The Arizona Diamondbacks entered spring training with some new faces in their clubhouse. Notable departures are catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder J.D. Martinez, but the organization has done an admirable job filling those holes. The free agent signings of catcher Alex Avila and outfielder Jarrod Dyson were the most notable signings. In two separate trades with the rebuilding Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona was able to nab reliever Brad Boxberger and outfielder Steven Souza Jr. All things considered, this lineup looks very potent and features are great mix of speed and power.
The leadoff spot gives us our first big debate. A.J. Pollock and David Peralta basically split the at bats in 2017. Pollock began 2017 in the role and ultimately filled the top spot 42 times; 34 of which were between games 1 and 39 of the season. Injuries in the summer limited Pollock to 112 games, a story fans are all too familiar with. When Pollock went down, Gregor Blanco was tasked with the leadoff role. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that decision, but with Blanco gone it doesn’t help to dwell I suppose. David Peralta is Pollock’s main competitor. He hit leadoff in 54 games but only managed a .267/.336/.419 slash line compared to Pollock’s splits of .296/.345/.492 slash line while batting first. Those numbers are hard to ignore, and give Pollock a legitimate shot at claiming the role again. The telling stat for me is on base percentage. Pollock has an OBP in the leadoff spot 9 points higher than Peralta’s, relatively insignificant until you combine that with SLG and see an OPS that favours Pollock by 82 points. I’m going with A.J. Pollock at leadoff.
David Peralta is without a doubt my guy in the two hole. He owned an .881 OPS in 61 games there in 2017 and doesn’t have any real competition for this spot. Easy call.
I could just skip over the third spot, but who doesn’t want to talk about Paul Goldschmidt. Coming off another MVP caliber season that saw him mash 36 home runs, drive in 120, walk 94 times, and play in 155 games, there aren’t any bad things to say. Pencil him in for another big year. Goldy spent time at clean up as well, with Jake Lamb and J.D. Martinez also taking reps in the fourth spot, but I like him hitting behind Pollock and Peralta to start the year.
The clean up spot is another easy one. Here we have Jake Lamb who spent 80 games batting fourth in 2017, the most ahead of Goldy’s 51. The only other DBacks regular to have 15 appearances was J.D. Martinez. Since Martinez isn’t in the picture, this spot is Lamb’s to lose. Lamb mashed 30 home runs and drove in 105 runs last season, but most of his damage came against right hand pitching.
Newcomer Steven Souza Jr. seems the likeliest candidate for the fifth spot. He filled this role 93 times for the Rays in 2017, hitting 19 of his 30 home runs in the process. Souza has a better average than Lamb against lefties, but most of his power numbers came off right handed hurlers. We could see the two flip-flop when the opposing team starts a lefty, but it’s unlikely.
Moving to the last spot in the middle third brings us to another newcomer in catcher Alex Avila, who saw most of his at bats come in the two hole last year. In my opinion, he has a big enough bat to be put in a position to drive in more runs, especially with the core returning players already slotting in nicely from 1-4 in the order. Avila will provide double digit home runs and 50 RBI in this lineup.
Seventh and eighth spots are a toss up for me at this point. MLB.com has Ketel Marte as the top dog at second base, but Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings will both steal some at bats in this spot. I see Marte playing more at shortstop than anything, so I will give the seventh spot to him. The eighth spot will be whomever starts at second base between Chris Owings and Daniel Descalso. All 3 of these guys might only combine for 25 home runs and 100 RBI if they’re lucky, but there aren’t any better options at this point.
On the bench for sure will be speedster Jarrod Dyson, one of Owings and Descalso, Yasmany Tomas, Jeff Mathis, and Chris Hermann. The rest of the bench spots will be filled at the conclusion of Spring Training.
Overall, I like this lineup. The bottom third will be where opposing pitchers have the chance to get outs, but if Arizona can turn over the lineup with a runner or two on base, watch out. I expect to see them near the top of the league in runs scored in the first inning.