The Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff and front deserve a strong compliment from how they’ve handled the outfield situation in 2015. We’ve been outspoken about it here and on The Pool Shot. We knew A.J. Pollock had center field locked up, but with David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, Mark Trumbo and Yasmany Tomas in the fold early on, the situation was murky. The return on trading Trumbo looks like it was more than fair at this point and giving Peralta at-bats against lefties has worked out relatively well, too. Inciarte was always the “tweener” of the group, capable of playing any of the three spots while hitting enough to warrant playing nearly every day, which he has. Tomas got a chance, proved he has major work to do and has since ridden the pine for the better part of the last two months.

Heading into 2016, there are still four outfielders for three spots, and none of them are exactly your 4th outfielder type. Pollock and Peralta are every day guys at this point. Inciarte essentially is, too, especially if you value his defense and base running. Which leaves the team with Tomas, a guy who needs to do a lot of work controlling the strike zone for his 70-grade raw power to play. He’s only going to make that progress with repetitions on the field against major league pitching, and the team is financially invested in letting the 24-year old grow. So who sits?

The answer: maybe no one.

We know the team needs help in the rotation and the bullpen. We also know that the outfield is where the most depth is outside of fringy rotation guys who have little to no trade value. If there’s going to be a deal, the team will probably have to move an outfielder to complete it. Who they move is dependent on the other club involved and the pitcher in return. Arguing who that outfielder should be is a discussion for a later date. But it also causes a problem because the team would then have only three outfielders. Who becomes the fourth guy? It might just be Socrates Brito.

The young corner outfielder has looked the part in his limited debut since being called up at the beginning of September. He also recently took home the organization’s Minor League Position Player of the Year Award for his growth and improvement this season. He’s always been a tremendous athlete with plus speed, a solid arm and potentially plus power. The issue has been his ability to make the hit tool work, partly due to his approach at the plate. So far, he’s shown a willingness to expand the zone that’s led to bad contact and zero walks in his first 18 plate appearances. But when he drops the hammer, he can sting the ball.

This small sample has some warning signs, sure, but there’s been tremendous improvement from Brito in 2015. While his ability to handle AA pitching was in doubt before the season, he managed to not only hit but drop his strikeout rate and increase his power output. That’s not to say that he’s big league ready now, but it might suggest that he can adapt and make changes. If that’s the case, he could make a fine choice as a 4th outfielder option for Arizona in 2016.

A part time role might not be ideal if you view him as a potential star, but given that his ceiling has always been solid regular, a part time job wouldn’t be the worst idea. He provides a lefty bat off the bench, and given his platoon splits in the minors, he could be a spot starter on occasion against righties and a common pinch-hitting and pinch-running option. In the late innings, he’d surely be Tomas’ defensive replacement (should he stick around as expected).

When working with a 25-man roster, flexibility is key. Brito offers a lot of utility and if an outfielder is traded, he could see his name called as the replacement. As a utility outfielder who swings from the left side, Brito may be a particularly intriguing option. There’s development left for him and if the front office and coaching staff think they can take him a notch higher over the winter and through the spring, he may just provide the security that allows them to flip another outfielder to fill a need in the pitching department.

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8 Responses to Double Plus: The Improving Value of Socrates

  1. OJ Carrasco says:

    I know you tabled the discussion of which outfielder needs to go, but I’m a rebel and care not for your rules.

    They’ll probably keep Tomas, as you mentioned, Peralta is cheap and good, which makes him attractive, Inciarte provides versatility and cheap, I assume. Pollock is a top 3 NL outfielder right now (Harper/McCutchen/Pollock), hard to part with him. Do they trade Pollock if somebody offers a proven closer with some prospects? I know that seems unreasonable, but we have no idea what the front office finds reasonable, they seem to float on the tide of rational thinking, to and fro, like a small crab caught in the water.

  2. rye says:

    A name that always gets forgotten, Zach Borenstein absolutely destroyed the Southern league (.905 OPS) this year. Statistically he had a better year than Brito. Being younger, Brito tends to be painted as the better prospect but there’s really less than a 1.5 year age difference between the 2 lefties. I believe that Brito is considered the better defender as well. It’s my strong opinion that Borenstein needs to find his way onto a MLB roster in 2016 or risk falling into that “old prospect” category and lose all value.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      I’ll just say that after spending some time in minor league camp this spring, the two are on wildly different ends of the “eye test” spectrum. Borenstein doesn’t *look* like a major leaguer, Brito does. There are plenty of reasons to argue with any logic along these lines – it’s about production not appeal. But I think it can help tell the story of why things shake out the way they do.

      • rye says:

        Given how Borenstein started the season your eyes probably weren’t lying. It’s really hard to argue with his season numbers though. Borenstein seems to fit the mold as a 4th OF more than Brito who profiles more as an everydayer. Yes, a lot of everyday players start their careers as 4th OFs (Inciarte, Parra) and Brito will probably take this path. But this time next year, if a 26-year old Borenstein is sitting blocked in Reno the D-back will have squandered his prospect value. My point is that the team will probably need to move one of Inciarte and Peralta as well as one of Brito and Borenstein. I think all 4 of these guys have value but Borenstein’s window is closing.

        • Jeff Wiser says:

          Borenstein can hit, but from an athletic standpoint, he’s way behind Brito. What makes Brito an arguably better 4th OF type is that he *could* slide to center if needed in a pinch. Not something you’d want on a regular basis, but he probably wouldn’t kill you. Borenstein doesn’t offer that flexibility and I think that’s a big separator, especially if a guy like Inciarte gets traded.

  3. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Brito’s minor league stats this year are remarkably similar to Pollock’s at the same age. And as you say, he is a toolsy guy who passes the eye test and provides value defensively and on the basepaths. IOW, his ceiling might be higher than that of an average regular.

    If the org agrees, then he is probably best served with at least another half-year of everyday development in Reno.

    I do hope they get package one of their outfielders for pitching help, as long as that outfielder’s name is “Tomas.” Maybe they could justify selling high on Inciarte or Peralta, but it would be nearly impossible to get equal value back, I think.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Basically Brito is as good as his hit tool allows him to be. With the approach he’s shown, he’s going to get exploited. He has expanded the zone too often and too far in his debut, despite his batting average. Pitchers figure these things out pretty quickly. If he can control the zone and make consistent contact, he could really take off. The odds that he improves enough to do that are not terrible, but it’s far from a sure thing. AAA time would be very valuable for him.

  4. Ken says:

    The FO needs to do the right thing and put Tomas on the first thing smokin.. The fans don’t show up and Tomas does nothing to bring excitement to the team.. Cut your losses and move forward..

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