Arizona Diamondbacks – the 2016 version of Mount Rushmore

Brandon Drury (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Brandon Drury (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

For various levels of production, a few unfamiliar names were etched on the 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks Mount Rushmore

While decision-makers of the Arizona Diamondbacks grapple with hiring a new general manager and field manager, there were a few etchings to place on the team’s 2016 Mount Rushmore.

From franchise history, the names of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez, and Matt Williams seem as permanent sculptures. While the carvings took Gutzon Borglum and his son 14 years to complete on the original project, the 2016 version was completed through six months of the baseball season.

Because the Diamondbacks traversed through a difficult, challenging and unsuccessful season, there are not many who immediately jump into the carvings. From a traditional vantage, the image of Paul Goldschmidt would appear likely. Despite a slow start, Goldschmidt rebounded, hit .297 and drove in a team-high 95 runs.

Yet, this version is based not only what was accomplished but the future ahead.

Jean Segura

The temptation is to immediate anoint Segura as a force for the future. To others, his career season in 2016 brought the 26-year-old value and possible trade material.

Signed through the 2016 season, Segura enjoyed a banner year. That was on the field and at the bank.

In 2015, his final season with the Brewers, Segura earned $534,00. After the trade to Arizona, he negotiated a one-year deal worth $2.6 million. After leading the National League in hits (203) and third overall in the majors behind (Jose Altuve, Houston, 216 hits) and Mookie Betts of Boston (214), Segura had his best offensive season.

Finishing fifth in the National League in batting average, Segura hit career highs in doubles, home runs, RBIs and runs scored. His eight, lead-off homers is second best in franchise history, and that’s behind Chris Young, who hit nine in 2009.

Segura was the first player in franchise history to reach 30 or more hits in six different months of the season, and the first National League player in 10 years with that accomplishment. In 2007, Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins each reached that level.

With six infielders competing for three positions at second, short and third, Segura’s value now could not be higher. If the new manager wants to keep Segura at second, the Diamondbacks’ payroll will likely rise significantly. If Segura is moved, that could open second base for perhaps Brandon Drury or another candidate.

Almost forgotten, Segura moved seemingly from his natural position at shortstop to second base. That made room for Nick Ahmed at short, but Segura’s future in Sedona Red may not be that secure.

Welington Castillo

During spring training, pitcher Zack Greinke told reporters he already felt comfortable with Castillo behind the plate.

With improved pitch calling, a good rapport with the staff and coming off a 17-home run season in 80 games with Arizona (after a trade from Seattle), in 2015, Castillo settled comfortably behind the plate.

Working with the coaching staff in the last-season, Castillo perfected “framing skills,” and began to master the art of pulling a close pitch back over the plate.

All the while, he began to produce strong offensive numbers.  So consistent was his hitting that then-manager Chip Hale did not hesitate to place Castillo in the clean-up hole.

For his effort, the native of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic finished with a .264 batting average, 24 doubles, 14 homers and 68 RBIs. Castillo reached career highs in doubles and RBIs.

Brandon Drury

Starting the season as a part-time player, Drury was immediately trust into action.

There were two reasons for his ascendency.

First, then-manager Chip Hale developed a penchant of spreading at-bats throughout the line-up. Not settling on specific positions or specific roles for players, Hale, somehow, felt a benevolent duty to be fair to all players. For that reason, Drury, and because of the early season injury to A. J. Pollock, was placed in both corner outfield positions as well as second and third. While third base is his natural position, Drury responded with a solid rookie season that could portend success in the future.

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In the current off-season, and should the Diamondbacks decided Drury’s worth is considerable, team officials could move Jake Lamb and place Drury at third, his natural position.

For the season, Drury finished with a .282 batting average and contributed with 31 doubles, 16 home runs and knocked in 53 runs in 134 games. Coming into the final game of the season, Drury hit .350 for the previous 34 games, and named the National League co-player for the week ending Sept. 18. In the season finale, he went 3-for4, including a game-tying homer with two-outs in the eighth.

Robbie Ray

Many believe an 8-15 record is far from worthy of placement on the 2016 Mount Rushmore. That was the season result of left-hander Robbie Ray, and his image is on Mount Rushmore not because of what he did but because of he is likely to do.

In 2016, Ray emerged as one of the top strike-out pitchers in the game, and finished with 218 strikeouts. That tied with the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard for fourth. Ray’s total was behind league leader Max Scherzer of Washington (284), Jose Fernandez of the Marlins (253), and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants (251).

When asked after the season which pitcher has the most potential to succeed, Zack Greinke, without hesitation, identified Ray as that pitcher.

For Ray to reach the next level, two things have to the happen. He needs to find a better command of the strike zone. That, in turn, should address the second issue. That is a high pitch count. With Hale’s penchant for pulling pitchers earlier than most managers, that issue did not help Ray’s confidence.

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The new manager should recognize Ray’s rising stature among National League pitchers, and not give the lefty a short leash.