Top Level View.
Perhaps the Diamondbacks’ second biggest need is to improve at shortstop. Their negative 1.3 Wins Above Average (WAA) ranked 26th in the Majors. Last season, Geraldo Perdomo was the primary shortstop (81% of shortstop PAs) due to injuries to Nick Ahmed (9% of shortstop PAs). Sergio Alcantara had 8% of shortstop PAs.
The good news for future seasons is that the Diamondbacks have two promising shortstops in the minors - Blaze Alexander, and top-100 prospect Jordan Lawlar. However, at the start of the season they may not be ready.
Presumably, Nick Ahmed will start next season as the primary shortstop because of his $10.38 Million contract. Steamer projections for next season showed Ahmed and Perdomo with improved WAR (0.8 WAR and 0.7 WAR). But that improvement is a big assumption. Points follow:
- “It remains to be seen whether or not the injury and subsequent surgery will impact his ability to play defense or to drive the ball. Only time and reps will tell.” — James Attwood, AZ Snake Pit Season Review of Nick Ahmed
- “Relying on Ahmed and Perdomo again would be suboptimal, although it’s fair to wonder if the front office will be able to find an upgrade.” — Anthony Franco, Diamondbacks Offseason Outlook
Sergio Alcantara was DFA’d.
Although his defense at shortstop was above average based on DRS and OAA, in the last two seasons his batting against LHP was weak making his most likely future as a utility player and a platoon batter with Nick Ahmed.
Either Sergio Alcantara will be traded, claimed by another team, or become depth in the minors. I don’t know if he can refuse assignment to the minors and become a free agent. If he becomes depth in the minors he would compete for playing time with two younger players: Blaze Alexander and Jordan Lawlar.
A Trade Acquisition Possibility.
If the Diamondbacks acquire a shortstop, perhaps on a one-year contract bridging the gap until Blaze Alexander and Jordan Lawlar are ready, what would be the impact on Nick Ahmed? Ahmed could become the backup shortstop. Another possibility is that he is traded to another team. Despite the possibility that Nick Ahmed’s defense at shortstop could be awesome, and with an OPS+ in the 90s, the uncertainty of his recovery has greatly reduced Nick Ahmed’s trade value.
Arizona’s Nick Ahmed and St. Louis’ Paul DeJong are veteran alternatives who could be had for pennies on the dollar, as the D-backs and Cardinals would surely welcome the chance to just shed some of the respective $10MM and $11MM remaining on their contracts. Both are buy-low options, at best, coming off poor showings in recent seasons. — Steve Adams of MLBTR
A trade possibility is acquiring Amed Rosario. Because he will be in his final year of arbitration, he does not block Blaze Alexander of Jordan Lawlar. Three considerations follow:
- Batting: His 2-year average .316 OBP and .406 SLG are better than Ahmed, Perdomo, and Alcantara.
- Defense: His 2 year average of negative 1.5 DRS and negative 6.5 OAA are significantly worse.
- Cost: Matt Swartz of MLBTR projected he will earn $9 million in arbitration. For the Diamondbacks, with other competing needs, that cost would likely be prohibitive.
It is unlikely that the Diamondbacks will trade for a shortstop.
“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” — Babe Ruth
A Free Agent Acquisition Possibility.
Mike Petriello wrote “You’re in Luck,” if you need a free agent shortstop this winter. Supply is high, which is a preferred time to buy.
Elvis Andrus may be agreeable to a one year contract and he would address the twin needs of affordability and performance.
Defense: How well he defends depends on how you look at the statistics: over the last two seasons at shortstop he averaged negative 7 DRS and he averaged positive 4.5 OAA. Over the last two seasons, Nick Ahmed, Geraldo Perdomo, and Sergio Alcantara were better defenders based on 2-year averages (0.5 DRS and 10.5 OAA for Ahmed, negative 1 DRS and 0 OAA for Perdomo, and 2 DRS and 4 OAA for Alcantara)
Batting: His batting results were better in high leverage situations per the splits shown in Baseball Reference.
- High Leverage, .798 OPS.
