PT TOMORROW: NL West—All's set in the Arizona outfield... for now

Arizona Diamondbacks

A.J. Pollock (OF, ARI) seems to be fully recovered from last year’s elbow injury and figures to get plenty of at-bats atop the Diamondbacks lineup, but has now failed to crack the 300 AB threshold in two of the past three years. Yasmany Tomas (OF, ARI) is coming off a 31-HR season, but is nevertheless a liability from a defensive standpoint, which may cut into his playing time given the new sabermetric-friendly management team in Arizona. And while David Peralta’s (OF, ARI) wrist is by all reports healthy, he’s not entirely out of the woods and (at a minimum) has historically struggled against lefties—with a combined slash line of .222/.284/.340 over the past 3 years (194 AB) against LHP.

This is all to say that the door could be open for additional at-bats, even if not on a full-time basis. Chris Owings (SS/OF, ARI) fared well (.306 BA in 108 AB) against LHP, and as touched on last week, figures to get work in the corner OF spots in addition to his time in the infield. New arrival Gregor Blanco (OF, ARI) struggled through injury last year while amassing a mere 241 AB, but at 33 years of age still has very good contact skills (79% ct% last year; 78% career) and walk rates (11% bb% for both last year as well as career). With no significant platoon splits and a Spd score of 142 this past year, he could find his way into some additional playing time.

Jeremy Hazelbaker (OF, ARI), a lefty, was brought in from St. Louis after hitting 12 HR (152 PX) with 5 SB and a .235 BA (.255 xBA). He struggles to make contact (68% ct%), but as noted in the Baseball Forecaster showed improvement in the 2H (13% bb% and 75% ct%), creating an interesting speculative play if he can find his way into the lineup. Although he could be forced to miss time due to a recent finger injury, Socrates Brito (OF, ARI), a 24-year-old lefty, currently rates as a 7C prospect in the Minor League Baseball Analyst. Brito had an unfortunate h% (19%) during his time with the big-league club last year, but has made some swing adjustments that could help him improve in the contact department, where he posted a 75% ct% across 95 AB at the MLB level in 2016. Oswaldo Arcia (OF, ARI) has bounced around over the past few years, but once showed promise for the Twins—hitting 20 HR with a 173 PX in his age-24 season. Last year he had a dreadful 60% ct% and .23 Eye, both of which contributed to his .203 BA (.217 xBA).

 

Colorado Rockies

For a Rockies team with sights on the postseason, one major hurdle will be the bullpen’s ability to improve upon last year’s MLB-worst 5.13 ERA. And so far, so good. Adam Ottavino (RHP, COL) has started out strong this spring after having said publicly during the offseason that he’d like to be the team’s closer heading into 2017. He ascended to the role in August of last year and proceeded to blow 5 of his 12 save chances—undone for the most part by a 52% FpK, which shouldn’t be too surprising given that control can be shaky when returning from Tommy John surgery (as Ottavino was). On the positive side though, his fastball velocity was only a slight tick off his 2015 level, and the GB tilt (62%) remained intact.

That said, there’s some competition in the form of new-arrival Greg Holland (RHP, COL), who was hitting 91-92 mph in a spring game earlier this week. That might not sound impressive—as he was generally working in the 96 mph range during his peak in KC—but it’s important to note that Holland is working his way back from TJS and was down around 88-91 mph as recently as November. A strong showing during the remainder of spring could really make this situation a toss-up.

Another new arrival, Mike Dunn (LHP, COL) signed a 3-yr/$19M deal this offseason. Injured early in the year, Dunn came back to post a 3.09 ERA (4.21 xERA) and 1.19 WHIP to go along with a 4.0 Cmd in the 2H, and has always been tough against lefties (career .229 oBA). Two of last year’s offseason additions—Jake McGee (LHP, COL) and Jason Motte (RHP, COL)—will be looking to redeem themselves after poor performances in 2016. For McGee’s part, one will want to chalk up last year’s struggles—most notably his dropping Dom (11.6 to 7.5, with SwK falling from 13% to 9%)—to a midseason knee injury that shelved him for three weeks. Motte, now 35, saw a nice skills bump as his Dom jumped from 6.3 to 9.1 (9% SwK) on the year. His 1H numbers (3.66 xERA, 1.10 WHIP, 128 BPV), before hitting the DL with a rotator cuff injury, were even better.

 

San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey (C, SF) has “old man neck,” according to Buster Posey. But outside of the gruesome knee injury he suffered on a play at the plate in 2011, he’s been remarkably consistent, with yearly AB totals between 520–560 ever since. Now 30 years old, we should expect/hope for more of the same, although it was very telling to hear manager Bruce Bochy discuss his desire to rest Posey more frequently this year and that perhaps the wear and tear contributed to his (Posey’s) offensive sluggishness in the 2H of 2016—where he hit only 2 HR over the season’s final two months.

