Two weeks ago, I broke down the D-backs’ starting rotation, and last week I broke down the bullpen, so this week, you guessed it, I’m breaking down the infield. Arizona will most likely go with a five man rotation, along with a seven man bullpen. That leaves thirteen fielders to round out the roster. I believe that the D-backs will take three catchers, six infielders, and only four outfielders.
Catchers are infielders, but also almost part of the pitching staff, so I gave them their own section.
The Diamondbacks have really good luck in dealing with the Tigers as of late. Example 1 of 1: J.D. Martinez. The D-backs were really needing a left handed bat before Arizona signed Avila. He’ll be a big upgrade at the plate over last year’s starting catcher, Chris Iannetta, although Avila’s bat has been down since his first few years in the bigs. He did hit .264 in 112 games last season, which is a tenth of a percent better than Iannetta’s. The biggest difference, though, between the two is Iannetta’s pitch framing ability. According to Stat Corner, last year, Iannetta framed pitches and gave pitches up (caught the pitch inside the strike zone but was called a ball) at the same rate. However, Avila gave up just over a pitch per game. That may be a problem, given this front office’s emphasis on pitch framing.
Mathis is Zack Greinke’s personal catcher. He’s a Mendoza line hitter for his career, but very good defensively. If he makes Greinke happy, he should make Diamondbacks’ fans happy.
The Hermannator is going to benefit from the organization trading away Brandon Drury. Drury was able to fill in in the outfield when needed, but was never counted on to play extraordinarily well or for long periods of time, because he also played second and third. That’s going to be Hermann’s role this year. He played in that role to an extent last year as well, but will probably see that increase, especially with Avila expected to play more than Iannetta did last year.
Paul Goldschmidt- America’s First Baseman
Chris Owings- Second Baseman
Owings is interesting to look at, historically, because he’s played well below his skill level. He hit .291 in 20 games as a rookie in 2013, and his average understandably fell 30 points to .261 as he became the starter in 2014, which was also the year he hurt his left shoulder. He underwent surgery on that shoulder in the offseason of 2014, but it still affected his play in 2015, when he hit only .227. Then, in 2016, he had his best full year offensively, but had to play almost 50 games in centerfield, a position he hadn’t played since the Little League majors. Last year, Owings still bounced around, playing 26 games in the outfield, and hit only .268. His offense will have to improve this season, especially with Nick Ahmed behind him.
Side note: it is incredible how lost one can get in the catacombs that make up Baseball Reference.
Ketel Marte- Shortstop
Remember when Jean Segura had that one season and everyone was mad that the organization traded him away? I’d like the honor of introducing you to Ketel Marte. He established himself last season, without even playing the full year in the majors, as the D-backs shortstop. Defensively, he’s flashy, he’s quick, he’s fearless. He’s fun to watch. Offensively, he’s still yet to reach his potential. The 24 year old hit .260 last year with 11 doubles, two triples, and five home runs, as well as 18 RBIs. He’ll hit much closer to .300 this year and may even add some more pop to his bat.
Jake Lamb- Third Baseman
Someone could look at Lamb’s 2017 season, split at the All-Star break, and see one player whose about to become a star, and another that’s about to be sent down. Lamb hit .279 before the break and only .204 after the break. An even starker split, Lamb hit .282 against right handed pitchers, but the lefty only hit .144 against southpaws. Arizona needs consistency from reigning All-Star. The D-backs did trade away Lamb’s backup, Brandon Drury, so Mike Hazen and company in the front office have faith in Lamb being able to hit lefties. Or the D-backs could theoretically play backup shortstop and defensive specialist Nick Ahmed at third against lefthanded starters, because Ahmed did hit .396 last year against lefties.
Nick Ahmed- Backup Shortstop
Ahmed is great defensively. In 2015, Ahmed saved 19 runs as the starting shortstop, only to see that number decline to 13 in 2016, as his innings decreased, as well. Ahmed has always been considered a ‘Mendoza Line’ player, which means, if he can hit above .200, his defense makes up for his lack of offense. However, Ahmed has seemed to hit lefties very well, which could land him some more playing time.
Daniel Descalso- Utility Man
Descalso can play seemingly anywhere in the infield, as well as pinch hit. He’s played first base when Goldy needs a day off, at second, at third, and pinch hit. Descalso may not seem like the type of player that makes a huge impact, but Descalso does a few things incredibly well. The first is that he takes pitchers deep into counts. That, in turn, allows for better success for those hitting behind him, which is primarily the top of the order when he pinch hits. He also is a leader in the club house. Arizona’s roster this season is very young. One of the few other veterans on the roster is Zack Greinke, who is famously shy. His role as a leader was necessary in last year’s playoff run, and will be necessary this year, as well.