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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #21: Kole Calhoun

Hamstrings, tendons, and menisci... oh my!

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • Rating: 4.44
  • Age: 34
  • 2021 Stats: 51 games, .235/.297/.373, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 81 OPS+, 79 WRC+
  • 2021 Earnings: $8 million
  • 2022 Status: Diamondbacks declined team option granting $2 million buyout. Signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers on a 1 year deal worth $5.2 million and a $5.5 million team option for 2023.

Prior to the 2020 season, Kole Calhoun spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim beginning with his debut in 2012. He won a gold glove with them in 2015 and averaged 148 games played per season from 2014 to 2019 with a 104 OPS+. He certainly wasn’t a superstar player, but was a definite upgrade over Adam Jones who had manned right field for Arizona in 2019. Because of that, Arizona went out and signed Calhoun during the 2019 - 2020 offseason to a two year deal with a team option for a third.

That contract was signed just prior to the New Year allowing Kole the opportunity to play with the team he grew up watching as a kid.

“This is really kind of a dream come true, honestly,” Calhoun said. “I’m born and raised here, grew up a Diamondback fan. Anybody who dreams of playing in the big leagues and you get there, your dreams come true. But as a kid growing up, I always dreamed of playing for the Diamondbacks and now I’ve got that opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Unfortunately, during his two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks he appeared in only 105 games total, 54 in 2020 and 51 in 2021. He can’t be blamed for the low total in 2020 being that a global pandemic which continues to spread to this day shortened that regular season to only 60 games, but a string of leg injuries is what limited him in 2021. For those 105 games, he received $16 million in compensation from the Diamondbacks. Ouch.

Ignoring the small sample size, 2020 was a glimpse of what the D’backs had hoped for when they signed him. He posted career high marks in OPS (.864) and OPS+ (130) while being ever so slightly below average defensively in right field (-2 OAA) albeit still capable of providing hard nosed highlight reel plays.

2021 Season

I was excited to see him have the opportunity to play a full season with the team in 2021, but injuries robbed us all of that right from the start. He reported to Spring Training with right knee inflammation that he had apparently been dealing with throughout the offseason. That inflammation proved to be caused by a torn meniscus requiring a right knee medial meniscectomy which kept him sidelined until April 9th, 8 days after the start of the regular season. The leg injuries snowballed from there likely caused by compensating on one leg for the procedures performed on the other.

Calhoun played in only 13 games before straining his left hamstring against the San Diego Padres on April 27th. In just two short months, he was under the knife for a second go-round this time to excise the semitendinosus tendon in his hamstring.

From that point, the D’backs tried to find anybody with a pulse to play in the outfield because Ketel Marte would struggle with hamstring injuries of his own throughout the season. The team gave opportunities in the outfield grass to Josh Rojas, Pavin Smith, Nick Heath, Josh Reddick, Andrew Young, Daulton Varsho, Tim Locastro... and I will just stop there because your head will spin if I continue the list.

Calhoun would not return to the team until July 10th, but ultimately re-injured the left hamstring on August 12th. It was fairly obvious by that point the team would not be exercising their $9 million team option over him for the 2022 season considering how abysmal the results had been as a whole for the club. He made his final return on September 17th and played in 15 more games the rest of the way.

So how was he when he was on the field? A far cry from what we saw in 54 games in 2020. He swatted only 5 home runs and his OPS cratered to a disappointing .670. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference are in agreement that his best game by win probability added came on April 20th (heh...) against the Cincinnati Reds in which he went 2-for-5 with two doubles (but no runs driven in???).

Because the MLBPA and team owners are currently haggling over money, I don’t have any videos available I can link to in this article unfortunately. I supposed I could go rifling through Bally Sports AZ Twitter feed, but that requires energy. It is a shame, though, because I am confident I could find a clip or two where he made a spectacular catch in the outfield. In the end, the hometown kid will barely be a blip in Arizona Diamondbacks lore.