Filling the majority of that playing time will be newly acquired Nick Hundley (C, SF). Hundley signed a 1-yr/$2M deal with the Giants after having spent the past two seasons with the Rockies, where he put up 10 HR in consecutive seasons and hit a combined .282 BA—a big step up from his combined .238 BA during his seven years in San Diego. That said, the past two years have seen his career highs in ct%—78% (2016) and 79% (2015)—and last year’s HctX of 118 was a career high as well. While it’s not a profile to jump head-over-heels for, and even less so given the trouble he’s having throwing out runners this spring, he should provide solid production with a chance for a few more ABs over the course of the regular season.

This should ensure that Trevor Brown (C, SF), begins the year in the minors. Brown, 25, is a defense-first catcher who hasn’t made much hard contact (68 HctX last year) or provided much offense in general (.236/.282/.354) during his 212 MLB at-bats. He’ll benefit greatly from the opportunity to get everyday at-bats at Triple-A, and potentially receive a call-up later in the year if the need arises.

 

San Diego Padres

The Padres starting rotation this year will be, to put it mildly, an adventure. In fact there had been speculation that they could go with a more unconventional approach—for example, having each starter attempt to make it through the opposing lineup only once before turning things over to the bullpen. And it makes sense, given the current options, that management is exploring a less-than-traditional route.

Part of that creativity appears to be the signing Jered Weaver (RHP, SD) and his 83 mph fastball, 5.06 ERA (5.54 xERA) along with 5.2 Dom that really feels out of place in a major-league rotation. Jhoulys Chacin (RHP, SD) should have a long leash, having upped his Dom from 6.6 to 8.5 in the 2H (most of which was spent in the bullpen). Chacin may have the highest floor of the bunch, and can put together nice stretches—as seen by his April (152 BPV) and July (113 BPV). Clayton Richard (LHP, SD) posted a 2.41 ERA across nine starts, but a 2H xERA of 4.44 show just how much he benefited from an 86% S%. All three players should (in theory) have locked down a spot in the rotation by the time Opening Day rolls around.

Luis Perdomo (RHP, SD), a former Rule 5 pick, offers the most intrigue from a fantasy standpoint. At 24, Perdomo held his own during his first exposure at the MLB level and showed improvement—posting a 3.91 xERA and 1.32 WHIP, with 2.9 Cmd—in the 2H. But a lack of Ks (5.5 Dom, 7% SwK) limit his overall upside. Trevor Cahill (RHP, SD), as noted in the Baseball Forecaster, still walks batters—as in, 5.1 per 9 (54% FpK) in 2016. Then again, he’s already earning praise from manager Andy Green and last year’s SwK (12%) and Dom (9.0) were both career highs, so perhaps the seeds are there for him to rediscover the 18-game-winner form he flashed in 2010.

Christian Friedrich (LHP, SD), a first-round pick in 2008, posted a 4.84 ERA across 23 starts, and his 1.9 Cmd, 9% SwK and 7.0 Dom do little to add confidence. Tyrell Jenkins (RHP, SD), 24, debuted in June and posted a sub-1.0 Cmd in his 52 IP in ATL. Zach Lee (RHP, SD) does not have overpowering stuff, but was once thought to have a decent future as a back-end starter before an absolutely dreadful 2016. Paul Clemens (RHP, SD) and Jarred Cosart (RHP, SD) round out the list of uninspiring options that nonetheless may see time in the rotation at some point this year.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

After an offseason back-and-forth with the Minnesota Twins, the Dodgers finally gave up and turned their attention to former Tampa Bay Ray Logan Forsythe (2B, LA) to man the keystone in 2017. During his three years in Tampa, Forsythe hit a combined .262 with 43 HR and 17 SB in 1352 AB. Then last year, despite missing a month in the 1H due to injury, he hit 20 HR (with a career-high 115 xPX) while scoring 76 runs. If he can stay healthy and regain even a portion of his success against LHP (972 OPS in 2015 vs. 775 in 2016), he could be a nice source of profit for those fantasy owners waiting to fill their 2B or MI slot.

Behind him sits 38-year-old Chase Utley (2B, LA), who was resigned to provide positional depth and help impart his knowledge/work ethic on the younger players. Utley had a few nice spurts (5 HR in August, for example), but on the year posted career lows in xPX (100), bb% (7) and ct% (78%). Enrique Hernandez (OF, LA), currently fighting for a utility spot, offers the positional flexibility to cover both infield/outfield positions. And as discussed in this space a few weeks ago, we should not be so quick to rule out the return of his 2015 dominance against LHP.

After hitting 27 HR at Double-A last year, Willie Calhoun (2B, LA) is sure to start the year at Triple-A, but could eventually get time with the big-league club if things go completely awry at the position. He is short but sturdy and currently profiles as an 8C in the Minor League Baseball Analyst, #5 on the Dodgers organizational chart. Whether he has the glove to stick at 2B long-term, however, remains to be seen.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.