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Ranking the 2019 Arizona Diamondbacks infield

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In which we pick apart our options, by position

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

This one will be done slightly differently from the bullpen rankings done previously. The infield is not so much a single unit, and so it makes more sense to break things down by possible candidates at each position. There’s no way, for example, that Alex Avila is going to compete with Nick Ahmed for the shortstop position. So, I’ve taken each spot and listed the potential candidates at each position, with fairly loose rules to qualify - basically, did they start at that position last year more than once? However, there have been some executive exceptions granted to that rule, e.g. Jake Lamb is a candidate for first base. [He did actually start there twice in 2015, which I’d completely forgotten]

Catcher

  • 6.1 Carson Kelly
  • 8.6 Alex Avila
  • 10.1 John Ryan Murphy
  • 12.6 Daulton Varsho
  • 13.3 Tyler Heineman
  • N/R Caleb Joseph

It doesn’t seem that fandom is exactly enthusiastic about any of the options, none of them making the top five of our infielders. However, new arrival Kelly gets the benefit of the doubt, having been blocked by some Yadier guy in St. Louis. Despite a horrific start to the season, Avila is still rated above Murphy, who overall was ranked behind two players yet to appear in the majors (Chisholm and Cron). It would have been interesting to see where new new arrival Joseph ranked, relative to the other three, but news of his signing only came out yesterday morning.

First base

  • 3.3 Jake Lamb
  • 4.5 Wilmer Flores
  • 7.5 Christian Walker
  • 9.7 Kevin Cron
  • 14.8 Wyatt Mathisen

Lamb would appear to be the best bet for the team here, and it’s a position which should help mitigate his defensive issues. That said, Lamb has cut back on the errors considerably over the last three seasons, basically cutting the rate in half at third (F% going from .945 in 2016 to .977 in 2018). The expected move to first is as much about keeping his bat in the line-up. He’ll also need to prove he is fully over the left arm problems which hampered him in 2018. How well he hits left-handed pitching is also a big question: if there’s still no improvement on previous seasons, then we can expect to see Flores and/or Walker get more of the starts at first vs. LHP.

Second base

  • 4.5 Wilmer Flores
  • 11.8 Ildemaro Vargas
  • 12.2 Domingo Leyba
  • 13.4 Kelby Tomlinson
  • 14.6 Andy Young
  • 14.8 Wyatt Mathisen
  • 15.2 Juniel Querecuto

With Ketel Marte probably moving to center field (though some recent comments from Torey Lovullo suggest this may not be as certain as it seemed a month or so ago), that appears to open up second for Flores. That’s going to be interesting: he made just six starts their last year, and ten the season before that, as part of a career total of 77. Throw in Marte and Lamb, and we could have three-eighths of our starting line-up on any given night, playing positions at which they have very limited major-league experience. It’s going to be a challenge for our coaches this year, to keep Arizona’s defense in the “above average” spot where it ranked overall last season.

Shortstop

  • 2.0 Eduardo Escobar
  • 2.1 Nick Ahmed
  • 9.0 Jazz Chisholm
  • 11.8 Ildemaro Vargas
  • 12.2 Domingo Leyba
  • 13.4 Kelby Tomlinson
  • 15.2 Juniel Querecuto

Based on the result, this might be the area where our depth is most questionable. Escobar is going to be elsewhere, and although Ahmed was rated almost as highly, there’s a steep drop-off behind him. And while Chisholm is potentially the future at the position, he hasn’t seen a pitch above High-A. This leaves us with Vargas as the highest-ranked backup in this exercise, just ahead of Leyba. There’s not much confidence shown in Tomlinson’s experience, despite him recently being Steve Gilbert’s pick to make the Opening Day roster, in front of the two young prospects.

Third base

  • 2.0 Eduardo Escobar
  • 3.3 Jake Lamb
  • 4.5 Wilmer Flores
  • 9.7 Kevin Cron
  • 13.4 Kelby Tomlinson
  • 14.6 Andy Young
  • 14.8 Wyatt Mathisen
  • 15.2 Juniel Querecuto

Finally, we have the hot corner, where Escobar topped all infielders in our poll, and is seen as the best player we have. With him being a switch-hitter and not excessively sharp in terms of platoon splits (35 OPS points better against left-handed pitchers), it seems reasonable to assume that he’ll be close to an everyday player. He does have some positional flexibility, so it’s possible against right-handed pitching, he moves to shortstop with Lamb going back across the diamond. However, it is worth noting that Lamb is only “true” left-handed infield bat on the 40-man roster. Escobar, Leyba and Vargas are all switch-hitters, along with Querecuto. Something on which to keep an eye, perhaps.

Predicting the Opening Day infield

Having told us who you think should be on the roster, we’re going to do the same as we did with the bullpen. Tell us who you think will be on the roster, bearing in mind factors such as player options and roster needs, rather than purely player quality. You can either fill in the embedded version of the form below, or click on the link. I threw Caleb Joseph - whom I keep wanting to call Carson Kelly, for some reason! - into the list, just for amusement. We’ll collate the answers and review the results in a couple of days.

Link to form