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SnakePit Round Table: Bye-bye LA!

We discuss the playoffs so far, and the situation at catcher and first

Dodgers Padres game 5 NLDS Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Is Carson Kelly the future at catcher?

Makakilo: For the next two seasons, before he becomes a free agent, and unless the Diamondbacks trade for a hard-hitting catcher, Carson Kelly is the future catcher. Looking beyond that to the long term, Christian Cerda is the catcher of the future. For more about Diamondbacks catchers see this AZ Snake Pit article.

Steven: Since Kelly came back June 11th, he ranked right in the middle of the pack out of qualifying catchers (200 at-bats), 15th of 31 in WAR at 1.1. There’s a couple of options that the team can explore in the off-season, including trading for Sean Murphy or Danny Jansen, or even putting that money towards the top option, Willson Contreras. They could even make another prospect for prospect trade, with one of the Pittsburgh catchers or someone else, but I think Kelly will be the guy, at least this next season to see if he can bounce back over a full-season, and at $4 million, the price is right.

ISH95: “The future” is a broad time frame. Will he be the catcher next season? Yes. Will he be the catcher for the next great Dbacks team? Probably not

DBacksEurope: Yes, because we have more important positions to address.

James: He certainly is for 2023 and, I suspect, probably 2024. Though injuries, pricetag, and the possible emergence of a new name could change things for 2024. Unless the good version of Kelly, from before all the injuries returns, I don’t see him being here longer than that.

Justin: If by future you mean 2023, yes. Beyond that, no. I don’t think we have a catching prospect. Mak mentioned Cerda. Don’t draft for need.

Who should be the back-up there next year?

Makakilo: In this AZ Snake Pit Article I wrote, “Although I lack inside information, it appears he [Cooper Hummel] will continue to start games as catcher to see how well he does. And there is a good reason to hope the experiment finds success.” It did!

September was a batting breakthrough for Cooper Hummel, with a .710 OPS (32 PAs). It was his best month and showed me he can hit for league average!

Next season, Cooper Hummel should be the backup.

Steven: Cooper can’t hit and was an awful defender behind the plate, I’d like for them to get a veteran left handed bat like Jason Castro, he was pretty bad himself but the price would be right as he was pretty bad last year after a great 2021.

ISH95: I’d rather see present day Chris Snyder behind the plate than Hummel at this point. As for who it should be, I don’t have the faintest idea.

Justin: That would take…balls.

DBacksEurope: It would be nice to have a veteran there who can take away at bats from Carson. Maldonado or Vazquez could be options.

James: There’s a reason the Diamondbacks sent Cooper Hummel to the AFL. He’s their back-up catcher to open 2023 - at least for now. The team is going to have to address their bullpen this offseason. At least some of that is likely to happen through trades.Given the nature of trades and the fact that relievers tend to have wild variances in value, I would not be surprised (in fact, I kind of expect it) if the Diamondbacks end up acquiring a second back-up catcher as a value-balancer in a trade made this offseason.

Justin: I kind of like the idea of a defense first catcher being the backup. Always have. Why? I don’t know, I just do. Then again, I would like to see Carson be able to hit better to offset it.

What impressed you most about Christian Walker this season?

Makakilo: His 36 home runs ranked 4th best in the NL. His 94 RBIs led the Diamondbacks (next best was Varsho’s 74 RBIs per Baseball Reference).

This AZ Snake Pit article praised his defense and it indicated that my confidence that Christian Walker would play in the All-Star game would be higher if he increased his slugging. His SLG was .426. Although by October it increased to .477 for the season, that increase was not enough. August was his best month with .615 SLG (and .417 OBP).

Although I was impressed with his batting power, his defense impressed me most. He led the Majors by wide margins:

  • 14 Outs Above Average (next highest was 4 per Baseball Savant).
  • 17 Defensive Runs Saved (next highest was 6 per The Fielding Bible).

ISH95: He went from the worst full season he had ever had by basically any and all stats, to turning in his best ever season. You just don’t see improvements like that in the span of one off-season.

Steven: The walk rate increase AND falling strikeout rate was great to see after a poor 2021. I hope he gets a contract extension, he’s entering his age-32 season with 2 years left of control. We should be able to extend him fairly easily, as he’ll enter free agency at 34. Give him a 3 or 4 year deal, pay him what he deserves and solidify the position while you have all those outfielders making nothing.

