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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