With last offseason’s trade of Paul Goldschmidt paired with the midseason trade of Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks indicated they are a team looking to establish a new core of young talent. Even though they managed a respectable 85-77 record, Arizona finished second to the Dodgers in the NL West and four games short to the Brewers for the 2nd Wildcard. Arizona’s offense was more or less average, finishing 11th in runs (813), 14th in wOBA (.319), 16th in OBP (.323), and 16th in wRC+ (94). Power-wise they finished 22nd in home runs with 220. They were one of the more aggressive teams on the basepaths though as they finished 10th with 88 total stolen bases.
(Last Updated: 1/27/20)
- ADDITIONS: (C) Steven Vogt, (OF) Starling Marte, (OF) Kole Calhoun
- SUBTRACTIONS: Adam Jones (OF), Alex Avila (C), Wilmer Flores (2B), Jarrod Dyson (OF), Steven Souza (OF)
Carson Kelly (C | Batting 8th)
2019: 46 R, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB, .245/.348/.478 | C #17
2020 ADP: 287 (C #11)
Acquired last offseason by the Diamondbacks as part of the Goldschmidt deal, the former Cardinal top catching prospect produced a .339 wOBA and 108 wRC+ over 365 plate appearances. At a dreadfully thin position that’ll play. Kelly showed an excellent 13.2% BB rate (13.8% BB rate in Triple-A in 2018) to go along with a solid 21.6% K rate. His xwOBA of .332 and hard-hit rate of 40.2% were both above-average marks. With Alex Avila, a free agent and the only other catcher currently on the roster being Steven Vogt, the door is wide open for Kelly to assume near everyday catching duties for Arizona in 2020. The upside, however, will likely be muted so long as he continues to hit 8th in the order. Kelly looks to be a pretty decent bet in leagues that utilize OBP (.348 OBP in 2019) but the average will likely be underwhelming as he hit just .245 last year (.242 xBA) and just .269 in Triple-A in 2018. The power potential looks to be pretty modest as well, with last year’s 18 home runs and .232 ISO looking more like his ceiling considering his .126 ISO in Triple-A in 2018. Overall, the profile isn’t too terribly exciting, but considering the dearth of options at the position, there is enough here to support a top-10 option at catcher with room for more if we see some growth entering his second full year.
Kelly assumes regular catching duties and sticks giving owners who punted the catcher position near 450 plate appearances of a close to league average bat. Think of something like 100 R/RBI to go along with around 20 home runs and around a .250 average. Hitting himself out of the eighth spot in the order would, of course, give him a nice boost too.
His struggles last year against right-handers are a primary concern, hitting just .203 against them good for a .296 wOBA and 79 wRC+. The idea of a quasi-platoon, manifested itself onto the D-Backs roster in the form of Stephen Vogt. For his career, Vogt has managed a decent .326 wOBA and 107 wRC+ against RHP. Not great, but it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if we see Vogt siphon some ABs away from Kelly if the latter’s lack of production against RHP continues next season.
2020 Projection: 48 R, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 0 SB, .245/.340/.425
2020 ADP: N/A
As one of the most interesting catching prospects in baseball, the lefty-hitting Daulton Varsho spent all of last year in Double-A and had a terrific .301/.378/.520 slash line to go along with a .405 wOBA and 159 wRC+. He also stole 21 bases on 26 attempts and managed a superb 13.9% K rate. Considering he spent all of last year in Double-A, he may not be all that far off from making his debut. The offensive profile is a legitimately enticing one that is amplified even more once you consider the uninspiring quagmire that is the fantasy catcher landscape. The one thing that may hold him back is average arm strength and below-average receiving skills. So his future behind the plate is a bit uncertain. He does have the athleticism to play in the OF though if need be. For now, we can’t project him for a roster spot but Varsho could perhaps gain some steam with a strong showing in spring training so he’s certainly someone who is worth paying attention to. For more on Varsho be sure to check out Andy Patton’s article on him from earlier this year if you missed it.
