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SnakePit Round Table: Post St Patrick’s Day edition

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I trust we’ve all got over our hangovers?

Revellers Gather To Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day In Indonesia Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

Less than two weeks to go until Opening Day. How has spring training gone overall?

Makakilo: Spring training pitching has gone well. The two new starting pitchers look good, especially Weaver. Greinke, a slow starter in spring training, is where he needs to be.

Spring training has gone well as far as far as position flexibility (good options at first, and outfield depth)

Spring training hitting has been concerning. At a team level, let’s look at OPS and RBIs per game:

OPS

  • .693 in 2019 spring training, ranked 29th
  • .760 in 2018 spring training, ranked 17th [2018 season OPS .707 and scored 693 runs]
  • .792 in 2017 spring training, ranked 12th [2017 season OPS .774 and scored 812 runs]

RBIs per game

  • 4.33 in 2019 spring training, ranked 24th
  • 4.76 in 2018 spring training, ranked 13th [2018 season 4.06 RBIs per game]
  • 5.13 in 2017 spring training, ranked 9th [2017 season 4.79 RBIs per game]

Although spring training is not a good predictor, it gives the appearance that the offense is worse than last season, which was lower than previous seasons.

As an optimist, I predict the offense will perform at least at the average for the Majors (which was 721 runs in the 2018 season). A few reasons are position flexibility, the new hitting coach Darnell Coles, and the addition of Adam Jones. When interviewed by Jody Foster, I heard Adam Jones say the D-backs will reach 800 runs this season (albeit I was interrupted while listening).

Charlie: Fine. It’s Spring Training, subjecting all of the players to phrenology exams has about the same degree of predictive power going into the season.

Steven: I only care about the team getting through Spring Training without any major injuries. We’ve seemingly had one injury every spring so to get through one potentially unscathed would be a huge boost to this team in the early part of the season.

Keegan: The only players who have been injured this Spring are Silvino Bracho, Jarrod Dyson, and T.J. McFarland. Unfortunate as it is that they have been out of action, that’s not exactly what any of us would qualify as roster crushing injuries. The team has had remarkably good health, and for that Spring Training has gone swimmingly well.

Turambar: I’m pretty sure we get asked this every year, and I’m fairly certain I answer the same way: Meh.

It’s so hard to really read in to Spring Training and how it’ll transfer to the regular season outside if warm fuzzy feelings of encouragement by certain players. So honestly even with Greinke and Weaver looking like they’ll tow the line for the starters and Walker is ready to mash, those dreams may fade to nothing in the harsh first month of the season. We’ll see, but I’m not reading in to anything too much.

Jack: I can’t help but be concerned about the offense. Maybe they’ll surprise me, but it looks like another year of below average performance, and the lack of HR power in this lineup could be a pretty big issue all year

Wesley: Outside of injuries and exploding birds, I tend not to pay too much attention to spring training.

James: I’d say spring has gone about as expected, right down to Dyson being injured as well as a key member of the bullpen. Scrabble appears to be this season’s veteran retread. Like Jack, I worry about the offense. The team is going to need bounce back performances from all of Lamb, Souza, and Avila as well as strong performances from Kelly, and Flores for this team to score enough runs to compete.

Pick one player whose performance has impressed you

Makakilo: Christian Walker. At a previous roundtable, I predicted he would make the 25-man roster. He continues to impress me. Lovullo said, “I think defensively he’s made huge strides.” His defense at first has earned him a platoon with Lamb, given his offensive strength. Lovullo said, “...he can drive the ball out of any part of the ballpark.”

In spring training, he leads the team by a big margin in RBIs per at-bat. To even the comparison, I estimated RBIs per game with 4*RBIs/ABs. The top ten follow (minimum ten at-bats) (through 15 March):

  1. 1.42 Christian Walker
  2. 1.20 Caleb Joseph
  3. 1.17 Wilmer Flores
  4. 1.00 Daulton Varsho
  5. 0.96 Yasmany Tomas
  6. 0.95 Ildemaro Vargus
  7. 0.83 Kevin Cron
  8. 0.70 Wyatt Mathison
  9. 0.69 Steven Souza Jr
  10. 0.52 Abraham Almonte

In spring training, he is third in OPS with 1.045. Varsho and Flores have higher OPSs (minimum ten at-bats).

Steven: I’ve been very impressed with Luke Weaver. He’s shown excellent control and command and I’m excited to see him pitch in games that actually matter. Christian Walker was mentioned earlier but I kinda wish we’d see what he’d get with 500 ABs. Tip of the cap to Adam Jones for homering yesterday.

