logo

Wrapping up our offseason recap of the Arizona Diamondbacks, let's take a look at the corner infield positions. While the middle infield seems set with Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson, there are several candidates battling for the corner spots, including Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum, Tony Abreu, Juan Miranda, Brandon Allen, and Xavier Nady. The Diamondbacks need to replace the 60HRs and 200 RBI from last year's duo of Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche. At this point, Melvin Mora seems to be the frontrunner at 3B, but the 1B job is still wide open. 


3B Melvin Mora (39) - RHB

Year AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
2007 467 67 128 14 58 .274 .341 .418 47 83
2008 513 77 146 23 104 .285 .342 .483 37 70
2009 450 44 117 8 48 .260 .321 .358 34 60
2010 316 39 90 7 45 .285 .358 .421 31 53

Mora is expected to be the starting 3B for the Diamondbacks in 2011. He no longer is a power hitter, but he still can put up an above-average OBP. Except for a poor 2009, he has been a decent offensive player, and last year's wOBA of .344 was actually better than Reynolds's .328. Mora did finish strongly offensively in 2011, posting a .307/.374/.472 for the second half of the season. Still, Reynolds has much more upside offensively than Mora, and the best case for 2011 is that Mora is probably that he is league-average offensively. On defense, Mora had a poor season in 2010. Using the stats at FanGraphs or Baseball Reference, however, Mora has been alternating good and bad years defensively, so maybe he will bounce back in 2011. Signed to a 1 year, $2M contract, Mora is at least much cheaper than Reynolds, who will make $5M this year and $7.5M in 2012.

3B Geoff Blum (38) - SWITCH

Year AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
2007 330 34 83 5 33 .252 .319 .367 32 52
2008 325 36 78 14 53 .240 .287 .418 21 54
2009 381 34 94 10 49 .247 .314 .367 33 61
2010 202 22 54 2 22 .267 .321 .356 15 33

Blum was signed for one reason - to help the team's bench. Arizona's subs hit a poor .218/.282/.279 in 2010, with 104 strikeouts and only 27 walks. Meanwhile, Blum hit .314 coming off the bench in 2010, and over his career has posted his best numbers in pressure situations.  Here are his career numbers in high, medium, and low leverage situations:

Split PA AVG OBP SLG
High Lev 837 .287 .345 .429
Medium Lev 1468 .223 .287 .348
Low Lev 1996 .256 .314 .396

Defensively, Blum can play all four infield positions in a pinch, and is average defensively. He probably will become the team's primary pinch-hitting specialist, and will get spot starts around the infield.

Tony Abreu, 2B/SS/3B (26) - SWITCH

Year AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
2007 166 19 45 2 17 .271 .309 .404 7 21
2008-INJ
2009-AAA 307 47 103 11 53 .336 .361 .541 13 49
2010 193 16 45 1 13 .233 .244 .316 4 47

2010 was a very disappointing offensive season for Abreu.  Before last season, Abreu had a reputation as a line-drive, high batting average hitter who did not draw a lot of walks. But in 2010, the batting average disappeared, and the plate discipline became horribly bad.  The .233 batting average may have been some bad luck, as his 20.9% line drive rate was actually the highest on the team. But the big problem was the 47/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Abreu has never walked much, but he also never struck out at such a high rate. Abreu will never hit many home runs, so he needs to maintain a high batting average to be useful.

Defensively, Abreu played much more SS than he had before. The various metrics, as well as the fans, all rated him below average defensively. Part of that may be due to his new position, as he had played well defensively in previous years, and had a good reputation as a second baseman. 

2011 will be a key season for Abreu. He should be the primary backup SS, but probably will not get much playing time in the middle infield unless injuries strike Johnson or Drew. If his bat comes back, he could be in the mix for more time at 3B, battling with Melvin Mora and Geoff Blum

1B Juan Miranda (28) - LHB

Year AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
2008-AAA 356 40 102 12 52 .287 .384 .449 55 79
2009-AAA 438 74 127 19 82 .290 .369 .498 55 101
2010-AAA 295 52 84 15 43 .285 .371 .495 33 71
Majors-Career 292 39 74 14 49 .253 .330 .458 32 70

Miranda was obtained from the New York Yankees in November in exchange for minor league pitcher Scott Allen. Miranda has spent the last three seasons at AAA Scranton in the Yankees system, but there was no place for him to play in New York with Mark Teixeira at 1B. Miranda, who defected from Cuba in 2004 and signed with the Yankees in 2006, is known for his tremendous power, but also has decent plate discipline. He is out of options, so he will almost certainly make the Diamondbacks roster out of spring training, and should be the starting 1B if he has a decent spring.