- Medium Leverage, .732 OPS.
- Low Leverage, .651 OPS.
He could reasonably platoon with Nick Ahmed facing LHP and him facing RHP. Assuming a platoon with Nick Ahmed, his 2-year average batting against RHPs was not much different than Sergio Alcantara (.302 vs.293 OBP, .369 vs.373 SLG, .295 vs.291 wOBA). On the positive side, against RHPs his statistics are better than Geraldo Perdomo.
Cost: It’s too early in the offseason to know whether a 1-year contract is affordable for the Diamondbacks.
“Well, luck is for fools. It’s all they have to hope for, poor devils.” — Stephen King
Who will get playing time at shortstop?
Assuming no trade acquisition or free agent acquisition happens, how will playing time at shortstop be divided?
In this AZ Snake Pit roundtable, Nick Ahmed’s predicted playing time for next season varied between 40% and 70%, with caveats. After that roundtable, Sergio Alcantara was DFA’d. Alcantara’s playing time will likely be divided between Geraldo Perdomo, Blaze Alexander, and Jordan Lawlar. Whoever plays shortstop has an opportunity to show they are ready for 2024, when Nick Ahmed will possibly leave the team as a free agent.
Looking further ahead to 2024, will the primary shortstop be Perdomo, who eventually will be pushed out by Blaze Alexander, who eventually will be pushed out by Jordon Lawlar? Possibly.
Which is better for the Diamondbacks; let them compete, or instead focus on a long term future and maximize Jordon Lawlar’s playing time to speed his development? If the Diamondbacks go with high risk and high reward moves, then this season Jordon Lawlar will play shortstop, especially in the second half of the season.
“Knowing is better than wondering. Waking is better than sleeping, and even the biggest failure, even the worst, beats the hell out of never trying.” — Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy
Platoon with Nick Ahmed facing LHP and Geraldo Perdomo facing RHP
With that caveat that Alcantara was DFA’d, the following table compares Ahmed platooning with Perdomo and platooning with Alcantara.
The table shows mixed results: if you focus on all PAs Sergio Alcantara is a better platoon partner, but if you look at the PAs with runners in scoring position (RISP), Geraldo Perdomo is a better platoon partner. Because the Diamondbacks DFA’d Sergio Alcantara, my conclusion is that PAs with RISP is the focus.
Assuming that Nick Ahmed leaves the Diamondbacks in free agency, let’s very briefly look at who could play shortstop beyond next season.
Geraldo Perdomo could play shortstop. He has 537 PAs in the Majors, which is a vital step in improving his level of play. In the second half of the season his defense improved (his second-half DRS was positive 4, while his outs above average was a negative 1). Although defense is important at shortstop, improvement in batting could make a difference in playing time.
“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” — Lucille Ball
Next, lets look very briefly at two Diamondbacks’ prospects who could play shortstop beyond next season.
Blaze Alexander has a strong throwing arm and this season his OBP and SLG were impressive.
- AA, OBP .388, SLG .539 in 363 PAs
- AAA, OBP .412, SLG .519 in 34 PAs
“Alexander has shown more with the stick in the past, though, and as a no-doubt shortstop with a 70 arm, he’ll be a useful reserve infielder if he hits even a little bit.” — Brendan Gawlowski & Eric Longenhagen, January 2022
Jordan Lawlar is ranked the 12th best prospect in the Majors by MLB.com. He is a 5 tool shortstop (hitting for average, hitting for power, defense, sprint speed, and throwing arm). This season his OBP and SLG were impressive.
- AA, OBP .299, SLG .353 in 97 PAs
- AFL, OBP .469, SLG .528 in 49 PAs
“With plenty of range, quick hands and a strong arm, there’s no doubt he’ll stick at shortstop, though like most youngsters he needs to improve his consistency.” — MLB.com
Last season, the shortstop position ranked low. This season, a significant decision will be playing time, with the return of primary shortstop Nick Ahmed, with returning backup shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, and with the nearly ready for the Majors prospects Blaze Alexander and Jordan Lawlar. Beyond this season, significant changes in playing time are likely.