Young position players were best in the Majors in baserunning. They trended towards excellence in defense and scoring runs.
The intended meaning of august is respected and impressive (in my view), rather than the month of the year. That meaning is less often seen, as is the team’s huge bounce back from last season’s finish in a tie for last place. Secondarily, it means they had more playing time during August.
Let’s look at this season in several ways that reflect the possibilities of next season.
This season, the 52nd win happened on 13 August, much earlier than last season’s 3 October. The possibility of a 20-win improvement over last season is real and achievable because it merely requires 39.6% wins starting from 15 August, albeit against a tough schedule.
I’m happy about the possibility of the Diamondbacks pushing the Giants out of third place in the NL West. Recent win percentages show a trend of the Diamondbacks with a higher winning percentage than the Giants per the following graph.
The following graph shows the gap in season-winning-percentage between the Diamondbacks and the Giants was reduced significantly in two weeks. It’s a big if, but if the trend continues through September, the Diamondbacks could finish the season in third place.
Because these six players are younger than league average, it not unreasonable to expect them to improve next season! My expectation is that at least two of them become everyday players with high ceilings.
Alek Thomas, age 22, played excellent defense in center field (6 Outs Above Average and 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and his batting is nearly league average (promising for a debut in the Majors at age 22).
Tommy Henry, age 24, started games in August. His 63.6 game score in his second start was excellent! This season Diamondbacks’ pitchers have reached that score in only 23 games, including his start. In the first five innings of his third start he allowed zero earned runs and only 2 hits.
Tyler Holton, age 26, pitched 6.2 innings of relief with an ERA of 2.70 and a FIP of 2.07. An interesting statistic is his release point is closer to the plate than 80% of pitchers in the Majors per Baseball Savant.
Buddy Kennedy, age 23 played second base in June and July and is now in AAA. His swing was ranked highly in this AZ Snake Pit article.
Jose Herrera, age 25, played catcher in 46 games through 9 August, when he was optioned to AAA. His 0.7 throwing runs leads the Diamondbacks per Baseball Prospectus.
Cooper Hummel, age 27, mainly played left field with a complete game at catcher on 12 August. His 28.9 feet per second sprint speed is at the 89th percentile in the Majors per Baseball Savant.
With much enthusiasm I am anticipating another debut. Corbin Carroll is ranked the second-best prospect in baseball by MLB pipeline and third-best in baseball by FanGraphs with an impressive 60 FV. He is a fast runner (FV 70/70 per FanGraphs) who adds excitement and is worth watching.
Most position players are younger than average in the Majors. Looking at the active roster, only 3 of 13 position players are older than the Majors’ average of 28.4 years old. The three older-than-average players are Christian Walker, Jordan Luplow, and Ketel Marte.
It appears the long-term problem at third base has been addressed with Emmanuel Rivera, who hits as well as anticipated in this AZ Snake Pit article.
I am hopeful that Geraldo Perdomo keeps improving his defense at shortstop, so he can take over when Nick Ahmed retires.
Assuming the young players perform to their potential, then the Diamondbacks are well positioned with position players for the next window of contention.
Let’s look at three measures of excellent position players: baserunning, defense, and runs scored per game.
This season through 13 August, the Diamondbacks’ 17.5 BsR ranked best in the Majors. BsR is FanGraphs’ all-encompassing statistic for base running, including things like stolen bases and baserunners taking extra bases when the ball is in play.
Historically, defense has been a team strength.
In the first half of this season, defense was less than stellar. The second half of the season is a different story. The Diamondbacks ranking in overall defensive DRS increased from 20th at All-Star break, to 14th on 24 July, to 11th on 12 August. I like that trend!
The following graph shows the 10-game averages of runs scored per game. Although the averages look like they cycle over time, overall the averages of runs scored per game look better later in the season. The improvement in runs scored per game will likely be retained next season because the young position players are improving.
The two young starters were Zac Gallen and Tommy Henry. They are Diamondbacks pitchers of the future.
Although not young at 33, Merrill Kelly and Madison Bumgarner are under contract for two additional seasons, with team option for Merrill Kelly in 2026. If an additional starting pitcher emerges with effectiveness, it would be a significant step towards contention.
Home Runs. In games through 14 August, Christian Walker had 27 home runs, which ranked 5th best in the NL (Baseball Reference). Yesterday, he hit his 28th home run and is now tied for 4th to 5th with Paul Goldschmidt. His .060 homers per PA greatly exceeded my All-Star demarcation of .038.
Doubles. In games through 14 August, Ketel Marte’s 32 doubles ranked 4th best in the NL (Baseball Reference).
Sacrifice Hits. In games through 14 August, Geraldo Perdomo’s 5 sacrifice hits ranked 4th best in the NL (Baseball Reference).
Defense as Center Fielder. In games through 14 August, Daulton Varsho’s 6 Total Zone Runs as center fielder ranked 2nd best in the NL, while Alek Thomas’s Range Factor Per Game as center fielder ranked 1st best in the NL (Baseball Reference).
Stolen Bases. In games through 14 August Josh Rojas’s 15 stolen bases tied for 7th to 9th best in the NL (Baseball Reference). Yesterday, he stole his 16th base and is now tied for 5th to 7th.
Two possible losses are Ian Kennedy who becomes a free agent and Zach Davies if the mutual option is not exercised (per Baseball Reference’s contract page).
The Diamondbacks’ performance in this bounce back year could possibly result in a 20-win improvement over last season.
Glimpses of next season were provided by 6 players who made their debut in the Majors; my hope is at least two of them become everyday players.
This season, position players were especially young; the active roster has 10 of 13 players who are younger than the average position player in the Majors. And despite their youth, they were best in the Majors in baserunning, and they trended towards excellence in defense and scoring runs. I expect defense and runs-scored-per-game will be strengths next season as young position players develop.
Two exceptional pitchers are younger than average in the Majors. I am hopeful that another starting pitcher will soon emerge with effectiveness.