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ESPN: Left-handed hitting Diamondbacks’ ‘problem projection’ for 2017

Arizona Diamondbacks' Jake Lamb watches the flight of his two-run home run against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 3, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

From under-performing stars to a wide-open battle for the catcher job, the Arizona Diamondbacks seem to have more questions than answers coming into the 2017 season.

But their biggest “problem projection,” according to ESPN writer Bradford Doolittle, will be the proficiency of the club’s left-handed hitters, particularly those in the infield. Doolittle projects that the Diamondbacks will finish 22nd in the majors in weighted on-base average by left-handed batters next season.

Arizona has a lot of holes in its profile, especially in the middle infield where it ranks 26th in projected weighted on-base average at second base and 24th at shortstop.

According to FanGraphs, weighted on-base average – or wOBA – “is a rate statistic which attempts to credit a hitter for the value of each outcome (single, double, etc) rather than treating all hits or times on base equally.”

Of Diamondbacks left-handed batters who had more than 200 plate appearances last season, third baseman Jake Lamb had the best season, with a wOBA of .352. He finished the season with a .249 average, 29 home runs, 31 doubles, 91 RBI and 81 runs scored.

While Lamb and outfielder David Peralta are set in their roles as the dominant left-handed hitters in the lineup, Doolittle says there is potential to improve the southpaw hitting of the club’s middle-infield.

The Diamondbacks will be shuffling through their middle-infield options and to balance the lineup, it would be good news if Ketel Marte seized at least the right-handed portion of a shortstop platoon. A switch-hitter, Marte hit .279 against righties last season for Seattle.

Marte was acquired from the Seattle Mariners as a part of November’s trade of Jean Segura that also netted Arizona pitcher Taijuan Walker.

The 23-year-old shortstop joins Lamb and Peralta as the only Diamondbacks switch-hitters or lefties projected to hit for a wOBA over .300 next season. He hit .259 with 21 doubles, 55 runs scored and 33 RBI for the Mariners in 2016.

The additions of two middle-infielders who can bat left-handed in rookie switch-hitter Domingo Leyba from the minors and left-handed veteran Daniel Descalso from the Colorado Rockies via free agency may also bolster the Diamondbacks’ lineup.

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