Currently, according to the Diamondbacks’ official depth chart, we are operating with five people in the middle infield positions. Chris Owings, Brandon Drury, Daniel Descalso, Nick Ahmed, and Ketel Marte are all stuck out there in the middle, and question marks surround the positions. They each bring different skill sets to the table, and they all have valid claims to a roster spot. Alas, we all know we can only have 25 here on the roster, so we must choose. To start, I believe that it’s a good bet we see Drury at second, and Descalso as a utility man. Drury’s bat cannot be ignored, and Descalso was signed just for that, replacing Phil Gosselin. So for our purposes here, I will just be looking at the remainder.
Our Swiss Army Knife last year, Chris Owings is looking for a return to his position at Shortstop, instead of the outfield and whatever else the team asked of him as he did he best MacGyver impression. We asked him to go well beyond what should have been expected, and all in all he did a pretty good job. Centerfield started out as a bit of an adventure, but eventually he evolved into a decent fielder out there. He kept up the good hitting, putting up a .277 BA with 49 RBIs and 5 HR. This, combined with the multitude of position abilities, gave Owings a unique skill set and made him into an important asset in case of injury.
Ketel Marte was the second guy in the Taijuan Walker trade, albeit certainly not the focal point. However, that does not mean he holds no value! Marte debuted two years ago with a very good first campaign, hitting .283 with 2 HR and got on-base at a clip of .753. The defense was lackluster, but certainly not terrible, and he was obviously acquired for a reason by Hazen, as he made a point to talk about him as well as Taijuan in the ensuing press conference. This certainly indicates that they value him as a piece going forward, rather than just a throw-in to balance out some salaries or to add some minors depth. Marte is going to be a factor moving forward, hopefully a positive one.
Ahmed, like Drury and Randall Delgado, was acquired in the Justin Upton trade, in exchange for the aforementioned Upton and Chris Johnson. When Ahmed came up for his first real season in 2015, the hitting certainly wasn’t good, and it certainly has not improved. However, just using the eye test, there certainly seems to be room for improvement. He has gone on multiple hot streaks where he seemingly figures it all out, only to drop under the Mendoza Line and simply murdering his overall average for the season. The fielding is sublime, there is no questioning that. But there is a major problem in being significantly more excited to see a guy in the field versus the plate, and at the Major League level, you need to be able to hit better than he does.
So…. Who ya got?
None of these guys are complete players, but we wouldn’t be having the conversation if they were. With Marte being sent down, he is currently not in the plans, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him brought up later in the season, especially if Ahmed is traded. As far as things go up the middle, I now see Owings getting the starting short job, with Ahmed providing depth, especially if we need to move Owings around due to injury to other positions. Looking long term, I think that unless Ahmed has a break out season in the hitting department this year, his goose should be cooked. Owings has the bat and a good bit of versatility. That combo makes him very valuable, and Ahmed’s one-dimensionality hampers him greatly by comparison.
Feel free to leave a comment, and remember this is the last week before baseball returns!