12 May 2011
Coming out of Spring Training, the Diamondbacks thought they had three decent options at first base, Russell Branyan, Xavier Nady, and Juan Miranda. During the spring, both Branyan (.429/.492/.768) and Miranda (.267/.397/.517) hit well, and the question was how both players would get enough at bats. But after 36 games, the Diamondbacks have received very little production from the First Base position, and all three players are struggling with their limited playing time.
Looking just at the production of these players while they were playing first base, the group has hit .240 with only 2 HR and 10 RBI in 36 games. This puts the Diamondbacks last in the National League in production - the average team is getting 5 HR and 19 RBI from that spot. The Diamondbacks' group has been particularly bad at driving in runners, with Russell Branyan the biggest culprit. Branyan has come to bat with 44 runners on base this year, and has driven in only 1 of them all year.
|Runners on Base||Others Batted In||OBI%|
Branyan has also gone 4 for his last 36, and has gone 0 for 12 as a pinch hitter. His numbers as a starter have been better (.279/.354/.465), but most of that production came in the season's first two weeks.
What are the team's options moving forward? Manager Kirk Gibson wanted Juan Miranda to be the regular first basemen, but he has not been able to lock down the starting job. Nady has hit for a decent average, but hasn't shown the power needed from the position. Branyan was the best hitter of the group in Spring Training, but his performance has been steadily getting worse. Plus, he has done particularly poorly as a pinch hitter, which is the role the team wanted him to fill. It would not be a shock for Branyan to be traded (Rays?) or released in the next few weeks.
What options do the Diamondbacks have at First Base? With the current players, I think Miranda is still the best choice. But down in AAA, Brandon Allen is starting to heat up. With two home runs on Thursday night, Allen has pushed his average over .300 and his OPS over .900. Also, Wily Mo Pena has hit 13 HR with an OPS over 1.200, but it's not clear if he can play 1B. He has never played 1B in the Majors, although he did play 35 games there last year in AAA. Meanwhile, down in AA Mobile, Paul Goldschmidt has hit 13 HR and has an OPS well over 1.100. While fans woud love to see him in Arizona, it really wouldn't make much sense to jump him to the Majors right now.
Right now, Juan Miranda will probably get most of the starts at 1B. But it wouldn't be a big surprise to see Brandon Allen given another chance in Arizona, with Russell Branyan traded or released.