Aaron Hill played well in 2013 despite an injury-plagued season. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Second base was considered a position of strength for the Arizona Diamondbacks heading into the 2013 season. After all, Aaron Hill won the Silver Slugger Award in 2012 for his performance at the position. But as we all know, things didn’t go quite the way any of us wanted.
Aaron Hill: He played a major role down the stretch for the 2011 NL West Champion D-Backs after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays and he followed it up with a superb 2012 season. On April 9, Hill was hit in the left hand by a pitch and went on the disabled list a week later. It was determined to be a fracture and Hill would not play again for Arizona until June 25th. Upon his return, he resumed his strong play for the team and ended 2013 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI’s with a .291/.356/.462 line in 327 at-bats. Those numbers were on track to pretty much equal his 2012 totals.
Cliff Pennington: Someone had to fill the void left by Hill so the first one up was Pennington. He played 18 games in the absence of Hill and his best contributions usually came in extra innings. It began with the game winning hit in the 16th inning in the third game of the season. On June 12th, he contributed an RBI single and a run scored in the 12th inning as the D-Backs beat the Dodgers 8-6. Overall, it was a typical Pennington season: not much offense, clutch hits and some pretty good defense.
Willie Bloomquist: Also holding down the fort was Bloomquist who did not see action until June 1st. He missed the first two months because of a strained intercostal muscle. Bloomquist played a total of 15 games at second but also took another trip to the DL at the end of June due to a left hand contusion. In 139 at-bats, Bloomy drove in 14 runs with a slash line of .317/.360/.367.
What to expect in 2014: As long as he is healthy, there is no reason why Hill can’t match his Silver Slugger season of 2012. He is 31 and in the prime of his career. If the D-Backs are to contend for any kind of playoff spot, they need Hill on his “A” game. Pennington is under contract for 2014 and will be part of a crowded infield heading into Spring Training. His primary position is shortstop but there are a lot of bodies there so playing time will become an issue. Bloomquist is a free agent but I have already guaranteed he will be back for another season in Phoenix. He lives in the area year round and is the type of player the organization loves.
Beyond 2014: Hill is signed through the 2016 season at a reasonable $35 million dollars for the remainder of the contract. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will be the starter there for the next three seasons. While there are no obvious players on the horizon at second, the glut of shortstops may have the organization decide to switch one of them, possibly Chris Owings. Mike Freeman, who played at Double A Mobile in 2013 and currently in the Arizona Fall League, is 26 and may be no more than a backup at the Major League level.