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2020 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews: #2 Kole Calhoun

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Calhoun’s first season with his hometown team was a resounding success.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bio

Name: Kole Calhoun
Position: Right Fielder
2020 Age: 32
Acquired: Free Agent (2020)
Rating: 7.80/10

Introduction

Kole Calhoun grew up in Buckeye, a West Valley suburb, before attending Arizona State University and starting his professional career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A former 8th round pick, Calhoun’s overall production has been right around the level of an average starting right fielder. With the Diamondbacks struggling to find any stability at the position and Calhoun becoming a free agent when the Angels declined his 2020 option, a deal quickly came together. The D-backs ended up signing Calhoun to a 2-year deal with a team option for a 3rd year and plugged him in as the team’s starting right fielder.

2020 Season Review

The expectation for Calhoun in 2020 was he’d provide solid defense in RF and some thump in the middle of the order, as he was coming off a 33 homer season in a pitcher-friendly park. While his defense was a mixed bag overall, his 2020 production was very solid. Calhoun didn’t get hits often, as evidenced by a .226 BA, but made up for it by drawing walks at a career high 12.3% rate and hitting 16 HR in 228 PA (in a full season, he likely would have been on pace to hit 40), which led the team by a lot. His overall offensive production was excellent as his 126 wRC+ was his highest mark since his 2013 rookie season.

Calhoun also provided some big hits and always seemed to be the guy at the plate when the team needed that big hit. His most memorable hit came against the Houston Astros, a division rival of his former team, when Calhoun roped a line drive into the right field corner to walk them off. He also got his revenge games against the Angels, going 6 for 13 with a double, 3 homers, and a walk in 14 PAs against his former team.

2021 Outlook

Barring an offseason trade, Calhoun is likely to be the team’s primary starter in right field for 2021 and get 130 starts at the position. His performance against LHPs in 2020 (.229/.296/.527) was solid enough that there isn’t a dire need for a platoon partner but he will likely get most of his rest days with a LHP starter. He maintained a solid 89.4 MPH exit velocity and upped his launch angle to 17 degrees, which led to his career high in barrel rate and a jump in home runs. There is some staying power to his power surge, as his launch angle has improved to an almost perfect average.

As I mentioned above, his outfield defense got mixed reviews with Ultimate Zone Rating giving him a positive grade, Defensive Runs Saved putting him at zero, and Statcasts’ Outs Above Average metric putting him in the 20th percentile amongst MLB outfielders. Calhoun has pretty good instincts and rates well in the outfield jump metric on Statcast (81st percentile) so his issues are more of a result of age and declining speed. Declining physical talent isn’t something Dave McKay can fix, but the team can compensate for it.

Calhoun will be 33 next season, so there is concern about more decline in his physical speed, which could make him unplayable in the outfield and push him to a DH role. He’ll need to continue to be a major power hitter in this lineup in order to try to mitigate declining defense and baserunning production. His contract is very reasonable, so they could try to move him during the offseason although the market for a mid 30s corner outfielder isn’t very big based on the deals that he, David Peralta (2/$14.3M extension on top of a $7.7M Arb 3 projection), and Corey Dickerson (2/$15M) got last offseason.