It didn’t take long for the first evidence to fall into place.
When major league rosters expanded this past Monday from 25 to a potential 40 players, the Diamondbacks added outfielder Cody Ross to the active roster and the next day, centerfielder A. J. Pollack returned from the disabled list.
With five outfielders currently on the roster, the additions of Ross and Pollock tend foreshadow a crowded traffic jam in the gardens. While manager Kirk Gibson will try and shuffle equal playing time for all, the road ahead for several remains bumpy.
Going forward, the crowded outfield could complement an infield replete with players knocking on the major league door or already in Sedona Red.
When Pollock broke his right hand as a result of hit by the Reds’ Johnny Cueto on May 31, the centerfielder was hitting. 316, named as National League player-of-the-week twice to that point, developing strong skills as a fleet centerfielder and generated whispers about a possible All-Star bid. Out for over three months, Pollock waited for a complicated injury to heel properly.
With his time out, the Diamondbacks finally settled on Ender Inciarte as their everyday centerfielder and the rookie from Venezuela delivered.
Coming into Tuesday night’s game in San Diego, Inciarte was hitting a respectable .267 and conducted an impressive showing. He leads National League rookies in runs scored, tied for third in hits and tied for third in stolen bases. He leads National League rookies with 10 assists and posted a franchise-best hitting streak for a rookie. That was an 18 game streak put together between July 29 and August 19. Plus, he’s hit safely in 16 of his past 18 games in Chase Field.
With Gibson, general manager Kevin Towers and other club officials trying to piece together the 2015 outfield, Inciarte figures to be in the mix.
One who likely would be on the outside looking in is Ross.
When the 2015 season commences, Ross will be in the final year of a three year, $26 million deal with Arizona but his playing time looks to be compromised. At the same time, the Diamondbacks will try and heed some value with this investment but their patience may also be thin.
Since placed on the disabled list on July 22 with a left calf strain, that injury, along with a season-ending hip dislocation last August, effectively cut into Ross’ effectiveness. For the rest of the current season, the Diamondbacks have a clear path for the New Mexico native.
“From here on out, Cody will probably be used as a pinch hitter,” Gibson said. “At this point, I’m not sure if he’s ready to play a full nine innings and move at a good pace.”
After Ross rides out the current season, he’ll arrive at the Salt River training camp next February facing severe competition. While Gibson said Ross “will have to earn his spot on the team,” his last two seasons of not playing on a regular basis may not be in his best interest.
With a strong Pollock returning next spring, a healthy Paul Goldschmidt (recovering from a broken right hand) and Mark Trumbo, trying to pick up the pieces of a disastrous first season in Arizona, in left field, the Diamondbacks look in the gardens could be restored.
In Goldschmidt’s absence, Trumbo has filled in at first base and is slated to be in left field next spring.
That would mean Pollock returns to center, Trumbo is back in left and Inciatre moves to right. This signals David Peralta could be the fourth outfielder and puts Ross and newly-acquired Nolan Reimold’s Arizona future in jeopardy.
That’s for future consideration but for now, Gibson, Towers and others should get a decent look at how the Diamondbacks’ outfield shapes up for the future.
SUCCESS AT THE MINOR LEAGUE LEVEL
With the advent of the minor league playoff season, the five Arizona minor affiliates qualified for the post-season. These include Triple-A Reno, Double A-Mobile, Advanced A-Visalia, Single-A South Bend and Short Season Hillsboro.
Pitchers in the organization finished among the best in the minors.
Aaron Blair was second among all minors leaguers with 171 strikeouts, Blayne Weller was sixth with 161 strikeouts and Brandon Sinnery was tied with third (with 14) for most minor league wins.
Statistically, three relievers were among the best.
Enrique Burgos, who will pitch in the up-coming Arizona Fall League, was third among minor leaguers with 29 saves. Jake Barrett was fourth among all minor leaguers with 28 saves while Silvino Bracho was sixth with 26 saves.