In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering each team’s potential depth charts in an effort to shine a spotlight on the interesting playing time battles that will be waged this spring. Obviously none of these depth charts are set in stone — rather they should function to focus your attention in the right places to find cheap fantasy value.
There was a massive overhaul in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfield this offseason. Two-thirds of last year’s starting three were shipped to other teams. Jason Kubel, who was also rumored to be on the block, was the lone starter to survive. The team also complicated matters by adding Cody Ross, fresh off a resurgent season with the Boston Red Sox. With veteran Geraldo Parra still in the fold for playing time, and prospect Adam Eaton ready for regular playing time, Arizona’s outfield is a little too crowded. How they decide to sort things out could have a strong impact on each player’s fantasy value.
Much of what the Diamondbacks decide to do this season depends on how much playing time Parra receives. He’s long been mentioned as one of the best fourth-outfielders in the game, and could be a full-time starter on some teams. The Diamondbacks, however, have never given him 500 plate appearances in a season. He’ll likely enter the season in the same role again, as a fourth-starter who gets a decent amount of playing time. Even if he were to be used as a full-time player, Parra wouldn’t have a ton of value in mixed leagues. He’s the type of guy who can do a little bit of everything, but won’t give you any elite skills.
Parra’s presence may impact how the team employs the rest of their outfielders. Cody Ross is an ideal platoon partner for Parra, as he has hit significantly better against left-handed pitching over his career. The 32-year-old Ross has a 19.8% HR/FB rate against lefties over his career, with a .575 slugging percentage. Ross would likely be a very useful lefty-only masher, but would also be on the lesser end of playing time in that scenario. After committing three-years, $26 million to Ross, it would be foolish to expect the team to immediately thrust him into a part-time role.
Almost everything said in that last paragraph applies to Kubel. The 30-year-old outfielder is coming off a resurgent season, in which he hit .253/.327/.506, with 30 home runs. Like Ross, there’s a good argument that he should be platooned. Kubel has only hit .238/.309/.383 in 928 career plate appearances. He’s owed significantly less money than Ross going forward, though. Kubel is set to make $7.5 million this year, and the team has a mutual option for 2014. With the trade rumors from this offseason, though, there’s probably a good chance the Diamondbacks will give him a ton of playing time earlier, possibly in hopes of dealing him at the deadline. He was a significantly better hitter in Arizona, for what that’s worth, but he was also in decline for two straight years prior to 2012. In a full-time role, he’ll have value, but shouldn’t be expected to repeat his numbers from last year.
The final piece is Eaton, who is expected to take over full-time in center field. The 24-year-old never made Baseball America’s top prospect list, but he’s performed well at every minor league stop. Because he’s the least experienced of the bunch, there’s a chance his playing time could be limited by the acquisition of Ross. Eaton wouldn’t contribute a ton of power, but has hit for strong averages, walked at a decent clip and stolen a fair number of bases throughout his minor league career. He’s a popular sleeper following the Justin Upton trade, and could be useful at the end of drafts if he’s a full-time guy.
The other situation to keep an eye on is whether Martin Prado gets playing time in the outfield after the trade. Depending on your league, Prado may already have outfield eligibility, but if he’s not an outfielder in your league, it might take him a while to receive eligibility based on the team’s other options.
Given the Diamondbacks’ strategy with Parra the past couple of seasons, it’s not difficult to see Kubel, Eaton and Ross receiving the bulk of the playing time early on. But Parra should see his fair share of games, and that could limit the fantasy value of one, or potentially a couple, of those guys. Pay attention to what Kirk Gibson and the other coaches say about the situation during the spring. If it’s clear Parra won’t take playing time away from anyone, you could draft Kubel, Eaton and Ross where you would normally take them. You’ll also want to keep an eye on Prado’s availability if that’s a problem in your league. With all the options in the outfield, it might take him a while for him to get eligibility out there, limiting some of his value. The team doesn’t have any studs following the departure of Upton, and Parra’s role matters now more than ever.
Early Depth Chart
Left Field: Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, AJ Pollack, Eric Hinske
Center: Adam Eaton, Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra, AJ Pollack
Right Field: Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra, AJ Pollack