Rebuilding season or not, falling short of the playoffs and finishing with a losing record probably means that more things went wrong than went right for a team. This series, however, will focus on those silver linings that each team can take away from an otherwise disappointing season.
[Related: “Top Bright Spots” archive]
Here are the biggest bright spots for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
1. Jean Segura, 2B
The offseason trade that sent Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair to the Braves for Shelby Miller was heavily criticized at the time and looks even worse now. It’s a deal that has cast a dark cloud over Dave Stewart’s tenure as the Diamondbacks’ general manager. Unfortunately, it will also overshadow any good moves that he has made, especially the acquisition of Segura—Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill and Isan Diaz were traded to the Brewers in the deal—less than two months later.
While Anderson has had a solid season in the Brewers’ rotation and the 20-year-old Diaz put up huge numbers in Low-A ball, Segura bounced back from back-to-back poor seasons with one that is worthy of at least a handful of MVP votes. An impressive .320 batting average with 201 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homers and 32 stolen bases has the 26-year-old, who is under contract for two more seasons, heading into 2017 as one of the top middle infielders in baseball.
2. Yasmany Tomas, RF
As recently as late July, it was easy to lump Tomas’ six-year, $68.5MM deal in with other recent moves that hadn’t quite panned out. Tomas had a subpar rookie season in 2015 and, after a strong start to the 2016 season, was in the midst of a two-month long slump (.641 OPS, 5 BB, 52 K from May 26th thru July 23rd) when something finally clicked.
Since July 24th, the 25-year-old has been one of the elite sluggers in the game with a .934 OPS, 17 homers and 12 doubles in 225 plate appearances. It’s great timing, too. With an abundance of hitting talent on the D’backs, not enough at-bats to go around and Tomas’ trade value on the rise, American League teams with a need at DH—Tomas is a bad defensive outfielder—should have plenty of interest.
3. Jake Lamb, 3B
Despite Lamb’s 10 homers and .382 slugging percentage over his first two big league seasons (523 plate appearances), the expectation was that he would be able to provide some more power in 2016. I’m guessing that 69 extra-base hits (29 HR, 31 2B, 9 3B) and a .515 slugging percentage is far beyond what anyone could imagine.
While most of Lamb’s success came in the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field, versus right-handed pitching and in the 1st half of the season, it’s quite possible that the 25-year-old will continue to improve his overall game and provide the D’backs lineup with much more consistent production in 2017.
4. Brandon Drury, IF/OF
It was tough to predict success for Drury in 2016, not for lack of talent but for lack of opportunity. His defensive versatility gave him a good chance to play a role on the big league club, but finding regular at-bats would be a challenge. Injuries to David Peralta and A.J. Pollock have helped, but the 24-year-old also gave manager Chip Hale plenty of reason to continue finding a spot for him in the starting lineup.
With 109 starts between the corner outfield spots, third and second base, Drury has a .787 OPS with 15 homers and 30 doubles in 488 plate appearances, including a current hot streak (.946 OPS, 5 HR, 10 2B in last 128 plate appearances) that will certainly improve his chances of entering 2017 with a starting job.
No Diamondbacks minor leaguers boosted their stock more in 2016 than Banda and Haniger, who, coincidentally, were both acquired from the Brewers in a trade for Gerardo Parra back in July 2014.
The 25-year-old Haniger, who had a .999 OPS with 25 homers and 34 doubles in 129 games between Double-A and Triple-A, won’t be in the mix for a starting job next season with Peralta and Pollock returning from injury-plagued seasons, but he does give the team some right-handed power and versatility off of the bench—he has played all three outfield spots during his first MLB stint.
Like Haniger, Banda began the season with Double-A Mobile (2.12 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 9.9 K/9 in 13 starts) and had continued success after a promotion to Triple-A Reno (3.67 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 8/3 K/9). The 23-year-old should battle for a rotation spot next spring.