As the 2022-23 offseason enters its final month, the Diamondbacks’ roster has come a long way since November. General Manager Mike Hazen kept busy throughout this winter, arguably the most active in six years on the job. In a series of moves, the front office went all out to try to strengthen an offense that has struggled as a whole lately. Each of the last three seasons amounted to a bottom-five offense across the league in terms of weighted on-base percentage (wOBA), combining to an overall .302 wOBA in that span.
After hardly drumming up any excitement for a while, the lineup might turn things around rather quickly next season. Arizona’s outfield projects to be the focal point of its offense going forward. Coming into this offseason, the Diamondbacks’ outfield setup already seemed in good shape, particularly because of its depth. Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas, and Daulton Varsho – all former top draft picks – produced a dynamic outfield setup last season, offensively and defensively. On top of that, Corbin Carroll, regarded by many as the best prospect in baseball, joined an outfield filled with young talent.
Instead of trying to find a way to utilize its quartet for a three-man gig, the organization flipped its biggest asset to fill more pressing holes elsewhere on the roster. Hazen didn’t wait long to do so, acquiring former A.L. Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, 27, from the Mariners in exchange for C/OF Cooper Hummel. The front office didn’t stop there in its quest to rearrange its outfield, as the team acquired five-year veteran outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (and 22-year-old catcher Gabriel Moreno) from the Blue Jays in exchange for Daulton Varsho. Arizona’s outfield layout ends this offseason in the same state as when it began – with a surplus.
While Arizona’s outfield is filled with ballplayers just getting acclimated to the bigs, its infield is filled with guys who’ve been around the league a while. The young group of outfielders will all inevitably encounter their fair share of roadblocks next season as they learn the game’s highest level, but fortunately, they’ll have their infielders for some guidance.
The right side of the infield features Ketel Marte and Christian Walker, both of whom have had their own successful performances in recent campaigns. Last season, Christian Walker posted a career year, batting to a career-high .235 ISO and 19.6% strikeout rate, and also won a Gold Glove and appeared in all but two games. The 31-year-old’s performance likely reassures the organization that he is the right man for the first-base job.
Arizona has another potential first baseman on the 40-man roster in Seth Beer. He was expected to be an elite hitter and quickly rise through the minors after being acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Astros at the ‘19 trade deadline. However, the former first-round pick out of Clemson has struggled to consistently meet expectations since joining the organization. Beer’s best season with the organization came in 2021 with the AAA Reno Aces, where he slashed .287/ .398/.511 in the hitter-friendly PCL League. Beer had his first big-league opportunity last season, although much didn’t come of it. In 38 games with the D-backs, the lefty struggled mightily versus big-league pitching, batting to a bleak .521 OPS.
Beer’s struggles along with Christian Walker’s bounceback ‘22 season probably reassures the organization that Walker is the right man for the job. Regular opportunities for Beer at the big-league level seem unlikely at this point. Scouts for long have had concerns about Beer’s defensive calling, as his subpar mobility and lagging speed make it difficult to play him anywhere on the field besides first base. Beer could conceivably DH for the team, but the additions of Gurriel and Lewis make that unlikely, as they’ll both likely share DH duties. At 26 years old, Beer’s chance of living up to the hype continues to shrink, and it might be a matter of time till he finds himself in another uniform.
Next to Christian Walker in the infield next season will be Ketel Marte, whose ‘22 campaign was not nearly as successful as Walker’s. Last season was a tale of two stories for the switch-hitter. After a slow to the season in which he batted to a dreadful .467 OPS in April, Marte got hot and batted to a stellar .396 wOBA from May through July. However, Marte’s nagging hamstring that sidelined him for half of the 2021 season persisted into last season as well towards the second half. After the ‘22 all-star break, Marte batted to a dreadful .602 OPS in 222 plate appearances while spending nearly a month on the injured list.
Marte has struggled to regain his form for a full season since a fourth-place finish for the 2019 NL MVP. Manager Torey Lovullo stated at the Winter Meetings that the organization expects Marte to turn it around, per MLB Network Radio. Marte’s contract extension has yet to work out for the Diamondbacks, but he still has another five seasons to prove himself. If Marte can stay healthy, his unique combination of making contact and hitting the ball hard makes him a valuable piece to the lineup.
The left side of Arizona’s infield is not as set in stone as the right side. Nick Ahmed, the longest-tenured player on the club, has his spot waiting for him at shortstop, assuming he’s healthy, similar to Marte’s situation. The two-time Gold Glove winner has carried Arizona’s defense for years now, as he is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game. This upcoming season will be Ahmed’s last before becoming a free agent for the first time in his nine-year career.
Geraldo Perdomo’s promotion to the bigs last season was premature, yet much needed. Ahmed only appeared in 14 games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, so Perdomo filled Ahmed’s shoes at shortstop. Perdomo struggled overwhelmingly for the entire ‘22 season. Only one batter amongst the 132 with as many plate appearances as Perdomo last season had a worse offensive season in terms of weighted on-base percentage. If Ahmed finds himself back on the IL, the D-backs might not ask Perdomo again to stand in. Perdomo is still very young at 23 years old, so the most logical scenario would be for Perdomo to get back on track in the minors instead of jeopardizing his development by asking too much of him this upcoming season.
For a team that has dealt with lots of injuries recently, Josh Rojas could be a key piece for the Diamondbacks’ lineup this upcoming season. Since making his MLB debut in 2019, Rojas has logged nearly 300 innings at every position aside from center field, first base, and behind the plate. Prior to last season, Rojas spent more time in the outfield than the infield, but those days seem to be less frequent now that the club has good outfield depth thanks to two trades this offseason.
The team doesn’t have nearly as much depth in its infield, so Lovullo will continue to take advantage of Rojas’ defensive versatility but in the infield this time around. If either Marte or Ahmed gets hurt, Rojas will likely stand in on a regular basis. Otherwise, Lovullo will spread his playing time across short, third, and second base.
The only significant addition to the infield this offseason was at third base, as the Diamondbacks signed Evan Longoria to a one-year deal. At 37 years old, Longoria is nearing the end of his playing days but will be important to the team. Longoria will unconditionally benefit the clubhouse with his veteran presence for one of the youngest teams in baseball. Furthermore, the 15-year veteran gives a strong foundation to a position that has been shaky ever since Eduardo Escobar was traded one-and-a-half years ago. He will likely split time between DH and third base, where Josh Rojas will share the duties as well.
The Diamondbacks’ mix of highly-acclaimed young ballplayers and proven veterans pegs this lineup as one of its best in years. Through its own drafting and a few off-season additions, the Diamondbacks are finally ready to take advantage of all its resources to fully compete once again.
Follow us @Diamond_Digest for more!
Featured Photo: @Dbacks / Twitter