Brandon Drury will likely start the season at second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For all of the maladies which hit the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, there does not appear to be any great surge to improve. At least, that appears the intention on paper.
One notable change will fill the gap at second base. After Jean Segura turned in a career year and led the National League in hits (203), he was dealt to Seattle along with his $6.2 million contract.
With spring training about to commence, the Diamondbacks have penciled in Brandon Drury as the 2017 second baseman. Because Drury is a third baseman by trade, that may be a rather significant move. Last season, Drury clearly proved his versatility by playing a myriad of positions.
After A. J. Pollock went down with a fractured right elbow just before the season began, then-manager Chip Hale tried a number of experiments to fill the gap. One was placing infielder Chris Owings in centerfield, and after left fielder David Peralta landed on the DL for most of the season, Drury discovered playing time in the gardens.
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Last season, Drury appeared in 62 games in left field, 29 at third base, 16 at second base and one contest at first base. In games between May 5 and Sept. 11, he committed no errors in the field.
Now with a healthy Pollock and Peralta expected to return to full-time, outfield duty, but the second base job now vacant, Drury will have the first crack at this vital middle infield position.
While Drury’s glove is not in question, he complemented the leather with a hot bat. For the 2016 season, the 24-year-old native of Grants Pass, Ore. hit .282 with 31 doubles, 16 homers and 53 RBIs in 134 games. Among National League rookies, Drury ranked second in doubles, hits and total bases, fourth in extra-base hits, fifth in average and sixth in home runs.
In Chase Field, Drury hit .322, and that was the fifth-best home average in the National League.
When Drury was acquired from Atlanta on Jan. 24, 2013 as part of the Justin Upton deal, the Diamondbacks realized the potential of his stick. Given the numbers put up last season, and combined with a steady and reliable glove, the Diamondbacks hope Drury’s permanent adjustment to second is seamless.
Should Drury settle in as the everyday second baseman, he will certainly gain a rapport with Nick Ahmed, the club’s reigning shortstop. Given a .218 average from last season, Ahmed spent the last seven weeks on DL with surgery to repair a right hip impingement. That limited Ahmed to 90 games and for insurance, the Diamondbacks acquired Ketel Marte (.259 in 119 games last season with Seattle) from the Mariners in the Segura trade.
While the Diamondbacks like Marte’s bat, Ahmed has proven to be one of the best fielding shortstops in the game. Now, it appears a battle for the shortstop slot in spring training looms.
For now, Drury continues to conduct his off-season workouts as the Arizona second baseman of the future. The competition for his middle-infield partner begins on Feb. 16. That’s the day position players report to Salt River, the Diamondbacks’ spring training home.
A decision reached
On Friday, Arizona right-hander Shelby Miller lost his arbitration case.
Miller asked for $5.1 million and was awarded $4.7 million. He earned $4.35 last season. For 2016, Miller, at 26-years-old, went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA in 20 starts. Because of struggles, Miller was demoted to Triple-A Reno from July 14 to August 31.
The result of Miller’s arbitration hearing was first reported by MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman.