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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #40: Drew Ellis

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We should not expect much bunting from Mr. Ellis...

I just couldn’t find a picture I liked, so I used this one. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Rating: 2.83
  • Age: Tuned 26 last Wednesday
  • 2021 Stats: 83 PA, .130/.277/.203 = .480 OPS, 34 OPS+, -0.7 bWAR
  • 2021 Earnings: League minimum
  • 2022 Status: Pre-arbitration, 40-man roster, two minor-league option left.

Drew Ellis came to the Diamondbacks via the draft in 2017. He was our Second Round pick (number 44 overall) out of Louisville. That’s a pretty nifty pedigree in this office desk jockey’s opinion. He was taken before Corbin Martin (56th overall). Before some guy named Daulton Varsho (68th overall). Ellis signed on June 27, 2017 and immediately went to the Hops (then a short season team), where he got 181 at bats hitting .227 with 8 Home Runs, 45 Strike Outs, 24 Walks, and a .327 OBP. He steadily rose through the system (Visalia A-ball in 2018, Jackson AA in 2019, “played ball in 2020” as part of a 4-team independent league apparently, and Reno AAA & Arizona MLB in 2021).

Two important notes about Ellis’ Minor League history before I start in on his 2021:

  1. He seems to only have been injured once in his career – August 2019, a 7-day stint while playing for the Jackson Generals. Possibly part of concussion protocol?
  2. In the minors (including 2021), he averaged about a home run every 22.79 at bats. This is a pretty exciting stat as a 2022 DBacks fan. This is better than Ketel Marte’s MLB career average of one every 35.56, although Marte’s 2019 average was every 17.78 abs.

2021 Recap

Ellis began the year with the Reno Aces, where he unsurprisingly had the best offensive year of his professional career so far. The obligatory caveats of “it’s Reno” “hitter friendly” “holy cannoli the ball flies there” must be applied. Regardless, he had 296 ABs over 81 games and did the following: .294 average, .399 OBP, 29 Doubles, 3 Triples, 20 Home Runs, 1.014 OPS and 73 RBIs. Inflated by the air? Yeah probably. Also potentially spurred on by his own admittance of anger at being left of the 2020 60-man? Yeah probably too.

Sadly, these numbers weren’t sustainable for Ellis once he hit the illuminated trash collection device that was the Arizona Diamondbacks. Drew received his call up on July 30, 2021, just after the trade of Eduardo Escobar to the Milwaukee Brewers. At the time he was rated by MLB.com as our number 29 prospect, and had the unenviable position of replacing a fan-favorite player unceremoniously traded; but such is the life of many young baseball players.

He played in 28 games overall (he was sent back to Reno on September 10 to make room for Seth Beer and recalled on October 5). He has 69 total at bats under his belt as an MLBer (83 plate appearances). This is a small sample size, but the initial transition for him was difficult. He batted .130 with a .277 OBP. But power has always been his tool of focus. Despite this, he hit only 2 doubles, 1 home run, and knocked in 5 RBIs. He did walk 11 total times (once intentionally) and struck out 27 times (or 39% of the time). This is all less than ideal, but hardly surprising for a depth piece who saw his trajectory overcome by other prospects under Hazen’s regime.

Of note for the year though: he got pretty unlucky (go figure). His MLB BABIP was .195 (compared to a career .294 in the Minors). He only grounded into 1 Double Play (although he grounded into 14 potential ones, which isn’t great). He actually saw .1 more pitches per at bat in Arizona than in the Minors which is at least progress! And he made zero errors at third or second (because of course we played him at second for the first time in his career in 2021 – both in Reno and Arizona).

2022 Outlook

I write this just before the new 40-man deadline, so there’s a small chance he is no longer a D-back today, but I feel confident his value is too much to discard quite yet. If nothing else, he is one of only a few legit third basemen the team has as a whole, let alone ready(ish) for MLB action (if you don’t count Marte [please don’t try Marte], he’s our ONLY third base option). Barring the signing of Kris Bryant (you’re welcome for the laugh, please send all tips to your Diamondback Rattlesnake Rescue organization of choice), I see zero reason Ellis shouldn’t be given the chance to be the primary starting third baseman on the team next year: maybe even opening day starter.

If he fails? Who cares, basically everyone else has too. I say this still slightly hopeful Hazen gets the funds to go sign Kyle Seager for 1-3 year deal for some veteran presence with actual on-field talent. That would require some investment in the team, and I think we all know ownership’s feeling on THAT.

It’s December 2021. There’s probably a lockout ongoing as you read this. Take some solace in the fact that The Team to the West has lost some significant talent. And mostly, remember that as fans, we went through a horror movie of a season, but for Drew Ellis, he not only had the best year of his career, but also got his chance to be a big leaguer! He hit his first major league home run (above), with two guys on base on August 14 against Joe Musgrove - just some dude who threw a no-hitter this year!

And for those of you who like this sort of thing: it went 403ft at a velocity of 98.6MPH (no fever! Yay health….sorry, couldn’t resist) and had a 31 degree launch angle.