VenomStrikes’ Diamondbacks Awards for the 2021 Season
By Jake Oliver
Who was Most Improved from the 2020 season on the 21’Dbacks?
In my opinion, there were two Diamondbacks’ players that really improved from 2020 to 2021. The first of those two is Carson Kelly. Carson struggled in 2020 with making contact, plate discipline, power, and not hitting ground balls. In fact, his ground ball percentage for 2020 was 40.9% of his batted balls. That’s entirely too high for a player whose attributes have not included “speed” since he was a child. At the end of 2021, his percentage for batted ground balls fell to 31.9%, the best in his career.
Since he was no longer hitting so many ground balls, naturally his batting average increased from .221 to .240. That’s a dramatic increase for a player that plays catcher normally. He became more patient at the plate too by increasing the on-base percentage from .264 to .343. That’s nearly a hundred points better! Secondly, he hit more balls to the gaps and in the air thanks to his swing change. He stopped killing worms and instead started to get more doubles and triples. His slugging percentage rose from .385 to .411 from 2020 to 2021. This meant his OPS rose from.649 to .754. That OPS of .754 is one of the best in the league for catchers.
His OPS+ was 73 in 2020 and 104 in 2021. 100 OPS+ is the league average, but most catchers only hit in the 70-80 range if that. The fact that Kelly hit above 100 is spectacular for a catcher. Due to these increases in his offense, his WAR rose from -0.3 to 2.2, one of the best on the team. All in all, this was a great breakout year for Kelly that could’ve been better had he not missed plenty of time due to a broken wrist/toe he suffered at separate times this year. I can’t wait for his next year.
Additionally, I wanted to raise awareness of Josh Rojas’ play this year as well. Josh struggled badly during the 2020 season. He was sent to the Alternate Site, aka Minors, after only 17 games due to just how bad he was playing. In his 17 games at the MLB level, he hit .180, .257, .437, 22 OPS+, and 2 RBIs. As such, coming into this season, it’s understandable as to why we didn’t expect the world from him. He made some swing and mentality changes and killed the ball during Spring Training. Upon the start of the season, he struggled greatly until he hit a lead-off home run against the Nationals in late April.
From that point on, it was like he was a completely different player. He consistently was in every lineup, usually at a different position than the night before, and always found some way to impact the game. He hit .264, .341, .411, .752, 103 OPS+, and had 32 doubles, 11 HRs, 44 RBIs, and 9 SB’s. He led the team in doubles, stolen bases, and walks.
Josh Rojas is set to break out even further next year with a stable off-season and a chance to play even more his hometown and favorite team.