The Diamondbacks’ outfield was solid but unspectacular at the plate in 2013. There were no black holes, at least once Jason Kubel stopped receiving playing time, as everyone posted a wOBA right around .320. Unfortunately, there were no standouts with the bat and unit lacked offensive punch last season. Defense, though, was a different story as the Diamondbacks’ outfield was historically good with their gloves. Pollock has range for days, Parra has a flare for great catches and laser beam throws while Cody Ross grades out much better defensively than you might think. Of course, Adam Eaton is gone and Mark Trumbo was added, so there will be less defense and slightly more offense. Will it pay off for Arizona in 2014? That’s yet to be seen, but we can get a glimpse by looking at the following Steamer player projections:
Despite all of the talk of 40+ #trumbombs this year in Chase, Steamer isn’t all that high on Mark Trumbo. Why? Because 28-year old lumbering sluggers just don’t improve as they age. In fact, they tend to fall off quicker than other types of players. In fairness, his projections essentially have him holding steady to what he was in 2013 and the counting stats that traditional fans care most about will depend on his playing time. I’ve said it before, but it’s kind of silly to think he’s going to improve on the player that he has been and Steamer backs that notion up. A cool feature of Steamer projections is that they are updated every 24 hours, so the line you see above does indeed reflect Trumbo’s move to Arizona.
The Steamer Essentials: the high-strikeout, low-OBP profile will follow Trumbo to Arizona but so will the power that’s made him a big-league player. Cover your eyes on balls hit to left, though.
Cody Ross was sneaky good last year. In just over half a season, he was worth nearly 2 WAR, a year in which he was hampered by injuries. His power was down but his average and, subsequently, his on-base percentage were up. Steamer likes Ross to revert closer to his career norms, with his average dipping but a spike in power and more walks. Should this hold true, he’ll be roughly as valuable as he was last year. There are concerns in his projection about health and we will be monitoring the situation regarding his hip very closely this spring as the most we’ve heard thus far is that he could be back in April. Of course, Mark Trumbo will cut into his playing time, so there’s that, too.
The Steamer Essentials: expect Ross to continue to be very useful when on the field, especially with a potential increase in power output.
Gerardo Parra‘s glove work in the outfield was nothing short of incredible in 2013 and there’s no reason to see that changing in 2014. His batting line, however, left something to be desired. Parra’s hot start saved his season from being a total disaster at the plate given his struggles in the second half. Steamer sees a boost in nearly every offensive aspect from him as he enters the typical age-27 prime for a baseball player. Perhaps most exciting, he’s projected to get thrown out less when trying to steal! Expect Gerardo to be on the field a lot again in 2013 as he’ll now be the primary backup in center with Eaton in Chicago.
The Steamer Essentials: the projections see continued offensive growth from Parra, but he’ll still remain more of a gifted fielder than hitter.
Prior to 2013, Steamer had no idea how much playing time AJ Pollock would see but projected him for a .322 wOBA based on his minor league history. Pollock ended up playing more than we ever would have guessed and finished with a .321 wOBA, almost perfectly aligned to his projection. Going forward, Steamer sees a drop in his strikeout rate and small uptick in his walk rate. The one difference is that it projects a little less power but essentially expects him to be eerily similar to the player he was in 2013. This sounds about right for Pollock as he was never someone that scouts expected to blossom into a star but instead grow into a role as a steady regular. Of course, defense will remain a very important component of AJ’s game, perhaps even more so now with a limited range left fielder (Trumbo) expected to see a lot of innings.
The Steamer Essentials: it’s more of the same from AJ with a slight amount of growth, which pairs well with how talent evaluators have seen him for years.
Quick Notes: with the departure of Adam Eaton, expect Tony Campana to be a frequent fixture in Arizona. While the team probably shouldn’t carry five outfielders, the injury history of Cody Ross and the defensive limits of Mark Trumbo might mean we see more of Campana than we did last year. He’ rightfully projected as a replacement-level player (poor offense and reasonable defense with great base running). Alfredo Marte is another option but is best-suited for a corner outfield spot in the wake of an injury or two. He’s also a replacement-level call-up (with more offense than Campana but less defense and base running). A third option from the minors might be center fielder Ender Inciarte who has shown the ability to hit for a hollow average and get on base where he’s quite the stolen-base threat. He was solid in AA last year and might be ready for his debut at some point in 2014 although his future role is that of a 4th outfielder.
In Sum: the highest upside potential was shipped away in December when Eaton got traded. Steamer still thinks that Cody Ross is the most productive outfielder of the bunch, and judging from what he did on the field last year, that makes sense. His injury is clearly something to monitor, but if he’s healthy, he’s likely the best offensive outfielder of the bunch. Parra will grow slightly as will AJ Pollock but both will still derive much of their value from their defense. Trumbo should continue to be who he has been in the past: a power hitter with no other valuable assets.
The real conundrum is going to be figuring out the playing time issue in the outfield. Ross is too good (and too expensive) to be coming off the bench if he’s healthy. Trumbo has nowhere else to go with Goldy locking up first base and the idea of him playing third is totally foolish (plus Prado’s there). Parra could move to center and AJ could head to the bench, but Gerardo doesn’t grade out nearly as well in center as he does in a corner. Perhaps Parra platoons with Ross in right and becomes a super-sub in late innings to get Trumbo out of the field to protect leads. While this might make the most sense in terms of performance, it’s a pretty inefficient use of funds. Stay tuned to see how this one plays out.
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