Christian Walker (1B | Batting 4th/5th)
2019: 86 R, 29 HR, 73 RBI, 8 SB, .259/.348/.476 | 1B #14
2020 ADP: 234 (1B #21)
Prior to 2019 Christian Walker had shown excellent power at the Triple-A level with 32 home runs and a .288 ISO in 2017 and a .269 ISO in 2018. Last offseason the Diamondbacks moved Goldschmidt to the Cardinals opening up a potential spot for Walker. He didn’t disappoint either managing 29 home runs to go along with a .346 wOBA and 112 wRC+ in just over 600 plate appearances. While he’s unlikely to provide much help in batting average (his xBA and batting average were identical at .259 and he also posted a .312 BABIP) he did manage to hold a very nice 11.1% walk rate (13.9% BB rate in the 2nd half), so those in OBP leagues should take note. His K rate though was a little on the high side at 25.7% (league average was 21.7%). His batted-ball data was excellent including a 48.4% hard-hit rate (good for top 6% in MLB), .361 xwOBA (league average was .318), and a 13.1% barrel rate (good for top 10% in MLB). His average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (FB/LD) was also superlative at 95.2 mph good for 32nd (minimum 300 BBE). For reference, J.D. Martinez was 36th at 95.0 mph. Splits-wise he was nearly even earning a .347 wOBA vs. right-handers and .341 against lefties, although his K rate was a little higher against right-handers at 26.8% (23.0% vs. LHP).
There’s some risk in that he’s an older player (he’ll be 29 by opening day) lacking an extensive track record at the Major League level. But his performance in the minors and this past year speak to a quality middle of the order bat who should be a reasonable bet to approach 30 home runs with upside for more. As Alex Fast postulates here in his excellent article, Walker’s breakout may have been precipitated by a change in batting stance. So we have added reason to believe what we saw last year. Last year’s 20.1% HR/FB rate seems a little high on the surface but it’s supported by excellent batted-ball data. The biggest concern with Walker is an elevated K rate, which Steamer has at 26.6% next year, so you can’t entirely dismiss the possibility that he bottoms out and loses playing-time, though above-average plate discipline (11.1% BB% and 28.2% O-swing%) definitely bolsters the profile. Considering the cost isn’t too prohibitive with an ADP outside the top 200, Walker is a very intriguing CI who could provide an excellent ROI, should he double down on last year’s breakout.
Strengths: HR, RBI
Walker’s plus power could translate to 35 home runs and 180 R/RBI as the D-Backs’ full-time cleanup hitter. Although it’s difficult to project much wiggle room in the batting average past .255 or so. If the gains in walk rate last year stick he could also flirt with a .350 OBP, which would make him an even nicer asset in OBP leagues.
Steamer projects Walker’s K rate at 26.6% making him perhaps a bit susceptible entering his sophomore season. The Diamondbacks still have Jake Lamb who logged 24 games at first base last year and has hit righties well for his career to the tune of a .345 wOBA and 113 wRC+. Lamb could siphon off enough at-bats against right-handers to put a serious dent in Walker’s value should he struggle in year two.
2020 Projection: 75 R, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB, .250/.335/.480
Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B | Batting 3rd)
2019: 94 R, 35 HR, 118 RBI, 5 SB, .269/.320/.511 | 3B #9
2020 ADP: 121 (2B #14; 3B #16)
After signing a three-year deal worth 21 million with the D-Backs last offseason, Eduardo Escobar exploded in 2019 for a career-best 35 home runs and .242 ISO besting 2018’s marks of 23 and .218 respectively. Keep in mind the league average ISO jumped from .163 in 2018 to .183 in 2019. He also set career-highs in both Runs and RBI in 2019 while hitting in the middle of the D-Backs order.
Despite the power outburst, his xwOBA of .321 (2019 league average xwOBA was .318) was exactly identical to last year’s mark where he managed 23 home runs across 631 plate appearances with the Twins and D-Backs. Escobar upped his pull rate to 41.1% and fly-ball rate to 33.5% in 2019 compared to marks of 37.5% and 29.7% respectively in 2018 and not surprisingly we saw an increase in power. Though given the league-wide surge in power and last year’s mostly even batted ball data it would probably be a mistake to anticipate a repeat of 35 home runs. For the third year in a row, he managed to significantly overshoot his xBA of .250 hitting .269. Escobar also cut his K rate to a career-best 18.6% and ended up 6th in all of baseball with a whopping 118 RBI. Who saw that one coming? He’s an exceptionally aggressive hitter (40.8% O-swing last season) hence the OBP is a little underwhelming at just .311 for his career. We’ll most likely see some push back from the 35 home runs but the switch-hitting Escobar, who is entering his age 31 season, is a very solid MI/CI eligible bat that should produce around 170 combined R/RBI as he continues to be a staple in the middle of the Arizona lineup.