Keegan: Feels odd that I’m about to say this, but Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly. I think I’m finally reaching the “acceptance” stage of grieving in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. The combination of Greinke & Tomas’ contracts combined with ownerships’ reluctance to spend more than they already have effectively took them out of Goldy’s free agency sweepstakes. No sense in beating that dead horse. Let’s move beyond that. If Mike Hazen just acquired an effective #2 or #3 rotation arm, Weaver, and a catcher that warrants more than a 50% timeshare behind the dish, Kelly, and both are under team control until 2024 and 2025, respectively, in exchange for one year of a player that the D’backs had zero chance of re-signing, he’s won that trade by a substantial margin.

That’s without even considering Andy Young and the compensation draft pick in that same trade package. I’ll temper my expectations until they play their first official games in a D’backs uniform, but they’ve looked really good so far. It’s all relative, so we have to consider the years of potential we receive in those players in exchange for only one, probably stellar, year of Goldschmidt. That’s not me saying that ownership did the right thing in not paying Goldschmidt. My feelings on that subject are obviously different, but the return can heal those wounds.

Turambar: Thrilled to see Weaver doing so well, though, once again it’s Spring Training. Still, as Keegan states above, it does start to at least make me feel better about trading away Paul “God Emperor” Goldschmidt. Our loss of his guiding light will continue to haunt me, but perhaps some combination of Weaver and Kelly will pave the way to a brighter future.

Jack: You guys have Weaver, Kelly and Walker covered. So I’ll say Ketel Marte, simply because he has made the transition to CF look good. So far the only negative thing I have seen is a couple of bloopers in front of him that maybe he didn’t get good reads on. But he is doing really well going back on the ball, and there have been no glaring goofball plays.

Wesley: Looking through the stats, it’s got to be the performance of some of the younger prospects and NRI. In particular, Daulton Varsho and Jazz Chisholm. Christian Walker is a known quantity to me, and I’m not surprised that’s he’s raking.

James: I’m on board the Weaver and Walker train. They have both done everything that could be asked of them to this point.

And one who has been underwhelming.

Makakilo: It may not be fair that I had big expectations for an offensive breakout by Steven Souza Jr.. So far, he has not met those expectations. He has struggled in spring training. That was confirmed when Lovullo said, “...he needs to simplify it and go back to the basics and we’re watching him do that.” The D-backs need his offense. Certainly, he is capable of big offense, and his spring training numbers are not horrible, BA/OBP/SLG/OPS of .207/.324/.448/.772.

Steven: Merrill Kelly’s been a bit of a disappointment, but yesterday’s performance does have me turning that page. He’s still walking far too many hitters but it’s early. And pretty much every regular hitter has been underwhelming to a degree. Thankfully Spring Training stats don’t matter ;)

Keegan: Merrill Kelly was a substantial gamble to begin with having never pitched in the majors. Hopefully he does not leave us counting down the days until Taijuan Walker’s return, or wondering if we should have re-signed Clay Buchholz.

Turambar: Kelly, though if I’m being honest I have no idea on what I really thought he could do going in to this season.

Jack: Alex Avila. His bat is just so super slow now. It’s really putting a dent in my hopes for rebound.

Edit: So sitting at game with Turambar and he suggests I edit my comment. (Avila oppo HR and LD single to Cf today). Have I mentioned I’m not a scout?

Wesley: Souza and Avila, as has been said. Socrates Brito playing himself out of a job as well.

James: I have to go with Brito and Souza. This was Brito’s last chance and he may not even make the roster. Souza is not showing signs of bouncing back. I never had high expectations for Merrill Kelly, so his lack of overall performance is less disappointing.

What do you think about the signing of Adam Jones?

Charlie: I found it kinda funny, and I found it kinda sad (the dreams in which I’m posting are the best I’ve ever had…) that so many people in the comments of the initial announcement decried that this was somehow going to wreck the team. It’s 3 Million Dollars. In Baseball money that’s like finding a pretty nice George Foreman Grill at the Goodwill. Maybe some of the paint is scratched off and it takes a little longer to heat up, but you’re still gonna be able to grill some burgers inside your apartment. That will keep you from having to use the grill in the common patio where that creepy guy, Steve, keeps hanging out and wanting to talk to you about knife handles.

(In this metaphor “Putting Ketel Marte in Center where he’s never had any extended time prior to now” is Steve, I guess.)

