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Who Will Be Next Season’s Unsung Hero for the Diamondbacks?

It’s very much unpredictable. That didn’t stop me from identifying the most promising players.

Jake McCarthy is in the running.
Jake McCarthy is in the running.
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

When a favorite Diamondback player had a great season, recognition is a satisfying thing. When a favorite didn’t receive enough votes for other awards, the AZ Snake Pit’s Unsung Hero is perhaps their last chance to receive well deserved recognition. Let’s look at Unsung Heroes, past and future.

What were the characteristics of past Unsung Heroes?

The following table shows past Unsung Heroes.

Data from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and The Fielding Bible.

Circumstances. Circumstances and meeting a team need can be as important as performance. Examples are Geraldo Perdomo and Chris Owings. Although their OPS+ and DRS were less than average, they stepped up to help the team. At the age of 22, Geraldo Perdomo stepped up to primary shortstop when Nick Ahmed was injured.

Please note that the Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) was the total for all positions played that season. Josh Rojas played many positions which explains his negative 17 DRS.

Homegrown. 10 of the 16 past winners emerged from the Diamondbacks farm system.

bWAR. When voted Unsung Hero, season bWAR ranged from 0.7 (Locastro and Perdomo) to 4.2 (Zack Godley). Zack Godley was Unsung Hero in 2017, when the Diamondbacks made the playoffs. In the playoffs he pitched 5 innings against the Dodgers, allowing only 2 earned runs.

Total bWAR for all seasons prior to the Unsung Hero season, ranged from -.4 (Rojas) to 14.7 (Buchholz).

Total bWAR for all seasons after the Unsung Hero season ranged from -2.3 (Zack Godley) to 10.3 (Peralta).

  • Zack Godley’s Unsung Hero season may have been his zenith. In June of this year, Zack Godley signed to play with the Gastonia Honey Hunters of the Atlantic League.
  • David Peralta is a free agent and if he plays next season he may add to his bWAR total.

Seasons Afterward. Seasons with Diamondbacks after being voted Unsung Hero ranged from zero (Buchholz) to seven (Peralta).

Seasons in Majors after being voted Unsung Hero ranged from 1 (Buchholz) to 7 (Peralta/Drew/Marshall). If David Peralta plays next season, his eight seasons will become the most.

Positions Played. The positions on the field were fairly evenly distributed, but none primarily played first base. The distribution follows:

  • 3 shortstops
  • 3 mostly outfielders
  • 3 starting pitchers
  • 3 bullpen pitchers
  • 1 catcher
  • 1 third baseman
  • 1 utility player (Josh Rojas)

Age. The youngest was Geraldo Perdomo at age 22. The oldest was Clay Buchholz at age 34. The following graph shows the distribution.

Data from Baseball Reference.

Years after their debut in the Majors. Alex Young and Evan Marshall were Unsung Heroes in their debut season. Clay Buchholz was an Unsung Hero in his 11th season after his debut. The following graph shows the distribution.

Data from Baseball Reference.

Who are seven possible Unsung Heroes for next season?

Based on the two graphs, the most likely Unsung Heroes will be age 26-28 on 1 October 2023, and will have a debut season of 2019, 2020, or 2021. Seven Diamondbacks meet the both the requirements. All but Taylor Widener are on the 40-man roster.

Data from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

What scenarios might lead to a successful Unsung Hero?

Seth Beer. A first round draft pick in 2018, his strength is batting power. Two signs that he might bat well next season are he increased his line drive percentage to 29.6% (vs MLB average 25.0% per Baseball Savant) and he reduced his pull percentage to 35.8% (vs MLB average 36.8% per Baseball Savant). Although next season it is unlikely he will receive more than about 5 games in the field, a scenario where his hits as a DH make big impacts could be enough for him to be voted Unsung Hero.

Corbin Martin. Last season he pitched 4 innings per game in two starts and he pitched 2.87 innings per game in five relief appearances. Although he throws his 4-seam fastball more than his other three pitches combined, a scenario where he effectively mixes all his pitches in long relief could be enough for him to be voted Unsung Hero.

Jake McCarthy. Last season, his .342 OBP ranked third best Diamondback (100 PA minimum), and his 118 OPS+ ranked a tie for third best Diamondback (100 PA minimum). Last season, he was voted AZ Snake Pit Rookie of the Year. He finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. A scenario where he continues to bat as well as last season would be welcome. He has high potential to be voted AZ Snake Pit Unsung Hero.

Kyle Nelson. Last season, he was on the ballot for AZ Snake Pit Unsung Hero. Last season his 185 ERA+ ranked as the best Diamondback (100 batters faced minimum). His 3.22 FIP ranked third best Diamondback behind Zac Gallen and Joe Mantiply (100 BF minimum). The bullpen is actively being rebuilt. A scenario where instead of being optioned to AAA, he is part of that bullpen and performs well could mean his second time on the ballot will meet with success. He has high potential to be voted AZ Snake Pit Unsung Hero.

Emmanuel Rivera. Last season, his .041 home runs per Plate Appearance (HR/PA) ranked fourth best Diamondback (100 PA minimum). Last season his 6 DRS at third base show he is likely the best defender. A scenario where he gets playing time at third base (either by roster construction or due to injuries), hits home runs with impact, and defends as well as last season could be enough to be voted Unsung Hero.

Pavin Smith. One strength is power hitting. A scenario where as a DH and part time outfielder he becomes a home run machine (with a high RBI total) could be enough to be voted Unsung Hero.

Taylor Widener. Last season, his 94 MPH 4-seam fastball was his most effective pitch (-1.8 run value per 100 pitches per Baseball Savant). A scenario where injuries require him to be added to the 40 man roster so he can pitch in relief, and he pitches himself onto the active roster could be enough to be voted Unsung Hero.

With a song in my heart, who are the most promising?

Who will be voted next season’s Unsung Hero is unpredictable. Dark horses can and do happen. Seven players are the most likely ages, with the most likely seasons after their debut in the Majors. Of the seven, the most promising players are Jake McCarthy and Kyle Nelson.