Strengths: PA/AB, RBI
At age 31 it’s hard to imagine Escobar topping what he did last year as it could very well end up being a career year. A best-case scenario for 2020 would be him reaching 30 home runs again with similar counting stats as last year along with a batting average approaching .270.
The pulled fly-ball approach could see his batting average bottom out to the .250 mark, while a less friendly HR/FB rate (last year’s 15.2% was a career-best) could cause his home run total to drop back down to the mid-20s. The profile here is fairly steady, though, so as long as you draft him with the expectation that somewhere between 25-28 home runs is a much more likely outcome than the 35 we saw this season than you most likely won’t be disappointed in Escobar.
2020 Projection: 80 R, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 3 SB, .265/.320/.465
Nick Ahmed (SS | Batting 7th)
2019: 79 R, 19 HR, 82 RBI, 8 SB, .254/.316/.437 | SS #23
2020 ADP: N/A
Nick Ahmed, who will be 30 by Opening Day 2020, tallied double-digit home runs for the first time in his career in 2018. And then he doubled down for a career-best 19 in 2019. Overall though, despite the career-best season there’s not a ton to get excited about here as he still managed just a .315 wOBA (.317 was league average) and a 92 wRC+. The batted-ball data is league average too as his 87.5 average EV and .318 xwOBA were both well, exactly league average. Even his career-best ISO of .183 last year was you guessed it, exactly league average. And his batting average of .254 was pretty close to the league average of .252. OK, I’ll stop you get the point. Given that he’ll likely continue hitting lower in the order there isn’t much upside here Ahmed is just a deep league MI option that has the added bonus of providing a handful of steals.
Weaknesses: BA, OBP, HR
There’s not much upside here with the Ahmed, he’s someone who is begrudgingly rostered in deep formats as an MI who should once again approach 20 home runs with about 140 R/RBI and about 7-8 steals.
His power reverts to pre-2018 levels in which case you’re left with a career .236 batting average and .289 OBP career hitter who fails to reach double-digit home runs. That’s not what you want and hopefully, something emerges on the waiver wire in your deep NL only league.
2020 Projection: 65 R, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 7 SB, .245/.305/.410
Jake Lamb (1B/3B)
2020 ADP: N/A
A grade 2 strain of his left quad in early April cost Jake Lamb a good portion of his 2019 season. The emergence of Walker at first base and the aforementioned injury limited him to just 229 plate appearances whereby he managed a pretty gruesome .297 wOBA and 80 wRC+. Despite the disastrous results which included a batting average below the Mendoza line, the batted-ball data for Lamb was respectable as he managed a 90.4 average EV to go along with an above-average xwOBA of .340 (league average was .318). He also held an excellent 14.2% BB rate (26.8% O-swing) while cutting down his K rate from 27.3% to 24.3%.
Lamb broke out in 2016 with 29 home runs and a .352 wOBA (.350 xwOBA) and 114 wRC+. He then followed that up with a near-identical .353 wOBA (.358 xwOBA) and 111 wRC+ to go along with 30 home runs in 2017. He also managed an excellent 13.7% BB rate and .357 OBP in 2017. So we know he certainly has ability it’s just that now his situation for playing time is murky after having two seasons derailed by injury (he also underwent shoulder surgery in 2018). Although the Diamondbacks opting to keep him when he is due $5 million this upcoming season would appear to be a vote of confidence. With Flores gone to free agency, Lamb’s role would look to be as the team’s 3rd basemen exclusively against right-handers. Which shifts Escobar to second base (he started 31 games there last year). He could also play some at first base, which would shift Walker to the bench on those days. As mentioned he’s shown plus ability but the part-time role certainly dings his counting stat upside limiting him to just a CI option in deep, daily OBP formats for now.
