordable salary with a team option year, he would be a good acquisition for the following reasons.

  • Average Offense. In 11 seasons, he accumulated 12.9 offensive bWAR. He improved his hitting in 2015 (OPS+ of 94) and 2016 (OPS+ of 118). His hitting took a step back in 2017 (OPS+ of 87). In 2017, he finished second in the AL for stolen bases (33).

“As the season has progressed[2015], Seitzer and Castro have fine-tuned his swing and helped him find the muscle memory that’s so important to keeping a proper swing intact.” — foxsports

  • Excellent Defense. In 2017, his UZR/150 was 10.0. His outs-above-average was 2. In 11 seasons, he accumulated 1.3 defensive WAR.

“I take pride in my defense....It’s fun to see those looks on guys’ faces when I take those hits away from them.” — Cameron Maybin

Tyler Naquin

In the minors, Tyler Naquin hit 22 homers in 1542 PAs - not very noteworthy except to highlight his rookie season. His first season in the Majors (2016) he had a hot streak in June/July, hitting 12 home runs in 155 PAs. During the streak, his home run per fly ball was 36% and his BABIP was .430. For the season his OPS+ was 128. He finished third in the voting for NL rookie-of-the-year with a 13% share.

For the first week of the 2017 season, he was the Indian’s starting center fielder. Regression from his previous season’s excellence happened. He was optioned to the minors. While in the minors he injured his lower back. He returned in July and September, but his stats showed he was not fully recovered.

He demonstrated that when healthy, he can play in the Majors. However, the Indians have a full outfield. MLB Depth Charts projects him the start the season in AAA with no specified estimated time of arrival in the Majors. He has 2 option years left. He could be a valuable acquisition for the Diamondbacks, where he would have a much better chance of playing in the Majors.