Diamondbacks 2015 Preview: How About Third Base?
By Chris Jackson
Who’s on third?
The answer previously stated by the Dbacks brass is Yasmany Tomas. But what of his abilities? The Dbacks spent big money on a Free Agent? Well it has to be the right move! Right? Right?!?! Sadly, Tomas is nothing more than an educated guess at this point, and there isn’t a nicer way to put it. Nothing more than a “Geez, we hope this works” by the Dbacks front office. The only way to find out for sure is to pencil his name into the lineup, and see what unfolds.
Tomas is, of course, a Cuban defector whom Arizona signed to a very team friendly contract. For the first four years (six total), Tomas will receive $22MM, not to include his $14MM signing bonus. How is this team friendly? Well, first off, it includes an opt-out clause after 4 years, and second, it allows for the bulk of this big money contract to be paid in the final two years. Basically, it’s insurance to protect Arizona should Tomas be a Major League Bust instead of a Major League Ballplayer.
This is very much so a high risk/high reward situation. With this team friendly contract, Arizona has mitigated some of the risk by paying him such a relatively low salary for the first four years of his contract. As comparison, we can take a look at the Jose Abreu contract, in which the Chicago White Sox did much of the same. The White Sox really benefit here because even after Abreu’s monster 2014, they still pay him only $7MM in ’15. After that, it’s a steady, albeit sharp, increase until free agency hits in 2020. All in all, Abreu is owed $58MM before his first trip to free agency.
So what am I getting at? Well, Tomas isn’t a third baseman by nature, he’s an outfielder. In his trial runs at third in Cuba, he faired very poorly on the defensive side of the ball. Is hit bat worth the holes in his defense at third? Well, during summer of ’14, Tomas faced a few Team USA pitchers and went a measly 3-19 with 8Ks in 5 games. Those aren’t exactly “the droids the [Dbacks] are looking for” out of 3rd base, at least not in my opinion.
If Tomas is to fail at 3rd, we do have some other options, outlined (in no particular order) as follows:
Brandon Drury could be a legitimate option … just not in 2015. I think the Major Leagues are still beyond his capabilities as of now because his highest level of play thus far was AA, where he’s played only 29 games, coming to the dish for 105 official at bats. In those at bats, he posted a very decent slash line of .295/.345/.476 with an OPS over .800. However, AA pitching is a far cry from MLB pitching, and I firmly believe Drury has a long way to go. While his bat has gotten better with age, he still has a few holes in his swing that need to be “filled in” before he can play hot corner in Chase Field. His fielding, while better than Tomas’ at third, is still nothing to write home about. Drury is on the 40-man roster, but I wouldn’t expect him to make the 25-man – not this season, anyway.
Jake Lamb, who is thus far a fan favorite, is another option at third. If Tomas is to fail at third (or fail in MLB altogether) then I would look for Lamb to continue where he left off after the 2014 season, as the Diamondbacks starting third baseman. However, in Lamb’s limited time (37 games) at third, he posted a very poor .230/.263/.373, which isn’t going to cut it at the big leave level – especially for a third baseman. However, there is hope for Lamb as his career Minor League offensive numbers are astonishing, at .340/.425/.560. Those numbers, of course, are not sustainable at the big league level, unless Lamb becomes the most prolific hitter of all time … If those abysmal MLB numbers continue, we’ll be forced to ask, “Is Jake Lamb a AAAA player?”
**Aaron Hill, Chris Owings, and Cliff Pennington are options at 3rd as well. I chose not to discuss them because as it currently stands, Hill is our starting 2B, Owings our starting SS, and Pennington our utility guy off the bench.**
Questions? Reach me on Twitter @dbackcjack or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org