Lamb has also had some very pronounced splits hitting righties (1,776 PA) to the tune of a .345 wOBA and 110 wRC+ while against lefties (440 PA) he’s been dreadful with a horrid .264 wOBA and 55 wRC+. For now, think of him as a dollar store version of Joc Pederson with 1B/3B eligibility.
Strengths: OBP, HR
Weaknesses: PA/AB, R, RBI, BA, SB
Lamb returns to the form we saw back in 2017 and emerges as a nice CI option in daily OBP formats as a regular fixture in the lineup against RHP. But given that he’s lost the past two years to injury and the other options that have emerged on the team, it would appear to be a bit of a longshot at this point.
The part-time role leaves him as an unappealing option outside of deeper OBP formats.
Kevin Cron (1B)
2020 ADP: N/A
You might want to simply cross him off after slashing a pretty dreadful .211/.261/.510 to go along with a 35% K rate in 78 plate appearances last year but Kevin Cron is someone you should at the very least be aware of. He hit 38 home runs whilst slashing an outrageous .331/.449/.777 in Triple-A last year good for a .481 wOBA and 182 wRC+. He also had an extremely impressive 16.2% BB rate and 20.4% K rate. That walk rate is very interesting as it was a near double of 2018’s 8.2% (in Triple-A). Cron has always had power in spades posting an ISO over .200 in every stop of his minor league career and now entering his age 27 season with two full seasons of Triple-A under his belt we’re fast approaching now or never time with Cron so you’d have to figure the D-Backs would want to see what they have in him. Again Walker is the guy for now because of his strong 2019 but Cron could certainly fight his way into the mix here.
Seth Beer (1B)
2020 ADP: N/A
Part of the return for Zack Greinke, Seth Beer profiles as your prototypical bat first first basemen. He’s got exceptional raw power (60 Grade Raw Power via FanGraphs) but given that he started last year in A ball with the Astros and then struggled a bit in Double-A with the Diamondbacks following the trade (.291 wOBA and 83 wRC+) he seems to be a ways off. For now, he’s just a stash in dynasty formats.
David Peralta (OF | Batting 4th)
2019: 48 R, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 0 SB, .275/.343/.461 | OF #105
2020 ADP: 309 (OF #74)
Shoulder surgery ended David Peralta‘s 2019 campaign about a month prematurely. Before that, he managed a .338 wOBA and 107 wRC+ across 423 plate appearances. Peralta’s power output is likely capped by a ground-ball-heavy batted-ball profile (51.4% GB in 2019, league-average 45.4%), however, he has managed an excellent .290 batting average for his career (2662 PA) so he could certainly be a legitimate asset in that category assuming he gets a clean bill of health heading into 2020. He also holds a very respectable .346 career OBP. Peralta has been stellar against right-handers for his career totaling a .371 wOBA and 129 wRC+ against opposing righties. For reference, Joc Pederson has hit right-handers to the tune of a .364 wOBA and 131 wRC+ for his career (2,379 PA). He’ll likely cede some plate appearances against left-handers, however, as he’s only managed a .296 wOBA and 79 wRC+ against southpaws for his career.
Peralta doesn’t offer much in terms of speed having stolen just 12 bases across his past three seasons and the power is likely limited to around 20 or so (his 30 home run 2018 season seems like a true outlier given the 23.4% HR/FB rate), but he offers batting average upside and the potential for solid RBI totals as he’ll likely hit in the middle of the Diamondbacks order. In shallow leagues, he’s probably a guy to watch from the waiver wire, especially given that he’s coming off a shoulder injury that required surgery but in deeper leagues, he could absolutely provide some solid value as he should come at a very reasonable price on draft day.
Strengths: BA, OBP, RBI
Weaknesses: HR, SB
Peralta could provide some excellent batting average help in the later rounds to go along with modest power and the potential for 80+ RBI hitting in the middle of the Diamondbacks order. Overall, the upside is a bit limited but Peralta at his best is a very useful bat to have particularly so in deeper leagues.
He could also struggle coming back from a significant shoulder injury and given that he’s an older player (he’ll be 32 on opening day) and on an expiring contract on a Diamondbacks team that isn’t expected to be competitive he could find himself facing more sporadic playing time as they look to evaluate their younger players. Health is the biggest wild card with Peralta, assuming he recovers fully from surgery we know what to expect from him at this point think a Nick Markakis type hitter that will provide very solid depth in deeper leagues.
