Today, we will be looking at one of the more interesting positions for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Shortstop in 2013 for the D-Backs which was supposed to be manned by a combination of Willie Bloomquist and Cliff Pennington featured a lot of youth because of injuries to both Bloomquist and Aaron Hill. By the end of the season, it became apparent the future was present and what we have here is a gold old fashioned Spring Training battle heading into 2014.
He came over from the Cincinnati Reds in the deal that sent Trevor Bauer to the Cleveland Indians. Gregorius started 2013 at Triple A Reno before Hill’s broken hand necessitated his call up to the Majors. The reports on Didi indicated that he was an excellent fielder with a not-so-hot bat. For the first month, he sizzled at the plate batting .354 through his first 17 games. After that, the reports were dead-on regarding his plate production. In 357 at-bats, Gregorius hit seven home runs with 28 RBI’s and a line of .252/.352/.373. He has tremendous range in the field and has a very strong arm. Since the organization gave up Bauer, a number three overall pick in the draft to get him, Didi will probably given a lot of leeway if he performs poorly in March.
He opened the season the starter at short until Hill’s injury and Didi’s call up pushed him over to second. By the time the 2013 season ended, his playing time had diminished greatly as the team regularly featured Gregorius and Chris Owings alternating starts at the position. Pennington started only twice at the position in September, an indication that he will not see regular time there, baring injury, for Arizona in the future. In 269 at-bats, Pennington had one homer and 18 RBI’s and a .242/.310/.309 line. He also delivered several clutch hits including a 16 inning single that gave the D-Backs the first of many extra inning victories on the season.
While he wasn’t called up into September, it was a tremendous season for Owings. While at Triple-A Reno, he won both the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and the PCL MVP. Owings hit 12 home runs and drove in 81 with a line of .330/.359/.482 and even stole 20 bases. The former first round pick spent virtually all of September with the D-Backs and appeared in a total of 20 games with 55 at-bats. Over his last six starts Owings went 6 for 21, finishing with a line of .291/.361/.382 with five RBI’s and enjoyed five multi-hit games.
What to expect in 2014:
Shortstop maybe the only position where there will be a battle for the starting job in Spring Training. Owings and Gregorius will duke it out for the every day job while Pennington, who will be a free agent after the 2014 season will probably be the backup and both short and second. It all depends what the team is looking for. If they want offense, Owings is the guy and if the team wants a better glove, then Gregorius will win the job.
The position is one of the deeper ones in the Arizona organization. In addition to Gregorius and Owings, there is Nick Ahmed who came over to the D-Backs in the Justin Upton trade. One could easily picture that the loser of the shortstop battle may not be in the team’s plans for the long-term. In my opinion, Gregorius and Ahmed are more likely to stay than Owings as the former two were acquired by Kevin Towers while the latter was drafted in 2009. In fact, I will be putting a up a piece later this week about what destination is perfect for Owings. Gregorius and Ahmed are more defensive-minded while Owings is a much bigger threat with the bat. He seems to be the best all-around player.