DBacksEurope: The homers. That is why he is on the team. If the bat wasn’t that potent and beside the excellent defense, he wouldn’t be on this team.

James: Three things surprised me about Walker in 2022. His greatly improved defense from a bit above average to being head-and-shoulders better than the rest of the league was nice to see. He always had pop, but making a legit run at 40 HR was a nice surprise. For all that though, what surprised me was how little impact he made on offense, despite his pop. He was terrible with RISP, and really didn’t hit for average (despite very high exit velocities). BABIP was not kind to Walker. One hopes that was an outlier, but the sample size is getting big enough that it may be that he is one of those guys that hits the ball hard, but with predictability, meaning the defense is going to continue to be ready for him and he will continue to lose hits despite making solid contact.

Justin: I think what ISH said is closest to my thought.

Does the fact he’ll be 32 next Opening Day worry you?

Makakilo: No, because Christian Walker is performing at a high level. His barrel percent, average exit velocity and maximum exit velocity reassured me that his underlying technicals remain at peak levels.

Nick Ahmed is a year older than Walker; will Ahmed be back at his best is a different question that would worry me more except for Geraldo Perdomo. Albeit that Perdomo needs to improve his batting to within shouting distance of league average.

ISH95: It doesn’t worry me for next season, but we need to start thinking ahead to who is going to fill his role, sooner rather than later. I can’t see him playing well for more than two or three more seasons.

Steven: The only thing that worries me is Pavin Smith. He hit .313 when he came back and we know this front office loves him. I worry the team will trade Walker while his value is high, and give Pavin all the at-bats he can while his old spot is taken by the young guys. But no, I’m not worried. He takes care of his physique, and responded well to a poor season.

DBacksEurope: No.

James: Nope. He’ll be back for ‘23 and probably for ‘24. He’s more than capably holding down first until the Diamondbacks can graduate a new name to the position from the farm system.

Justin: No. I am more concerned about who eventually replaces him. I do want to say he might have more value to us, than anything we could get in a trade for him.

What have you thought of the post-season so far?

Makakilo: I enjoy when underdog teams advance towards the World Series. Most exciting were two series: the Phillies beat the Braves to eliminate them, and the Padres beat the Dodgers to eliminate them!

ISH95: The Dodgers just got eliminated about 30 minutes ago. I’m loving the postseason at the moment!

Steven: Fabulous. Close games with all teams having a shot at a series win. The Dodgers losing is icing on the cake.

DBacksEurope: Absolutely awesome. I forgot that the postseason is this exciting. I think this is quickly becoming a nightmare scenario for the MLB but for baseball fans it has been a spectacular and unexpected ride so far.

James: While I am pleased with the Dodgers losing and I absolutely enjoyed the hell out of the Houston-Seattle marathon game, I think this is shaping up to be a close approximation of MLB’s nightmare outcome. There has been some questionable umpiring. There has also been a good deal of questionable bullpen management. But I must confess that the playoffs have been mostly exciting, although I am running out of teams I have any sort of vested rooting interest in.

Justin: It’s really awesome. I would normally never root for the Phillies, but they are looking almost like a team of destiny. I counted them out twice now. The Mariners making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. The Padres, Guardians, etc. Spencer told me this morning that Ohio is in a frenzy at the thought of the Guardians being so young and potentially getting to the ALCS.

If MLB teams dressed up for Halloween, who would they be? E.g. Dodgers as Darth Vader

Makakilo: The Giants would be Kung Fu Panda in honor of Pablo Sandoval, who played on their team when they won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. He was a fan favorite per this AZ Snake Pit article.

ISH95: The Dodgers are actually going in a T-shirt that says this is my Halloween costume, and then leaving the party by 8 o’clock, just like they do in the postseason.

DBacksEurope: Ish’s answer is probably most true lol! I think the Padres are Jason Voorhees because they have become stronger and stronger while the Phillies are Michael Meyers because it seems impossible to kill them. The Guardians are the cenobites because everyone has their part. The Astros are Leatherface, of course. Because Texas and they just execute and find their “easy” ways to finish the job.

Justin: D-backs as Ricky “wild thing” Vaughn