Arizona Diamondbacks – Hazelbaker claimed from Cardinals
By Joseph Jacquez
General Manager Mike Hazen of the Arizona Diamondabcks made his first personnel moves of the off-season
On the day when Torey Lovullo was named manager, general manager Mike Hazen started the wheels.
First, the club claimed left-handed hitting outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. Earlier that day, the Los Angeles Angels announced they claimed Arizona right-hander Vicente Campos. The 40-man roster remains at 40.
After spending his first eight professional seasons in the minor-leagues, the 29-year-old Hazelbaker debuted last season, on April 3, for the Cardinals.
Upon his arrival, Hazelbaker’s bat made an immediate impact.
In his first 23 plate appearances, he batted .526 (10-for-19) with two homers and two walks. His speed also came into play, recording two stolen bases in two attempts. In 63 April at-bats, the Ball State alum slashed .317/.357/.683 with an 1.040 OPS. The native of Muncie, Illinois collected 20 hits, with 4 doubles, two triples, five home-runs, and 13 runs batted in.
Then, major-league pitchers quickly figured out the holes in his swing.
For the remainder of his rookie season, Hazelbaker recorded no more than nine hits in a month, and with the Cardinals battling for a playoff spot, he received only one at-bat in October.
Next: Torey Lovullo named new Arizona Diamondbacks field manager
The Diamondbacks acquired Campos from the Yankees in the Tyler Clippard trade. He made his major-league debut last season, and tossed 5.2 innings of relief. He allowed three runs on four hits with a 4/2 K/BB ratio. In 149.2 minor-league innings, the 24-year-old complied a 3.22 ERA.
In September, Campos needed surgery for a fractured ulnar, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
Regarding the 40-man roster, Hazen factored Campos’s injury into his decision making process, and said, “you have tough decisions to make this time of year with regard to who is on your roster.”
Filling a Need
Hitting from the left side, Hazelbaker could fill an need.
Against right-handers last season, Diamondbacks hitters batted .256, 15th in baseball, with a .730 OPS, compared with a major-league leading .820 OPS against southpaws. Besides Hazelbaker, David Peralta is the only left-handed corner-outfielder, and he missed most of last season with a wrist injury.
“(Hazelbaker) represents something we don’t have in abundance and that’s left-handed hitting,” Hazen told to the Arizona Republic.
Last season against righties, in 159 at-bats, Hazelbaker complied a .821 OPS against, and 10 of his 12 home runs came against right-handers.
Hazelbaker’s speed could have an impact on a team that led the majors with a 81.5 stolen base percentage (168 attempts) and finished third with 137 steals, a franchise record.
Metrics weren’t impressed with Hazelbaker’s defense. Despite his solid range, he made four errors in 402.1 innings (.952 fielding percentage). His -3 DRS (defensive runs saved) impacted his overall value (0.1 WAR).
Hazelbaker played games at all three outfield positions (19 in left, 1 5 in center, and four in right).
At this point, it’s unclear how recently named field-manager Torey Lovullo will utilize Hazelbaker. He could compete this spring for the fourth outfield spot, possibly with Mitch Haniger, Socrates Brito, and Brandon Drury. A better bet is that Hazelbaker was picked up for depth in the Triple-A Reno outfield.
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