2020 Projection: 75 R, 19 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB, .282/.348/.470
Starling Marte (OF | Batting 1st)
2019: 97 R, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 25 SB, .295/.342/.503 | OF #7
2020 ADP: 29 (OF #10)
On the 27th of January, the Diamondbacks bolstered their lineup by acquiring Starling Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for RHP Brennan Malone, infielder Liover Peguero and international bonus pool money. Marte’s 2019 was excellent as he posted a career-best 23 home runs, .503 slugging, and .361 xwOBA. More importantly, he remained an excellent source of stolen bases as he was successful on 25 of 31 attempts (80.6%). The other key strength of Marte is a robust .287 career batting average. Last year’s batted ball profile showed an above-average ground ball rate of 52.2% (league-average was 45.4%) and a modest pull rate of 35.9% (league-average was 36.5%). That along with his exceptional speed and outstanding 16% K rate should continue to bolster his average. Marte was still an exceptionally aggressive hitter (36.4% O-swing, 53.3% swing rate) so keep that in mind if you’re in leagues that utilize OBP.
Strengths: BA, SB
Marte’s upside is, of course, tied to his speed. In which case, a return to 30+ stolen bases and an average flirting with .300 provides a possible ceiling scenario.
There’s usually at least minor trepidation in investing a premium pick on speed type players once they get past age 30 or so. Though Marte’s very strong 2019 should alleviate concerns heading into his age-31 season. Marte’s skillset looks very stable with something approaching 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and a .275 batting average being a very realistic floor barring injury.
2020 Projection: 86 R, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 26 SB, .285/.338/.465
Tim Locastro (OF)
2019: 38 R, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 17 SB, .250/.357/.340 | OF #118
2020 ADP: N/A
We’ll cut to the chase here. Tim Locastro, who will turn 28 next July, hasn’t shown any power, he did manage eight home runs in just 143 plate appearances in Triple-A last season but that seems like a small sample size blip when you consider he had just four home runs in 356 plate appearances in Triple-A in 2018, then as a member of the Oklahoma City Dodgers. In 250 plate appearances in the major leagues in 2019, the part-time outfielder had an average exit-velocity of 83.4 mph and an xwOBA of .301. Reaffirming there’s not much thump in this bat. He does, however, have one thing at and that’s speed of which he has in spades. Last year he stole 17 bases in his short stint in the bigs and was not caught once. We can’t project Locastro having much playing time, think of him as a kind of Travis Jankowski fourth/fifth outfielder type. For now, he’s just a name to be aware of for those in deep NL only leagues that are desperate for speed should an injury open up playing time in the outfield.
Josh Rojas (OF/2B | Batting 2nd)
2019: 17 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 4 SB, .217/.312/.312 | OF #190
2020 ADP: 305 (OF #70; 2B #27)
Traded to the Diamondbacks as part of the Zack Greinke deal, Josh Rojas showed some intriguing ability in 2018 with Double-A Corpus Christi where he swiped 26 bases across 106 games and an excellent 11.8% BB rate and 16.9% K rate. However, the power at the time was lagging behind as he managed just seven home runs and a .133 ISO across 451 plate appearances. Fast forward to 2019 and Rojas began to flash some notable opposite-field power managing 8 home runs in just 195 plate appearances, good for a .426 wOBA, 240 ISO and 169 wRC+. A promotion to Triple-A Round Rock saw the power surge stick as he managed 12 home runs across 244 plate appearances good for a .276 ISO. And he did this all with a minuscule K rate of 14.4% and an exceptional walk rate of 12.3%. If the apparent gains in power stick there’s some very intriguing ADP-crushing potential here. It remains to be seen, of course, how his skills will play in the major leagues but the poor early returns in his brief big-league stint (.279 wOBA, 68 wRC+ in 157 plate appearances last year with the Diamondbacks) should undoubtedly keep the asking price low. He’s a very intriguing player with upside to consider in the later rounds.
