Free agent addition Jason Kubel had his first significant contribution for the Diamondbacks Saturday. In the Diamondbacks 8-6 win over the Chicago White Sox Kubel hit 2 home runs and drove in three.
Kubel’s 3 for 4 day raised his spring average to .241 and he flashed the power that the Diamondbacks so desperately need in the lineup to protect
Justin Upton. Upton’s 31 home runs led the D-Backs in 2011 but no other hitter in their lineup hit more than 20. Miguel Montero and Ryan Roberts have modest power, but they might be maxing out at 20 home runs. Certainly Chris Young can–and has–hit more home runs than his 20 last season and Paul Goldschmidt will be counted on to provide a jolt of power, but Jason Kubel is right up there with Young and Goldscmidt as candidates to hit in the middle of the order and guys who Kirk Gibson can sandwich around Upton in the lineup.
Coming from covering the American League Central, Kubel was amonng the Diamondbacks that I knew the best. Of all the players having struggling spring, he was the one that I was least concerned with. Kubel had a quiet–but productive career–in Minnesota playing in the limelight of superstars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. He doesn’t quite fit the part of a chissled ballplayer. His appearance certainly doesn’t remind people of Jose Bautista or Matt Kemp–he’s more John Krukish–but he’s without a doubt a scrappy player who doesn’t quit in any at-bat or on any play. Kubel is basically an overachieving fourth outfielder—the guy who always and consistently beat out more talented players around him to play regularly.
Before an injury plagued 2011, Kubel was among the best kept sectrets in baseball. In 2009 he had a tremendous statline of .300/28 HR/103 RBI and while his average dipped in 2010 to .249 he still was productive hitting 21 HR and 92 RBI. Those numbers would have been second and first respectively in the 2011 D-Backs lineup. He’s a powerful left-handed bat with the flair for the big home run.
While I’m not convinced that Kubel should start over the dynamic Gerardo Parra in left field, I know enough of him as a player that I am convinced that Kirk Gibson and company need to find a way to get this guy in the lineup everyday.
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