Torey Lovullo, the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said many options are being considered, but communication with players is key.
Torey Lovullo filled out his first lineup card as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, but his lineup for Opening Day, April 2 against the San Francisco Giants, is far from set.
When the Diamondbacks bat in the bottom of the first, the first five hitters on Lovullo’s card: A.J. Pollock, Brandon Drury, Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and Yasmany Tomas, could logically bat in the same order.
Before Wednesday’s game against Grand Canyon University at Salt River Fields, a 9-1 victory for Arizona, Lovullo told MLB.com it is too early to make decisions about lineup construction.
"The lineup is not any indication of what’s going to be happening on April 2,” Lovullo said speaking to the media. “I want to do what’s best for every player that’s going to put them in the right position. That means us having conversations with these guys individually to find out what they like and what they don’t like. I’ve said from the very beginning, communication helps us understand these guys."
Lovullo indicated that he will play around with a bunch of lineups this spring to see what works best against right-handers and left-handers.
On Saturday, before the Diamondbacks’ Cactus League opener against the Colorado Rockies, Lovullo announced his lineup, that will face LHP Tyler Anderson:
Lovullo will not have the luxury of using the DH for the majority of the regular season, but this lineup, for the most part, could resemble the plan of attack against lefties.
Many fans and followers of the Diamondbacks criticized former manager Chip Hale‘s lineups because core run producers were often placed in a different spot from game to game.
Lovullo is all for flexible players that can move around to different positions, and Arizona has plenty of those in camp, but the former Boston Red Sox’ bench coach and major-league infielder indicated a desire to keep players like Goldschmidt and Pollock in the same spot. He also shared some of those thoughts with MLB.com.
"There is going to be a core group of guys, that I want them to know that they’re going to be coming to play every single day,” Lovullo said. “There’s going to be a creative balance."
It’s no secret that David Peralta has struggled against lefties throughout his career.
In the last three seasons, Peralta had a total of 194 at-bats against same-handed pitchers, with a slash line of .222/.284/.340 and a .624 OPS.
Of course, it’s hard to count last season as part of his development because he battled injuries and played in just 48 games. He faced lefties 38 times and hit .211. Peralta’s career .873 OPS against right-handers is more than 200 points higher compared to lefties.
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Peralta should have a chance to work on his approach against lefties this spring, but Chris Owings could see time in right field as a platoon partner with Peralta. Owings hit .306 in 108 at-bats against southpaws, and his athleticism allowed him to play an effective center field.
Jake Lamb broke out in 2016, with 29 home runs, 91 RBIs, and a .332 on-base percentage. He hit .164 in 74 games against southpaws in 2016.
Lovullo said Lamb would be the primary third baseman. Against left-handed starters, Lamb hit .284, but he struggled against lefty relievers, which tainted his overall average.
Possible lineup against lefties:
- Pollock – CF
- Goldschmidt – 1B
- Brandon Drury – 2B
- Tomas – LF
- Owings/Gregor Blanco – RF
- Chris Ianetta/Jeff Mathis/Chris Herrmann – C
- Jake Lamb – 3B
- Nick Ahmed – SS
As a team, the Diamondbacks did not hit righties as well compared to lefties. To help balance the lineup, general manager Mike Hazen made it a priority to acquire left-handed hitters.
The lineup from top to bottom, if everything goes to plan, should be dynamic. Switch-hitter Ketel Marte hit .279 against right-handers in 2016, and he should see plenty of times at shortstop.
If A.J. Pollock and David Peralta stay healthy, they should bat 1-2 in the order, followed by Goldschmidt, Lamb, Tomas and Drury.
Finding a catcher that can hit righties will be a challenge, but the Diamondbacks won’t need a lot of offensive production from Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta because they will handle the pitching staff and frame pitches. If Chris Herrmann starts, it could be behind the plate against righties, but the catching position is up in the air. Oscar Herandez will also compete for a spot.
Possible lineup against righties:
- Pollock – CF
- Peralta – RF
- Goldschmidt – 1B
- Lamb – 3B
- Tomas – LF
- Drury – 2B
- Marte – SS
Regardless of how Lovullo constructs his lineups, scoring runs should not be a problem for the Diamondbacks in 2017.