Initially, Rojas’ playing time was somewhat tentative. But now with the Diamondbacks choosing to non-tender Souza, the path is now abundantly clear. Rojas should be given every opportunity to prove himself a full-time starter next year. He’ll figure to get the bulk of his playing time in RF, but he could also get some time in at 2B considering he started 43 games there in the minors last season. I’d suspect his ADP to climb a little now that the playing time question appears to have dissipated.
Update: The recent signing of Calhoun certainly puts a damper on Rojas’ playing time next year. Though, that will likely be reflective in his ADP forthwith so if you’re a believer in his skills keep this in mind as a potential chance to buy low now that his role looks to be significantly less certain.
Update: The acquisition of Starling Marte really puts the squeeze on possible playing time for Rojas as it will shift to Ketel Marte to 2B primarily. Assuming Peralta is healthy, it’s difficult to project Rojas for much right now.
Strengths: AVG, OBP, SB
Weaknesses: HR, PA/AB
The gains we saw in power in the minors last year stick and Rojas approaches 20 home runs to go along with excellent plate skills and 25+ steals as a full-time player with multi-positional eligibility. Think of prime Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist type potential with a little more SB equity, in other words, a very useful player who has the potential to significantly outperform his ADP.
The power gains don’t stick, Rojas struggles and receives sporadic playing time. The range of outcomes here is admittedly wide because we don’t have a great sample on this version of Rojas. Still, the risk is greatly mitigated by a very cheap ADP.
2020 Projection: 27 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 8 SB, .270/.345/.435
Kole Calhoun (OF | Batting TBD)
2019: 92 R, 33 HR, 74 RBI, 4 SB, .232/.325/.467 | OF #54
2020 ADP: N/A
On Christmas Eve the Diamondbacks signed Kole Calhoun to a two year, $16 Million dollar deal. This is a nice under the radar signing for the Diamondbacks who, having also acquired Madison Bumgarner, look to find themselves at the very least in the mix for a wild card spot considering how they finished last year. The strong-armed Calhoun gives the Diamondbacks an upgrade defensively in RF. In addition, he’ll provide Arizona with another quality lefty hitter who has managed a respectable .327 wOBA and 108 wRC+ against RHP for his career (2558 PA).
Calhoun managed a career-best 33 home runs last year but that seems like an outlier. Last year’s .340 xwOBA, while very respectable relative to the league average of .318, was largely in line with what we’ve seen from him in recent seasons. While he did up his pull rate from 41.2% to 47.4%, its probably best to expect some pullback from last year’s 22.9% HR/FB rate (career 14.4% HR/FB rate). Calhoun should provide around 24+ home runs with roughly 150 combined R/RBI depending on where he slots in the lineup. For reference, he logged 100+ PA in several spots of the order for the Angels last year including leadoff, 4th, 5th, and 6th.
For his career, Calhoun has managed just a .237 career batting average against LHP to go along with a .312 wOBA and 98 wRC+, not hideous by any means but he’s someone whose best utilized in daily lineup formats.
Strengths: R, HR
A ceiling type season for Calhoun would see him approach 30 home runs across roughly 600 PA as a staple of the top part of the lineup. There isn’t league-winning upside here but at his best Calhoun is someone who can provide very useful depth in deeper formats.
Calhoun struggles and perhaps finds himself in a strict platoon or cedes playing time to the rookie Rojas in RF.
2020 Projection: 80 R, 25 HR, 72 RBI, 4 SB, .245/.335/.435
Ketel Marte (OF/2B | Batting 1st)
2019: 97 R, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 10 SB, .329/.389/.592 | OF #5
2020 ADP: 36 (OF #11; 2B #3)
I hope you’ll excuse me for saving the best for last. Ketel Marte has been a dark-horse breakout candidate for the past couple of years. On a personal note, he was my favorite breakout candidate for 2019. I speculated about his exciting potential ceiling here last December. He delivered finishing as the 5th ranked OF (ESPN Player Rater) and otherwise obliterated an ADP that was well outside the top 200. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the year that was for Marte. Among qualifiers, he was 7th in wOBA (.405), 3rd in average (.329), 12th in OBP (.389), 8th in wRC+ (150) and 6th in WAR (7.1). And he did this all while also having the 8th lowest K rate among qualifiers at 13.7%.
