As we near the return of baseball to Arizona this spring there are still a fair amount of question marks that are hovering around the club. Those include the outfield situation, shortstop and the back end of the rotation. Not that they need to acquire players at these positions but that they’re going to need someone to step up and fill those roles in 2013.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius hits a RBI single against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field. Image: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Fellow Venom Strikes writer Thomas Lynch wrote a piece about the lack of coverage and/or trust in 25 year old Gerardo Parra and I couldn’t agree more since at the age of 23 he won a gold glove in left field and finished with a .292 average and .357 OBP. Yet Parra hardly even receives consideration in the running for a starting outfield spot.
It is similar to the situation at shortstop right now for the club with six shortstops on the 40 man roster. The list includes John McDonald, Willie Bloomquist, Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings, and Josh Wilson. And unless one of the last three guys has an incredible spring, it looks like the team will keep three shortstops while expecting them to shift over to second base as needed.
Bloomquist played the most at shortstop in 2012 with John McDonald filling in on off days and then taking over when Bloomquist had back issues keeping him out nearly all of August and September. Pennington was then brought over from the A’s via trade and recently inked a two-year, $5 million deal. I will be the first to say that I’m not very high on the Pennington signing and feel like it is nothing more than a band aid. However, if Towers does have a vision with Pennington manning the position until Gregorius proves he is ready to be an everyday contributor at shortstop, then the D’backs may be alright. Frankly, Pennington’s stats can’t get much worse than they were in 2012 as the 28 year old struggled to a .215/.278/.311 slash line leaving us to only hope that he can produce even mediocre numbers in 2013.
Then, taking a look at just about any of Gregorius’ stats you would wonder if he will ever be major league ready. However, Bernie Pleskoff, a major league scout who covers a great deal of Arizona baseball including the Arizona Fall League puts him at or near the top for most athletic prospect to compete in the highly touted AFL. According to Pleskoff’s article, if the 23 year old can harness some of his raw athleticism (which he believes he will), then the D’backs will get their long term answer at shortstop.
This of course leaves their other shortstop prospect (ranked fifth in D’backs org.) floating in the minor leagues in similar fashion to Parra at the big league level. Before the addition of Pennington and Gregorius, Owings was hoped to be the next man in line and earned a spot in the recent Arizona Fall League to allow Towers and Co. further consideration. Now, as the vision has apparently changed, perhaps we can expect Owings to shift to second base and be the successor to Aaron Hill when his contract expires at the end of 2013.
After all, it is no secret that the D’backs have a plethora of talent in their farm system and if Owings and Gregorius can grow into the players that these scouts and executives expect, at least some of the questions of the 2012 off season will start to make sense.