His defense isn’t near what it used to be, but for 1YR/3MM his bat will play. Calm down y’all.

Makakilo: Adam Jones will address my big concern. As outfield depth, Adam Jones will increase team offense, even if he does not rebound from 2018 levels. Nevertheless, he could rebound! Jeff Todd wrote that Adam Jones is, “A perennial 20-plus homer center fielder… He dropped back to 15 last year, but seems a reasonable rebound candidate in the power department.”

Adam Jones will contribute to the team in intangible ways. He is a face-of-the-franchise type player who could provide leadership. He could mentor Ketel Marte, reducing the risk involved in playing a new position (CF). His sense of humor could contribute to positive attitudes in the clubhouse.

Steven: Signing him is a mistake in regards to pushing Marte into a utility-role just seems to put unneeded pressure on someone we’re expecting big things from. On the other hand I really think Jones fills the void in the clubhouse that Goldschmidt’s trade created. We’ve been missing a local leader in the local room and Jones should fill that beautifully. I’m really really surprised he had to settle for such a down contract. Just shows how much work the CBA has in store for them.

Keegan: If Jones is on the market for what the D’backs signed him to, you have to go out and make that acquisition. There are worse players to spend that amount of money on. The defense is undoubtedly concerning, but positioning should help mask that to a degree. He’s a better option than Dyson who may not be healthy and can’t hit his way out of a paper bag, and who knows if Socrates Brito is ever going to prove anything at the MLB level. I’ve always been a fan of Jones from afar, and I’m not entirely optimistic of the D’backs playoff chances this season, so I’m cool with it.

Turambar: Totally cool with it…..just so long as he’s not starting every day at Center. Yes Marte has ALOT of learning to do to be an every day center, but Jones’ Star has fallen far from his elite younger years and I’d rather see him subbing in all over the OF to capitalize on his bat than depending upon his lagging glove every day at Center.

Jack: The signing will probably end up costing them Socrates Brito at the very least. They can’t carry 6 outfielders. It ALSO turns Marte into a “super utility” player. It’s impossible to know right now how to apportion the playing time in my playing time projections, but I currently have Marte starting 80 games in CF, 37 at 2b and 30 at SS. Will he play more or less outfield than that ? Who knows? If it’s less, and he plays more infield, then that will come at the expense of Wilmer Flores. Of course there could be an injury that will change these dynamics. And depth is important, and there is little doubt that Jones is a very good option for depth. They bought low on an aging veteran , but one who may yet be able to turn in a good season and make it a good value move. Time will tell.

Wesley: Not a fan of the signing. I really don’t like these half measures that don’t do anything for the team long term. I’d rather see Brito given a chance to shine than Jones.

James: I’m not a big fan of the move if Jones is staying regularly. As veteran depth though, the price was right. It is som going to come down to how the dominoes fall though.

Do you see any surprises on the Opening Day roster?

Charlie: Someone will get one of those cartoon lightbulb ideas and say “Wait, there’s no real good reason to carry 3 Catchers!”

Makakilo: No.

Steven: 3 catchers is dumb and I’m happy they’re realizing it.

Keegan: Surprised that the team is at least having dialogue about carrying only two catchers. It’s long overdue. I’m happy to see Carson Kelly pushing that issue.

Turambar: Nope, the end of the season roster will likely hold far more surprises.

Jack: The biggest surprise to me at this point would be the team holding on to Nick Green. It could happen though.

Wesley: I have to agree with Jack here, holding onto Nick Green would be a surprise. I don’t see the team starting the service clock on any of the prospects early by having them make the roster out of Spring training, so that would be a surprise to me as well if that happened.

James: Like Jack and Wesley, I am in the Nick Green line. Anyone else still in the running for a spot on the roster has a decent argument. Green just pales compared to in-house options.

Since it was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, what part of Irish culture do you enjoy most?

Charlie: Achtung Baby.

Makakilo: I love Shepherds pie, which is an Irish food specialty invented in Scotland. Although it is usually made with lamb, recently I ate a vegan version which was delicious!

Keegan: My name.

Turambar: Guinness….with a shot of Baileys mixed with Irish whiskey dropped in. Yar.

Jack: I enjoy watching Irish dance.

Wesley: Outside of good Irish Whiskey, Ireland puts out some fantastic dairy products these days.Dubliner cheese is amazing in particular.

James: Celtic folklore. Either that or Guinness, it’s a close call.