There are many differing opinions on Miranda's potential. Many felt that he was just a AAAA player who couldn't hit lefties and can't play defense. Others felt that he could he could be an average major league 1B if given a chance. GM Kevin Towers saw Miranda play quite a bit while working for the Yankees last year, and apparently thinks he's got some major league ability.  Many of the early projection systems out have Miranda posting stats like .260/.320/.430, which would be decent production for the major league minimum salary.

Xavier Nady, LF/1B (32) - RHB

Year AB R H HR RBI SB CS AVG OBP SLG BB K
2005 326 40 85 13 43 2 1 .261 .321 .439 22 67
2006 468 57 131 17 63 3 3 .280 .337 .453 30 85
2007 431 55 120 20 72 3 1 .278 .330 .476 23 101
2008 555 76 169 25 97 2 1 .305 .357 .510 39 103
2009 28 4 8 0 2 0 0 .286 .310 .429 1 6
2010 317 33 81 6 33 0 0 .256 .306 .353 17 85

The key question with Xavier Nady is whether he has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2009. From 2005 through 2008, Nady had shown steady improvement, culminating with his 25 HR, .867 OPS in 2008. But Nady was injured early in 2009, and then did not hit particularly well in 2010. Pre-injury, Nady had always hit the ball hard, with a career line drive rate around 22%, that had reached as high as 24.6% in 2008. But in 2010, his LD% slipped down to 19.9%. Nady's K/BB rate has always been a problem, as he has never drawn 40 walks in a season, while striking out close to 100 times. So Nady must have a high batting average with good power to be valuable. He managed that in 2007 and 2008, and the Diamondbacks need him to get back there in 2011.

GM Kevin Towers knows Nady well from their days in San Diego, and feels that "his bat plays [well] in this park".  Towers and Nady both felt that his poor season in 2010 was related to his elbow injury, and that he should be fine for 2011. He is expected to start against all LHP in 2011, either at LF or 1B, and will probably get ABs against RHP if he hits well. For his career, Nady has an .818 OPS against LHP, and is at .759 vs RHP.

Brandon Allen, LF/1B (25) - LHB
Allen had a productive year in AAA in 2010, and showed enough promise as a left fielder with the major league club that he is a contender for the starting job in 2011.

Year AB R H HR RBI SB CS AVG OBP SLG BB K
09-AAA 447 78 133 20 75 7 2 .298 .373 .503 50 85
2009 104 13 21 4 14 0 0 .202 .284 .385 12 40
10-AAA 371 72 97 25 86 14 4 .261 .405 .528 83 95
2010 45 5 12 1 6 0 0 .267 .393 .400 10 20

The most impressive part of Allen's 2010 AAA season was the walks, collecting 83 in just 469 plate appearances, good for 3rd highest in the PCL. Allen also finished 8th in HR and 10th in OBP. At the major league level, Allen only had 45 AB for Arizona, but held his own. He again showed the ability to draw walks, and looked ready against RHP. It's obviously been a very small sample in the Majors for Allen so far, but he has a .781 OPS vs RHP (136 PA) and only a .416 OPS against LHP in a grand total of 36 PA. The biggest concern offensively for Allen is strikeouts - he struck out in 20% of his at bats in AAA, and 40% at the Majors so far. Allen will be a high strikeout player, but probably not nearly at the rate he has shown in Arizona so far.  

Defensively, Allen is still learning to play LF, but was respectable in his September call-up. He was not charged with any errors, at least, and made a couple of highlight plays for Arizona. He will probably never be a great defensive outfielder, but should be good enough to keep his bat in the lineup.

Conclusions
The starting lineup depends a lot on how players perform in spring training, but I think this would the best lineup for the Diamondbacks in 2011:

Against RHP:
SS Stephen Drew
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
C Miguel Montero
1B Juan Miranda
CF Chris Young
LF Brandon Allen
3B Melvin Mora

Against LHP:
SS Stephen Drew
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
CF Chris Young
LF Xavier Nady
3B Melvin Mora
C Miguel Montero
1B Juan Miranda/Brandon Allen