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Praising Arizona

March 8, 2018
 After a 24-win improvement in 2017, the Arizona Diamondbacks have had a busy offseason in trying to put together a roster that could compete with the Dodgers for the division and the Rockies and Giants for the Wild Card. The Diamondbacks are trying for consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2007-2008.

Most notably, the Diamondbacks lost right fielder J.D. Martinez, who signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox rather than return to Arizona. Martinez put up incredible numbers with the Diamondbacks (29 home runs in 62 games), but those would have been difficult for even the best power hitters in major league history to sustain.

To replace Martinez, the Diamondbacks did two things: They made a three-way trade in which they gave up infielder Brandon Drury and pitcher Anthony Banda to get outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and they signed former Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson.

In terms of what Arizona got, Souza brings a good power profile. In 2017, he joined Evan Longoria and Jose Canseco as the only right-handed hitting Rays to hit 30 home runs in a season. He’ll be moving from hitter-unfriendly Tropicana Field, where he is a .218 career hitter, to Chase Field, which even with a humidor shouldn't be worse than average.

Souza also rates better than Martinez in two areas. One is that he can run. He stole 16 bases in 20 attempts last season and fared well in taking extra bases in certain situations. The other is that he has a better defensive history. He saved 10 runs defensively in right field over the last two seasons. Martinez cost 27 in that same span, and cited recovery from injuries as reasons for his struggles (he’ll get to DH in Boston).

Under the radar pickup

The Diamondbacks have what is potentially a solid outfield with Souza, centerfielder A.J. Pollock and left fielder David Peralta. And they added some defensive depth and speed to it with Dyson, who won a World Series with the Royals in 2015.

Dyson’s addition is essentially the equivalent to what Arizona did in signing Jeff Mathis last season. They added a valuable defensive standout – with Dyson they got someone who can play all three outfield positions and play them well. Dyson and Kevin Kiermaier are the only players to save at least 20 runs per 1,000 innings as outfielders over the last four seasons.

"He has natural speed and is efficient with his reads on and routes to the ball," said a major league scout. "He has the ability to outrun any mistakes he might make."

Dyson’s speed also makes him dangerous on the basepaths. He and Jose Altuve are the only players with at least 25 stolen bases in each of the last six seasons. Dyson’s 84 percent success rate in that span is the best of the 50 players with the most stolen base attempts in that time.

The battle out West

The four teams challenging the Dodgers for NL West supremacy each attacked the offseason aggressively. The Giants added veterans Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. The Rockies rebuilt their bullpen. And the Padres signed Eric Hosmer to go with one of the top farm systems in baseball. 

The Diamondbacks clearly feel that their approach, bringing in Souza and Dyson, consistent hard-hitter Alex Avila to platoon with defensively-minded backstop, Jeff Mathis, and Yoshihisa Hirano and Brad Boxberger to go with Archie Bradley in the bullpen, puts them in position to be a prime contender in 2018.

Speaking of Arizona, Sports Info Solutions will be making three research presentations this weekend at the SABR Analytics Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix. If you're there, be sure to say hello.


COMMENTS (2 Comments, most recent shown first)

did signing mathis last year make any measurable difference?
3:52 PM Mar 8th
Blue ribbon article title :-)

Do you think the wild card race is just going to be the Rockies, the Backs and the Giants?
2:47 PM Mar 8th
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