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Preview, #35: 5/6 @ Rays

Into the land of the DH go the Diamondbacks...

Arizona Diamondbacks v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Tim Locastro - LF Brandon Lowe - 2B
Ketel Marte - CF Tommy Pham - LF
Eduardo Escobar - DH Ji-Man Choi - 1B
Adam Jones - RF Yandy Diaz - 3B
Christian Walker - 1B Nate Lowe - DH
Wilmer Flores - 2B Avisail Garcia - RF
Nick Ahmed - SS Kevin Kiermaier - CF
John Ryan Murphy - C Mike Zunino - C
Ildemaro Vargas - 3B Daniel Robertson - SS

It’s always interesting to see who the Diamondbacks use as a designated hitter, when they play in American League parks. This afternoon, it’s Eduardo Escobar who is the “lucky” recipient of a somewhat off-day, getting to ride the pine between his trips to the plate. The typical DH is someone who carried a big stick, but is defensively challenged, so you can use the opportunity to get an upgrade in the field, while still retaining their bat in the line-up. I’m not sure who would be the most obvious D-back by those parameters. Based on the Fangraphs defensive metrics (small sample size warning!), Christian Walker and Wilmer Flores are probably the leading candidates.

More generally with Walker, I am a little concerned about what’ll happen when his BABIP falls back from its current, unsustainable level of .411. Now, a chunk of that is likely a result of how damn ferociously he is scorching the ball. Again per Fangraphs, Walker’s 65.0% rate of hard-hit balls is the best in the majors (min 75 PA), and it’s not particularly close. My research (two minutes of Googling) couldn’t find a page which told me what Walker’s BABIP “should” be, given his batted-ball profile, but that .411 figure still seems pretty damn high. Since 1998, only one qualified batter - Jose Hernandez for the 2002 Brewers - has managed a BABIP over an entire season of .400, so while it’s possible for Walker... Don’t count on it.

There’s no doubt Walker has been fabulous so far. By fWAR, the only first-baseman in the majors who has been worth more than his 1.3 fWAR, is the DodgersCody Bellinger (at an insane 3.2 fWAR). Christian is tied with fellow rooke Peter Alonzo of the Mets, and a LONG way ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals’ first-baseman, who is currently ranked fourteenth, at 0.6 fWAR. I have to say, it generally appears that the players Mike Hazen let go this winter, have generally not been as effective as their Arizona replacements. Not just Walker/Goldy, but if you compare Adam Jones/A.J. Pollock, Greg Holland/Brad Boxberger or even Luke Weaver/Patrick Corbin, the D-backs seem to come out rather well...