A closer look last offseason revealed some rather incredible pull-side power, particularly from the right side. In 2018 there was basically one thing holding Marte from busting out; tepid batted-ball data as a lefty hitter. In 2019 Marte responded by accumulating a .404 wOBA and 150 wRC+ against enemy right-handers. Good for a .333/.396/.577 slash line. Let’s contrast that with 2018 where he posted a .285 wOBA, 75 wRC+, and a .224 .300/.352 slash line against righties. That’s lovely. A closer look at his results against fastballs vs. right-handers reveals an average launch angle of 13 and xwOBA of .394. Contrast that to an average launch angle of just 4 degrees and an xwOBA of .333 in 2018 so Marte showed some incredible progress in attacking fastballs as a lefty batter. Adjusting his lefty swing was a point of emphasis for Marte and the coaching staff last year and the returns this past year were terrific.
He was also more aggressive this past year upping his swing rate to 47.6% (45.6% in 2018). Not surprisingly we saw a small dip in walk rate with the more aggressive approach down from 9.3% to 8.4%. His swinging-strike rate did also go up to 7.8% (6.4% in 2018), which may be a trade-off for more quality contact. Overall though, his K rate remained almost identical at 13.7% (13.6% in 2018), which is nice to see with the gains in power.
These are undoubtedly a reflection of Marte’s gains from the left side but overall, his batted-ball profile took a nice jump forward in 2019. His average launch angle improved from 5.7 to 11.5. His ground-ball rate dropped from 52% to 43.7% with a concomitant rise in both fly-ball and line-drive rates to 23.7% and 26.4% respectively. His xwOBA improved from .320 to .370 and his barrel rate jumped from 5% in 2018 to 9.3% this past year. For the fourth year in a row, he increased his average exit velocity this time from 88.5 to 89.8. And this past year we also saw a bump in pull rate from 36.3% to 40.2%.
A quick glance at his average exit velocity of 93.3 mph against fastballs as an RHB and contrasting that to his mark of 88.3 as an LHB confirm that he still has more power from that right side. His K rate from the right side was 12.6% as opposed to 14.1% from the left side another indicator that he’s a little stronger as an RHB. Keep in mind he was a natural right-handed hitter and started switch-hitting shortly before signing with the Mariners at age 16. So it’s not terribly surprising to see the results as a lefty lag behind a bit. This past year though indicates that he’s genuinely closing the gap which, of course, is great to see for his outlook.
Marte had a 19% HR/FB rate last year while his previous best was a 10.9% HR/FB rate in 2018. But considering how much his profile has changed this past season I don’t think you necessarily have to anticipate much regression on this front. Steamer has him pegged for 22 home runs next year. I’m more bullish on his power projection especially considering the tremendous gains he showed as an LHB so somewhere around 27 home runs is a fine middle ground of sorts between that and last year’s 32. There will likely be some detractors pointing to his personally unprecedented power output as a potential outlier. But keep in mind this pull side power was evident in 2018 the reason it went largely unnoticed was because of poor splits as a lefty hitter to go along with an underwhelming career slash line. Marte has always had remarkable bat-to-ball skills and now that he’s established the ability to drive the ball with authority from the left side of the plate he’s unlocked an impressive ceiling. This is just for fun, but Marte’s 2019 average home run distance of 407 feet has him tied with Christian Yelich and Gio Urshela while just ahead of Nolan Arenado at 406 feet (300 Min BBE). His longest Home Run of 482 feet, which came at the expense of Steven Matz, was tied for fourth-best last year.
While you can’t outright dismiss the potential for 20 steals at this point the smart bet is to anticipate somewhere around 8-12. The one area where I’d expect the most push back would be last year’s .329 batting average. A .299 xBA and .342 BABIP suggests there may have been some positive variance involved especially when you consider the large drop in GB% and increase in pull rate this past season. Steamer has him projected for a .296 batting average. That’s rarefied air as a top 10 mark tied with the likes of Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Nolan Arenado while just ahead of Jose Altuve at .295. He’s not going to hit .329 next year but a mark around .290 looks like a fine median expectation with the mid .270s being a potential floor scenario. Sitting atop the Diamondbacks order we should see him at around 180 R/RBI.
Strengths: BA, OBP, R, RBI
Weaknesses: He’s #GoodatBaseball.
