It may only have been a couple of days after the 2019 campaign ended, but 320 of you were already looking forward to the 2020 campaign. You gave us your expected Opening Day roster for next year’s Arizona Diamondbacks, and over the next week or so, we’ll be looking at which 26 men (rosters expanding next year) you told us should be on it. We start with the eight position players who topped the list. These were selected by number of votes. I was ready to take needs around the diamond into account, but that didn’t prove necessary. Happily, the eight players who received most votes included one catcher, four infielders and three outfielders. So, well done there!
#1. Ketel Marte, CF (320 votes)
Probably not much of a surprise, considering that this year, he was one of the most valuable players of all time for the Diamondbacks. But getting mentioned on every single ballot is still quite impressive. That contract extension he signed, which has him under team control through 2024, is looking Goldschmidt-like in its wisdom, though I would like to see him prove this wasn’t a fluke before fully anointing him as the face of the franchise. But the question of where he will play next year remains to be decided. Will he stay in center? Go back to second-base? Oh, look: here’s a poll.
Where should Ketel Marte play in 2020?
This poll is closed
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=#2. Nick Ahmed, SS (318)
Ahmed had another excellent year, mostly through his bat continuing to improve. His OPS+ was up to 93, which is perfectly fine for a shortstop, and his defense remained as top-notch as ever. If there’s not another Gold Glove looming, I’ll want to know why. The team will have to make a decision next year, with Ahmed going into his final year of arbitration. Should they give the player, who will enter his thirties in March, an extension? With no obvious replacement in the upper level of Arizona’s minor-league system - our top shortstop prospect, Geraldo Perdomo, is still a teenager until later this month - I’d not be averse to keeping Slick Nick around for a few more seasons.
=#2. Eduardo Escobar, 3B (318)
An unexpected contract extension recipient last winter, Escobar made the most of it, his 35 home-runs and 118 RBI leading the team in both categories. He does offer some position flexibility, making 31 starts at second, but was mostly entrenched at third. His switch-hitting proved a valuable commodity. Though better from the right-hand side, he still had an OPS over .800 batting southpaw, and kept his platoon split difference to double digits - a significant improvement over predecessor Jake Lamb. I’d be expecting more of the same for Escobar in 2019.
#4. Christian Walker, 1B (317)
We’ll never forget Paul Goldschmidt. But the breakout season enjoyed by Walker certainly made the transition to the post-Goldschmidt era, considerably easier to manage. After Lamb’s injury took him out of the expected platoon mix at first-base, Walker stepped up and took over. Across the five previous seasons, Walker had just 61 appearances, and was hitting .170 with six home-runs. You wouldn’t have none it, going by this year, where he batted .259 with 29 home-runs. If you’d bet at the start of the year his OPS would be better than Goldy’s, you’d have got long odds, but that’s what happened. Though probably even more than Marte, I’d like to see this proven not a fluke. Laying off high inside pitches would help.
#5. Carson Kelly, C (315)
The highest ranked new arrival on the Diamondbacks in 2019, Kelly delivered everything we could have wanted. Like Walker, he saw a huge jump in playing time at the major-league level, and his OPS of .826 was beaten among regular Arizona catchers (min. 300 PA) only by Miguel Montero in franchise history, most recently in 2012. At 25, he is still a work in progress in terms of his defense, and there did seem evidence that he simply got worn down over the course of a full season. After his OPS peaked at .924 on August 12, Kelly batted .173/.309/.235 in his final 29 games. Being able to sustain his early effectiveness for a full six months should lock up the position for the foreseeable future.
#6. David Peralta, LF (301)
It’s significant that the outfield occupies two of the three final positions on the list, probably indicating it’s an area of concern, where GM Mike Hazen might be contemplating doing some work over the winter. While CF is clearly not a problem, the corner spots are more of an issue. Peralta had a season to forget, dogged by injury. How much that played into his regression (OPS+ dropping more than twenty points, from 127 to 106) will likely determine his effectiveness in 2020. Next year will also be his final year of team control. But because Peralta is already 32 - older than A.J. Pollock, whom the team let walk ;ast year - the team re-signing him past 2020 seems not as much of a given.
#7. Tim Locastro, RF (275)
Probably the biggest surprise here, was seeing Locastro ranked so highly. He certainly became a fan favorite, due both to his speed (a perfect 17-0 in stolen base attempts) and an almost supernatural ability to draw baseballs into his gravitational well. The latter helped give him an on-base percentage of .357, better than every regular D-back bar Marte. Is Tim ready to take the next step and become an everyday player? We’ll have to see. There would certainly appear to be a role for him in 2020, being a younger and cheaper version of Jarrod Dyson. But personally, I’d be happier with him in a fourth outfielder role, given he had just the one home-run in 250 PA this year.
#8. Wilmer Flores, 2B (267)
The answer would probably have been very different if we’d had this poll during the All-Star break. At that point, Flores had been absent for almost two months after fracturing his right foot, and Wilmer did little over his first few weeks back to suggest the team missed him much. But he then caught fire. After August 12, he batted .388/.429/.673 over 29 games, for a 1.102 OPS. Clearly, that isn’t sustainable. But overall, his 118 OPS+ was more than sufficient to get our attention. Even if that regresses towards his career figure (102), a full season of a healthy Flores would seem to merit serious consideration by the Diamondbacks, towards exercising the $6 million team option they hold for 2020.
Next time, we’ll look at the bench selected by SnakePit readers, and also discuss some of the names that didn’t make the cut...