The Arizona Diamondbacks were the worst team in baseball last year – literally. The Diamondbacks went 64-98 – one of just three teams to fail to win at least 70 games – and finished 30 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West.
Hew manager Chip Hale, however, believes that the Diamondbacks can make the playoffs this year. If they do, it’ll be because Paul Goldschmidt has an MVP-caliber season. Goldschmidt, 27, hit .300 with 19 home runs, 69 RBIs and nine steals in 109 games last year and has become one of the best hitters in the big leagues.
What makes him so effective?
“His mechanics of hitting,” Hale said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “His bat stays through the zone so long, and he’s a very, very intelligent player. I think he has a good idea of what pitchers want to do with him, and because of his bat path, as we call (it), he always has a chance. So even late in the count, he puts himself in a good spot to make hard contact. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful teammate and leader for me as a manager. If you have one of those guys on your team, it makes it really easy to manage.”
While Goldschmidt has first base on lockdown, third base is still up for grabs – at least for now. Cuban prospect Yasmany Tomas, an imposing hitter who has two opposite-field home runs this spring, may win the job. Hale compared the 24-year-old to Pablo Sandoval.
“Big guy, big man, big all over,” Hale said. “He’s massive. Just a big guy. And that was kind of the concern of can he be a third baseman? But he’s been moving around great. We do a lot of shifting here and we put him on the other side of the field and he looks kind of odd in that second base area, but he’s been able to handle it. We are still figuring out who our starting third baseman is. He’s definitely in the mix with Jake Lamb.”
Lamb, also 24, hit .230 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 37 games last season.
“So whether (Tomas) starts here in the big leagues or not, we’re not sure,” Hale said. “But we know there’s a bright future, whether it’s at third base or in the outfield. And we’re seeing some of the power that we expected to see now, which is great at this point in spring training.”
Tomas can hit it a mile, yes, but can he actually handle the hot corner defensively?
“I think he can play third base,” Hale said. “I’m not sure if he can be Gold Glove-caliber, but I think as we all do in baseball, we have to weigh the pros and cons – if you’re going to hit enough to be able to play the position. We have Mark Trumbo in right field. He’s not a prototypical outfielder, but he’s going to bang hopefully 30 or 40 home runs for us.
“So you have to sort of weigh the offense versus the defense,” Hale continued. “(Tomas) has moved better than we thought. Is he ready at the major league level? We’re not yet sure. We have two weeks left to make that decision.”
Hale suggested that the decision won’t necessarily come down to what’s best for the Diamondbacks on Opening Day, or even this season.
“We have to think about the future and what’s best for the organization moving forward,” he said. “If we have to scuffle a little bit at certain points, we will to make ourselves better for the future. So we have to weigh all those things. But we feel like we have an opportunity to win this division. As crazy as that sounds to outsiders, inside the organization we think we have the talent to win here.”