Lineup construction is always a hot topic of discussion, and the argument can be made that Chip Hale has it backwards based on early season production.
Socrates Brito earned a spot on the Diamondbacks out of spring training and for good reason– even if A.J. Pollock was healthy. In fact, a good argument can be made that Brito’s spring performance left the Diamondbacks no other choice but to start Brito.
In 23 games this March, Brito destroyed Cactus League pitching with a triple slash line of .306/.342/.403 with a .745 OPS and seven RBI. After his great stint with the Diamondbacks as a September call-up in 2015, the national media started to take notice.
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Buster Onley of ESPN named Brito as one of his under-the-radar breakthrough players for 2016. Aaron Boone said the 23-year-old has all the makings of a “really good player,” putting his name into the conversation as an NL Rookie of the Year candidate.
Despite not starting on Opening Day, fans were eager to see what he could do when the games actually counted. Through eight games, the results have been underwhelming. Brito is hitting .263 with a homer and two RBI.
When Brito starts, he has batted second. And simply put he will have to improve his production to hit this high in the lineup.
The role and importance of the two-hole has evolved in recent years thanks in large part to sabermetrics, but most agree that hitting in this spot requires getting on-base at a high rate to set up the run producers, and the ability to put the ball in play with few strikeouts.
No. 2 hitters also come up to bat with runners in scoring position more than most would think, so that spot has to be occupied by one of the team’s best hitters. In addition, a patient approach, a high pitches-per-plate-appearance rate, and an ability to work walks are all preferable.
Brito is not getting on base much at all with a .263 percentage; he is seeing just 3.37 pitches for plate appearance. This suggests he has been aggressive at the plate. Brito must learn to draw walks– something he has yet to do.
Some will argue that seeing more pitches increases strikeout rates, and while that is true, batters at the top of the lineup need to see the full arsenal of the pitcher especially early in the game so the middle of the order knows what they can hit. Working counts can wear out a pitcher as well.
Brito doesn’t swing and miss that often, against fastballs he has a steady approach at the plate, and his O-Swing% is below league average suggesting he has good plate discipline but when he does hit the ball he isn’t getting on base nearly as much as the D-backs would like.