We previously have noted the lack of “pure” outfielders in camp for the D-backs this year. Between the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitees, when camp opened the team site listed only seven outfielders - for comparison, that’s the same as the number of catchers the team has in camp. Things haven’t improved since, with the news yesterday that one of those seven, Kole Calhoun, is undergoing knee surgery today, and will likely not be ready in time for Opening Day. It was also announced today that Tim Locastro has tested positive for COVID-19; while he’s symptom-free, he will be in quarantine for at least 10 days, unless it turns out to be a false positive. Hopefully it’s no more than that.
Torey Lovullo said today that while surgery to remove a damaged piece of meniscus went well, there was no timeline for Calhoun’s recovery. In terms of replacements, he said, “It’s gonna take some creativity by the entire staff to make sure that we’re putting the right guys out there, to give them the opportunity to go out and perform. We want to make sure we give everybody a look that we feel can step into that situation... Somebody will emerge. Somebody’s gonna have to emerge. I’m looking for somebody to jump up and take that opportunity.” But he did say arm strength is “not a prerequisite”, with footwork, quickness and accuracy more important, which may indicate Daulton Varsho remains an option.
Calhoun and Locastro are not the only outfield candidate to be lost, as we’ll see. But it seems like a good point to look at the non-roster outfielders, and see what they may offer the team in terms of depth.
McCarthy started this afternoon in right field, so clearly is confirmed as our Opening Day player there. [Sorry, sarcasm mode doesn’t work inside posts] That would be a shock, considering he hasn’t seen a formal pitch above A-ball yet. Part of that is the loss of the minor-league season last year; he might well have been in Double-A. But McCarthy was only drafted in June 2018, being one of Arizona’s first-round picks (39th overall) - and that was when he was only aged twenty. While McCarthy hit .277 for Visalia in 2019, he would seem likely too raw and unseasoned to have much chance, with his presence as an NRI more likely intended to provide the prospect with valuable experience.
If anyone’s stock has increased as a result of injuries elsewhere, it’s probably Thompson, who made an immediate impression (pictured, top) hitting the first home run by a Diamondback, in Sunday’s opener against Colorado. This production was in line with the last time we saw Thompson. In spring 2020, before things got canceled, he led the team in HR, with four in 14 games, and had a slash of .346/.452/.923 for an OPS of 1.375. That was the best of anyone with more than a handful of at-bats. Obviously, small sample-size still applies (31 PA there), and this is a man who has a .664 OPS over 202 MLB games, which is likely more meaningful. But the stars may be aligning for Trayce to get a shot this year.
Welp, never mind. Calhoun isn’t the only outfielder with health issues, and in the case of Weeks, they are rather more significant. For he will miss the entire season after undergoing surgery on his shoulder. He had been rattling around the minors since being drafted in the seventh round by the Rockies in 2014. He spent all of 2019 in Triple-A, batting .285 with 20 home-runs. However, that was in the PCL with Albuquerque, where the team OPS (.855) was comparable to the Reno Aces (.871). And we all know how well Reno stats translate to the majors... Anyway, it’s now all moot, and we can emphatically cross Weeks off the board as a contributor for 2021..
Those are the only three players listed as outfielders on the Diamondbacks page for non-roster invitees. One is toast, and the other is only aged 23. But just as the 40-man roster has a number of players listed as infielders, who are potentially capable of playing the outfield, e.g. Ketel Marte and Pavin Smith, might the same be true for anyone among the non-roster invitees? Well, turns out there is one possible candidate with outfield experience, and it’s perhaps a surprising one.
Beer has almost entirely been thought of as a 1B. But over two years in the minors, he has almost as many starts as an outfielder (72) as at first (91). These have been mostly in left (62). but he has also seen time in right (10). Even after the 2019 trade from Houston which brought him to Arizona, Seth split playing time, making 14 starts at first in Jackson, and 10 in left. However, Beer spent much of 2020 playing first. He said, “The ultimate goal for me at the alternate site was to continue to learn the position of first base. And that’s where I feel like I made some huge strides that I needed to.” Though he did add, “If I need to play left, if I need to play anywhere on the diamond to help us win, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
Thompson is probably the only one of the four non-roster invitees discussed who seems to have a potential shot at cracking the Opening Day roster. However, if Calhoun is not available, the apparent infield surplus perhaps makes it more likely the team will use Marte as a regular in CF, with David Peralta in left and (presuming he recovers) Locastro in left. Varsho could then become the fourth outfielder, his positional flexibility being valuable, and Thompson or Stuart Fairchild (who had the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster) might represent a bench option. It all promises to be a very fluid situation, and is definitely something on which to keep an eye as spring progresses.