Diamondbacks outfielder Socrates Brito required surgery to repair an “open dislocation of the fourth finger on his left hand” this evening, the Diamondbacks announced. A specific timetable for the 24-year-old’s recovery has yet to be determined, per the release, but it certainly seems as though this injury takes Brito out of the mix for an Opening Day roster spot. Brito incurred the injury while sliding headfirst into home plate during a Cactus League contest.
Brito made his big league debut with the Diamondbacks in 2015 and turned in an impressive showing in a small sample of 34 plate appearances. His second effort in the Majors, this past season, was considerably worse, though he tallied a similarly minimal 97 PAs this time around. Overall, Brito has mustered just a .211/.229/.383 batting line in 131 trips to the plate at the Major League level.
There’s plenty of reason for optimism when it comes to Brito, though. For starters, Brito rated third, fourth and sixth on the respective lists of top Diamondbacks prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America and MLB.com this offseason (though the Arizona farm system is among the weakest in the game). Beyond that, he’s been reasonably productive at virtually every stop of his minor league career. Brito hit .294/.322/.439 in his first run through Triple-A this season (albeit in a hitter-friendly environment, making those numbers a bit less impressive). Those numbers, though, are similar to the .300/.339/.451 slash he posted at Double-A in 2015 and to the .293/.339/.429 line he recorded in Class-A Advanced back in 2014.
Baseball America praised his plus speed and arm, noting that he needed to improve his approach at the plate. MLB.com’s report on Brito notes that he has the tools to be an everyday outfielder, while Law’s report was a bit more pessimistic, pegging him as a probable fourth outfielder.
While the range of opinions on Brito’s ultimate role is a bit varied, most would likely agree that he could’ve benefited the D-backs immediately out of the gate in 2017. Yasmany Tomas, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta are currently set for regular outfield work, but Brito could’ve given Jeremy Hazelbaker a run for his money as the fourth outfielder. A left-handed hitter, Brito could’ve seen occasional starts in place of Tomas against right-handed pitching and could’ve been used as a late-game defensive replacement, pinch-hitting option or pinch runner.
It’s also not hard to see a larger role in the outfield opening up for Brito. Tomas’ defense, baserunning and low OBP negate a great deal of his power, and both Peralta and Pollock missed significant time due to injury in 2016. Of course, Brito himself is no stranger to injuries; last season alone, he suffered a broken toe and a broken hamate bone, both of which limited his time in the Majors. For now, however, both Hazelbaker and non-roster invitee Gregor Blanco stand to see their odds of making the Opening Day roster improve.