Before Brandon Drury signed with the Angels, the following was written to address the question of whether the Diamondbacks should acquire him. I’m happy he signed with the Angels and I wish him much success.
Most of his playing time would be at third base.
In 2022, he played third base 61.8% of innings played. His defense was about average based on his OAA of negative 1 when his POF was 3B. However, the interesting part is in the details. The following table shows his fielding success rates when he was positioned near the foul line, in a straight third base position, or toward the shortstop position.
My view is he should not shift towards the shortstop position, which should be rare next season due to the limitations on shifting.
My current view is that third base will be a platoon.
The following chart shows Josh Rojas and Emmanuel Rivera playing a platoon at third base. That platoon would balance batting with Rivera’s excellent defense at third base.
Drury could replace both halves of the third base platoon.
Let’s look at impacts on batting and third base defense.
There are two sides to whether Drury would improve the overall batting.
- Based on last season OPSs, Drury would bat better than Rivera vs LHP and about equal to Rojas vs RHP. See table for details.
- Based on ZiPS projected OPSs, Drury’s OPS will drop from .813 to .676. His OPS will be less than Rivera’s .688 and Rojas’ .723.
Due to the limitations on shifting, let’s compare fielding success rate for two positions on the field: straight third base and shifted toward the line. That comparison shows:
- When position is straight third base, Drury’s 65% fielding success is lower than Rivera’s 73% and Rojas’ 70%.
- When position is near the foul line, Drury’s 67% fielding success is between Rivera’s 75% and Rojas’ 60%.
Let’s look arm strength. Baseball Savant measured it for 2022 by the average velocity of the top 5% of throws when playing 3B/SS/2B. The comparison showed that Drury had less arm strength. Drury’s 79.5 MPH was less than Rojas’s 86.5 MPH and Rivera’s 88.3 MPH. Data from Baseball Savant.
The following table provides compares Rivera, Rojas, and Drury.
The table shows how acquiring Brandon Drury could result in worse offense if you rely on ZiPS projections more than 2022 actual statistics. Also, the table shows that Drury’s defense would be worse if you rely on arm strength and play success rates.
Perhaps one positive would be by optioning Rivera and Rojas to the minors, a bench spot would be freed. That would allow an outfielder on the bench – allowing the Diamondbacks to have four of their talented outfielders on the active roster (Carroll, Thomas, McCarthy, and Gabriel Gurriel Jr). That is a significant plus in two ways: better team performance and an additional young player will gain experience in the Majors.
Can Drury maintain his above average OPS?
The first concern is that projections call for his OPS+ to drop from last season’s 122 to ZiPS’ 89 and Steamer’s 103. Making it more puzzling was that last season, with 1579 PAs, was not a one-season anomaly because in 2021, with 783 PAs, his OPS+ was 111. Nevertheless, from 2018 through 2020 his OPS was 70 and below.
At age 30 his batting is on the negative side of the aging curve. Nevertheless, the drop from 122 to average is steep enough to raise the question of will he perform better than projected? Age-related declines at age 30 are rarely that steep.
Another issue with his batting is consistency. Last season, his best month’ OPS was June’s 1.004 and his worst month was August’s .623. That lack of consistency can raise the question of sustainability.
A possible downside is Drury’s salary.
MLBTR predicted that Brandon Drury would secure a 2-year $18 Million contract. His actual deal reportedly guarantees $17 Million over 2 years. That salary seems steep for the Diamondbacks. And because Drury is not a long-term solution for third base, any contract longer than one year would have been unlikely.
Because Josh Rojas is Arb-1, his salary in 2023 could increase to $2.3 Million. With him optioned to the minors, the additional salary for acquiring Brandon Drury will be reduced.
If the Diamondbacks acquire Brandon Drury, he could be the everyday player at third base, replacing the platoon of Rojas and Rivera (who could be optioned to AAA). A big plus is that the Diamondbacks could add a talented outfielder to the bench.
There would be concerns about Brandon Drury’s performance. Will his arm strength allow him to continue as an average defender at third base? Will he continue to achieve an above average OPS despite projections, being on the negative side of the aging curve, and lack of batting consistency?