Five Diamondbacks players they can build around after step forward in 2022
The Arizona Diamondbacks will not make the playoffs this season after being eliminated from contention on Thursday night. They won’t finish with a winning record, either. Factor in the combination of a recent five-game losing streak and a remaining schedule that includes more contests against playoff contenders, including the Houston Astros and the Milwaukee Brewers, and they may not notch a moral victory by posting a winning second half. Yet for all the focus on what the Diamondbacks won’t do or don’t have, this season has instilled their fan base with a little something that has been absent in recent years: optimism about tomorrow.
It would be unfair to write that the future core of the Diamondbacks was on display this season. Two of the three most important players for Arizona’s long-term outlook, shortstop Jordan Lawlar and outfielder Druw Jones, have combined for 102 professional games. (Jones hurt his shoulder after signing.) Outfielder Corbin Carroll, the third member of the trio, was able to reach the majors this season, where he joined a handful of other players who could well be part of the D-Backs’ next playoff team, such as outfielders Daulton Varsho and Alek Thomas, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, and starting pitcher Drey Jameson. (To say nothing of outfielder Jake McCarthy, a speedy former first-round pick who had a heck of a run this summer at the plate.)
Rather than rehash the season that was for the Diamondbacks, let’s put their year to bed by touching on those five players and what they brought to the table. (Do note that the players are presented below in alphabetical order.)
Most of the talent evaluators who spoke to CBS Sports over the summer identified Carroll as the best remaining prospect in the minor leagues because of the breadth and depth of his skill set. He can hit (as evidenced by his .288/.356/.545 (152 OPS+) slash line over the course of his first 21 big-league games), he can run, and he can field. The biggest question marks facing him entail his durability (he has a small frame and he’s dealt with injury problems in the past) and his contact rate. He’s swinging and missing at a league-average clip so far, and it’ll be worth monitoring if and how that fluctuates as he gains repetitions. After all, Carroll’s next game will mark only his 162nd as a professional, suggesting he still has plenty of time to learn new things.
Jameson is a relatively recent addition to the D-Backs roster, having debuted on Sept. 15. He’s a small right-hander with a big arm. His fastball has touched 99 mph and features above-average induced vertical break. His slider, his top secondary pitch, has coerced whiffs on nearly half the swings taken against it so far, albeit in a small sample size. Jameson has kept his walks in check throughout his professional career, meaning the biggest concern with him is how his short stride (he generates less than six feet worth of extension) may cause his stuff to play down against big-league bats. The Diamondbacks owe it to themselves to let him start for as long as he can.
Perdomo is a skilled defender who has a penchant for making diving plays. Unfortunately, his offensive results have left a lot to be desired. The old rule of thumb is that if you can’t hit the fastball then you won’t make it in the majors. Perdomo has not hit the fastball this season, as both his batting average- and exit velocity-against that specific pitch are near the bottom of the majors. He does have some things working in his favor: he’s a switch-hitter who minds the zone and makes a lot of contact, but he hasn’t shown an ability to impact the baseball and each of his swings features a hitch. Perdomo will celebrate his 23rd birthday in October. His defense and his youth should keep him around the majors for a while longer.
Thomas hasn’t taken well to the majors since being promoted in May. In his first 110 games, he’s batted .235/.279/.349 (78 OPS+) while looking particularly helpless versus lefties. To his credit, he’s still been an asset defensively, and his larger offensive track record points to him coming around at the plate in due time. Thomas won’t celebrate his 23rd birthday until after next Opening Day, suggesting the Diamondbacks owe it to him and themselves to remain patient as he learns the ropes.
Varsho is one of the most versatile players in the majors. He’s a high-quality defensive outfielder (the best in the majors in 2022 according to Statcast) who has also appeared 31 times this year behind the plate. The last individual to see at least 20 games each in center field and at catcher in a single season was Eli Marrero in 2002. Varsho is good for more than his positional novelty tricks, too. He’s already homered 26 times, in part because of a greater emphasis on pulling the ball, and his barrel rate is in line with the likes of Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts. Pair his defensive value with his league-average or better stick, and he’s a future All-Star.