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Breaking Down the Arizona Diamondbacks' Platoon Candidates

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Breaking Down the Arizona Diamondbacks' Platoon Candidates
Rich Pilling/Getty Images

Platooning is not a new concept in Arizona, not for these Kevin Towers-assembled Diamondbacks. In late 2011, the Diamondbacks featured an outfield adorned with two regulars (both since departed) and one Gerardo Parra, who eventually shared playing time with Jason Kubel until Kubel won the position outright last season.

For some teams, the concept of designating two players to fill a regular position might seem foreign, but not for these D-Backs.

When asked for his views thus far into 2013, Towers referred to the club's play during spring training, saying, "I think offensively, I've seen a lot of good things."

Towers also likes shortstops Willie Bloomquist and Cliff Pennington, and has never strayed from the powerful concept of "depth" in interviews. 

Speaking of Bloomquist and Pennington, Arizona's platoon strategy is most apt to begin with the middle infield.

Though Bloomquist is also a third baseman, newcomers Eric Chavez and Martin Prado will likely platoon the hot corner. As Chavez declared, "The personalities here are very selfless...I'm really looking forward to it."

 

Positions Most Likely to Be Platooned in 2013:

Ed Mailliard/Getty Images
Willie Bloomquist has superior numbers against lefties than against right-handed pitchers.

Shortstop: Pennington and Bloomquist are not as much perfect platoon-mates, as they may be a necessary platoon combination. Pennington has not garnered much historical success against left-handed pitching, which coincidentally happens to be a Bloomquist strength.

Pennington vs. RHP: Against righties, the switch-hitting Pennington has hit .253 with an on-base percentage of .324 and a slugging percentage of .372 for a career OPS of .696. Bloomquist is a .262 hitter against right-handers, but has a lower OPS at .631. 

Bloomquist vs. LHP: Bloomquist is a .281/.338/.377/.715 hitter against southpaws, which is a significant improvement over Pennington's numbers against left-handers.  From the right-handed batter's box, Pennington is just a .237 hitter with a .594 OPS.

 

Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Eric Chavez's numbers against RHP are tops amongst hot corner candidates.

Third Base: In addition to Prado, Chavez and Bloomquist and another former Atlanta Brave—Eric Hinske—will serve as the team's fourth man for a single slot. Realistically, Hinske has been an outfielder and first baseman since late 2009, serving as a utility backup ever since. Prado and Chavez are the main contenders with Bloomquist a candidate on lefty days.

Chavez vs. RHP: Chavez has a career line of .280/.358/.511/.869 versus right-handers, which is highest amongst the four candidates. By comparison, Prado's OPS against righties is .772.

Prado vs. LHP: Prado's .286/.353/.444/.797 against lefties is by far the highest amongst contenders. Chavez's OPS against LHP is just .688, which is lower than Bloomquist's .715.

 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
MLB journeyman Cody Ross—seen here with the then-Florida Marlins—is a leading candidate to face southpaw pitching.

Outfield: With such depth—there's that word again—in the Arizona outfield, platooning the corner positions or even all three slots might not be as much an official platoon as an exercise in rotating through a consistent cast of characters.

Nonetheless, at least two key pieces of Arizona's 2013 outfield stand out as definite advantages in a platoon scheme:

Jason Kubel vs. RHP: The left-handed Kubel has sizzled to a career-.279 batting average against righties with a sky-high OPS of .841, compared to his .691 OPS against lefties. Succintly, starting Kubel on righty-days is a no-brainer.

Cody Ross vs. LHP: As Kubel is to right-handed pitching, Ross is to southpaws. With a .284 average and .928 OPS, Ross is a significant asset on lefty-days. Against right-handed pitching, alternately, Ross owns a .253 career average and a .727 OPS.

Gerardo Parra vs. RHP: Perhaps the biggest lesson in the platoon game for outfielders is Parra's numbers from both sides of the plate: .286/.340/.416/.756 against right-handers and .256/.303/.338/.642 against southpaws. Parra should be reserved exclusively for any situation against right-handed pitching. 

Meanwhile, Adam Eaton (.737/.890) and A.J. Pollock's (.535/.808) MLB numbers are too fresh for meaningful platoons, though like most righties, the two prospects tend to show a preference for opposite-handed pitching.

 

Positions Least Likely to be Platooned in 2013:

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Montero, Hill and Goldschmidt are the three D-Backs least likely to be platooned.

Catcher: Miguel Montero has and still is an All-Star-caliber backstop from both sides of the plate. Against righties, his OPS is .827, and while it is significantly lower against lefties (.703), backup Wil Nieves' .609 doesn't even come close to Montero.

First Base: Similar to the Montero/Nieves situation, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's .669 mark against right-handers and .996 against left-handers split is a significant deviation that is ultimately meaningless in the wake of the aging Hinske's career .789/.666 mark. In 2012, for instance, Hinske split to the tune of .609/.402.

Second Base: A healthy Aaron Hill—operative adjective, right?—will start against all pitchers if possible. His OPS split is .751/.781, both of which are higher than backup Bloomquist's .631/.715.

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