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Steven Souza’s strained pectoral: Who should replace him?

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Now we have news about Souza’s arm, let’s look at the players who could step into the breach.

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

We should start from the assumption that the “ideal” outfield would consist of David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza, with Jarrod Dyson providing a regular back-up, and perhaps a sprinkling of help from the likes of Chris Owings or Daniel Descalso. With Souza now perhaps out of action for some time, who would be the best replacement? It’s a tricky skill-set to replace, because Souza was an unusual combination of power and speed: there aren’t many outfielders who can give you both 30+ HR and 15+ steals, as he did in 2017. The list last season consisted of him, Mike Trout and Domingo Santana, so he will be missed. It may come down to which aspect the D-backs consider most important.

Below are the six candidates perhaps most likely to take over any roster spot, including all the remaining outfielders on the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitees. [I haven’t included prospects outside both groups, such as Evan Marzilli, as they seem a long shot] There isn’t any one player who is an obvious replacement, but we can go over the strengths and weakness of each candidate.

40-man roster

Socrates Brito

  • Career: 58 games, .211/.229/.383 = .612 OPS (56 OPS+)
  • Spring: 8 games, .214/.353/.429 = .782 OPS

The first strike against Brito is, he’s a left-handed bat, like Peralta and Dyson, leaving Pollock the only right-handed outfield option. If you’re going to skew 3-1, going left would be the way to go, but 2-2 is a better balance. As we’ve previously discussed, Brito seems to have fallen out of favor with the new front-office. After seeming to be on the edge of being a regular fourth outfielder at the end of 2016, he wasn’t one of the eleven players to start for Arizona in the outfield last season, suggesting he’s pretty far down the depth chart. Nothing he has done this spring suggests that has changed.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

  • Career: 155 games, .258/.327/.500 = .827 OPS (115 OPS+)
  • Spring: 20 games, .133/.395/.367 = .762 OPS

Could history repeat itself? Hazelbaker made the Opening Day roster last year due to a spring injury to an outfielder ahead of him: in that case, it was Gregor Blanco who went down. He had a remarkable start, Jeremy not making an out until his seventh game, and was batting .308 when sent down in early May to make room for Blanco. Hazelbaker had two further spells with the team, and produced an overall slash of .346/.443/.577, good for an 1.020 OPS. He did start at all three outfield position, and might be the closest in skill-set to Souza, though with weaker defense. He is also left-handed though.

Yasmany Tomas

  • Career: 305 games, .268/.307/.462 = .769 OPS (98 OPS+)
  • Spring: 14 games, .306/.375/.444 = .819 OPS

The most experienced candidate, in terms of MLB games, Yasmany is likely the only one of the candidates who might have a credible shot at matching Souzna’s thirty home-runs, but his other talents mostly fall well short. He had a great start to spring, and through the Ides of March was batting .423/.500/.615, causing some to wonder if he’d turned the corner. But over the last three games, he is a worrying 0-for-10 with eight K’s. A bigger question is whether his defense is good enough to avoid negating entirely the offensive production, which has happened each of his three major-league seasons to date.

Non-roster invitees

Ramon Flores

  • Career: 119 games, .204/.281/.256 = .537 OPS (45 OPS+)
  • Spring: 16 games, .143/.286/.286 = .571 OPS

I had a whole paragraph written out, only to realize I’d been looking at the wrong R. Flores - Rudy, not Ramon. It doesn’t matter much, when neither of them have much chance of making the roster in 2018. One thing is intriguing about Flores: his plate discipline, shown in a spring K:BB of 2:6. That’s not a misprint: two strikeouts, six walks. It has been his profile in the minors too, where the ratio is 171:153, leading to an OBP of .387 over 1,179 PA. But that has not translated to the majors, where his OBP is more than a hundred points lower, leaving his production down at sub-replacement level.

Rey Fuentes

  • Career: 100 games, .238/.286/.310 = .595 OPS (55 OPS+)
  • Spring: 19 games, .361/.439/.750 = 1.189 OPS

DFA’d to make room for Alex Avila, Fuentes cleared waivers and may still have a purpose, especially if the team want to go the defense-oriented route as a replacement. He appeared in 53 games for Arizona in 2017, fifth-most on the club, and He is almost the anti-Tomas, with the question here being whether his bat will be good enough for Fuentes to stick around. Spring has looked very promising, with Fuentes tied for the team lead in home-runs, his three equaling the output from his entire major-league career. We almost lost him this week too, after he was hit on the hand Monday; thankfully, X-rays were negative.

Cesar Puello

  • Career: 17 games, 206/.308/.206 =.514 OPS (46 OPS+)
  • Spring: 18 games, .414/471/.552 = 1.022 OPS

With over three thousand minor-league PAs to his name, Puello probably brings more pro experience than the average 26-year-old, even if his major-league resume is the briefest of the six candidates. He has a decent slash in Triple-A of .289/.379/.447, over 270 games there, and has 49 stolen bases in 57 attempts, so appears to know his way around the base-paths. His spring numbers were very impressive, and being right-handed would make him a natural replacement for Souza. On the other hand, he’s almost entirely an unknown quantity at the MLB level.

Of course, right now, we still don’t know whether or not Souza will be out for a significant period of time. But last night certainly didn’t look good, so it’s probably wise to be prepared. [UPDATE] The results of the MRI this morning are back:

[Video via @FoxSportsAZ] This probably means somewhere from him missing a couple of weeks to a month. It could have been a lot worse, but will still be a significant loss at the start of the season. With the Dodgers losing Justin Turner and the Giants having issues with Jeff Samardzija, I’m half expecting another April tear out of the Rockies!

Poll

Who should replace Steven Souza, if necessary?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Socrates Brito
    (19 votes)
  • 0%
    Ramon Flores
    (3 votes)
  • 40%
    Rey Fuentes
    (170 votes)
  • 21%
    Jeremy Hazelbaker
    (93 votes)
  • 7%
    Cesar Puello
    (30 votes)
  • 25%
    Yasmany Tomas
    (110 votes)
425 votes total Vote Now