We get a repeat of last year and the gains with his left-handed swing hold steady. A ceiling type projection would see him top 30 Home runs while flirting with a .300 average to go along with 190 R/RBI and 10+ steals.
The area where I suspect Marte to cede the most ground is batting average. But even still a worst-case scenario would have him hit around .275 to go along with 24 HR and still very good counting stats. Marte has made the transition from the definition of fringe to a legitimate asset as he brings a very solid floor across all standard categories.
2020 Projection: 92 R, 27 HR, 88 RBI, 9 SB, .290/.360/.540
Playing Time Battles
Catcher: The newly acquired Steven Vogt is the only other catcher on the roster (Caleb Joseph was non-tendered). Point being it’s Carson Kelly‘s job. Though given his struggles against right-handers this past season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see some sort of platoon situation emerge here with Vogt. The veteran LHB was coming off of shoulder surgery in 2018 but he was surprisingly decent last year managing a .331 wOBA and 107 wRC+. We have to go back a bit but we’ve seen Vogt produce as an above-average hitting backstop before back in 2015 where he managed a .335 wOBA and 114 wRC+ then with the A’s. Keep an eye on Daulton Varsho. The sweet-swinging lefty had a great full year in Double-A. A strong Spring Training could potentially thrust him into the mix.
First Base: Let’s start off by saying that the de-facto first baseman is Christian Walker. But there are a couple of scenarios that could happen should Walker struggle. Keep in mind Jake Lamb did play 24 games at 1B last year and he has always hit right-handers well so he could potentially siphon off at-bats from Walker against righties. Think of a similar situation to what we saw last year with Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames in Milwaukee. The Righty hitting Kevin Cron had a pretty abysmal albeit brief 78-plate appearance stint last year but he had a phenomenal season in Triple-A last year accruing a lusty .481 wOBA and 182 wRC+ to go along with a career-best 16.2% BB rate. The D-Backs might be interested in giving the soon-to-be 27-year old another chance to prove himself. The point here is to say that the Diamondbacks do have other options that they may be inclined to try should Walker fall into a prolonged slump.
Second Base: As of now the default lineup against RHP should feature Escobar at 2B and Lamb at 3B. Though, if Lamb struggles Escobar could easily slide over to 3B leaving an opening at the keystone. Rojas made all of his MLB starts in the outfield last year and with Souza gone that seems like his primary spot, though he could play some at 2B. Marte also logged 45 starts at 2B last season though he should stick mostly to CF next year with the departure of Jarrod Dyson. Domingo Leyba is another name that could factor in at 2B. He has exceptional bat-to-ball skills but hasn’t shown really any power for his whole career (55 Hit Tool; 30 Game Power via Fan Graphs). However, the switch-hitting Leyba did post 19 home runs in AAA last year seemingly out of nowhere seeing as his previous high was a comparatively scant six in A ball back in 2016. The .219 ISO was also by far a career-high. Perhaps that’s a sign of something or just a blip, either way, he could be someone to keep an eye on in very deep N.L. only leagues. This is a spot to keep an eye on as we move along the offseason.
It may not be the most electric lineup, but there are more than a few options to keep an eye on in Arizona. There’s the emerging supernova in Marte along with reliable veterans Escobar and Peralta. Carson Kelly could continue to emerge as a solid option at the barren catcher position. Does Christian Walker follow up last year’s breakout with another strong season? Lamb could potentially carve out enough playing time to be a play in deeper, daily formats. The fact that the Diamondbacks opted to keep him after basically two lost seasons would appear to be a vote of confidence. Josh Rojas is a rookie with a very intriguing skill set who could emerge next year with the added potential bonus of 2B/OF eligibility. His playing time looks to have been solidified now with the Diamondbacks opting to non-tender Souza.
With the offseason still in its nascency, there is plenty of time for the Diamondbacks to bolster their lineup. They have a clear weakness at shortstop with the offensively average Ahmed. There also looks to be some playing time available at 2B so the Diamondbacks could look to make a move there too.
*Note ADPs were pulled from a series of six PL Staff and Expert Mock Drafts conducted in Oct/Nov. The format was 12 teams, 23 rounds 3 OF, 2 UTIL, 9 P. Courtesy to smada plays fantasy for tabulating the full ADP which can be found here.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)