02 March 2012
Last year, the Diamondbacks began Spring Training with major question marks in the corner infield spots. At 1B, the team was looking at rookie Brandon Allen, newcomer Juan Miranda, and veteran Russell Branyan. Melvin Mora was expected to be the starting 3B, replacing the traded Mark Reynolds, with Geoff Blum as the primary backup. Things didn't really work out for any of those five players, and by the end of the season, the Diamondbacks were playing Paul Goldschmidt at 1B and Ryan Roberts at 3B, with Lyle Overbay and Sean Burroughs as the top corner infield reserves. This year, Goldschmidt and Roberts are expected to remain the starters, with Overbay returning as the backup 1B. As we continue our 2012 Spring Training Preview, here is a review of the corner infield candidates (Here are links to previous articles on the Starting Pitchers, Bullpen, Catchers, and Middle Infielders).
The team is only bringing six corner infielders to Major League Spring Training - Goldschmidt, Roberts, Overbay, and three non-roster invitees, Matt Davidson, Ryan Wheeler, and Rusty Ryal. It would be quite a surprise for any of these last three players to make the Major League roster; Davidson and Wheeler are in Spring Training to get a taste of the Majors, while Ryal will probably be AAA insurance (at best) in case one of the regulars gets injured.
|Matt Davidson (Hi A)||535||93||148||20||106||0/1||52||147||.277||.348||.465|
|Ryan Wheeler (AA)||480||69||141||16||89||3/4||45||102||.294||.358||.465|
|Rusty Ryal (JPN)||96||6||19||0||4||0/1||4||31||.198||.238||.240|
Paul Goldschmidt (24) - Goldschmidt began the 2011 season in AA Mobile, and hit a remarkable .306/.435/.626 with 30 HR in 103 Games. He was promoted to the Majors in August directly from AA, and became the Diamondbacks' starting first baseman. There were many things to like about Goldschmidt's performance in the Majors, including 8 HR and a .474 SLG. But he also had a lot of strikeouts, with 53Ks in just 156 AB. The good news is that his plate discipline improved from August (29K/7BB) to September (24K/13BB), so he seems to be making adjustments. Surprisingly, Goldschmidt hit much better against RHP (.855 OPS) than against LHP (.657 OPS). He will be the starting first baseman in 2012.
Ryan Roberts (31) - Roberts was one of the biggest surprises of 2011, finishing the year with a .768 OPS, up from .577 in 2010. He spent most of 2010 in AAA, but won the starting 3B job with a hot Spring Training, and carried that hot streak into the start of the season. Roberts batted .313/.413/.594 through the end of April, but then slipped to .239/.329/.402 over the rest of the season. He did maintain very good plate discipline throughout the year, with a .340 OBP for the 1st Half and .341 for the 2nd Half. He should be the starter in 2012, but there are some questions as to whether he will hit well enough to hold down the position.
Lyle Overbay (35) - Overbay was released by Pittsburgh last August after batting just .227/.300/.349 for the Pirates, but hit much better after signing with Arizona. He's always hit better against RHP (career .823 OPS, compared to .704 vs LHP), but overall in 2011, he didn't even hit that well against righthanders, with just a .677 OPS. He'll be used primarily as a pinch-hitter and a spot starter, but isn't an everyday player anymore at this point in his career.
Rusty Ryal (29) - Ryal returns to the Diamondbacks organization after a tough year in Japan, where he hit only .198/.238/.240 in 101 PA. He had a very poor 31K/4BB ratio in Japan, after compiling a 67K/8BB strikeout-to-walk ratio with Arizona in 2010. It's hard to stay in the Majors with plate discipline like that, especially since Ryal's career SLG is only .402.
Ryan Wheeler (23) - Wheeler resurrected his prospect status with a solid .294/.358/.465 year in AA Mobile. He improved his OBP by 21 pts from 2010, and his SLG by 57 pts. Plus his defense looks good enough for him to stick at 3B. He'll start 2012 at AAA Reno, and could become an option for Arizona if Roberts struggles with the bat.
Matt Davidson (21) - Davidson has moved slightly ahead of fellow 2009 draftee Bobby Borchering, both offensively and defensively. Davidson continues to show good power, but still needs to work on his 147K/52BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. His defense has improved enough that he will continue to play 3B. He will start 2012 with AA Mobile, where he will be one of the youngest players in the Southern League.