PHOENIX – Maybe the best player for the Arizona Diamondbacks in spring training has been new addition Russell Branyan.
One of the team’s biggest holes is first base, so naturally many have gotten excited that Branyan, after swinging such a hot bat, could be the answer at that position or at least used in a platoon role.
While logical, it would be foolish to think this.
Look, Branyan’s spring numbers are impressive (.429 batting average, 5 HR’s and 21 RBI’s), but you have to look at his performance throughout his MLB career which is less than impressive.
Even Branyan himself admitted, “Numbers don’t mean a whole lot in spring training,” on Wednesday.
As for numbers that do count, Branyan is a career .234 hitter and his average strikeout totals per at-bat aren’t that far behind Mark Reynolds.
The Diamondbacks are Branyan’s 10th Major League team in 12 seasons.
He has played for basically a new team every season he has been in the Majors making him a prototypical journeyman.
While Branyan did hit 31 and 25 HR’s the past two seasons, it’s unlikely he will repeat those numbers in Arizona because he’s a severe defensive liability over at first base which will prevent him from getting many starts.
Branyan is much more suited to a DH-type role with an American League team like he had the past two seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians.
In addition, the Diamondbacks are building for the future and they need to find out what younger players like Juan Miranda can bring to the table.
Manager Kirk Gibson seemed to project this when asked who would see the bulk of playing time at first.
“Juan Miranda will get the majority of the time. It’s his time to find out how good he can be,” said Gibson on the Sports 620 KTAR’s Gambo and Ash show on Wednesday.
Most likely, Gibson will relegate Branyan to pitch-hitting late in games when the Diamondbacks need a big home run to get back in a game.
That would be a wise move on Gibson’s part to put Branyan in a role where he can actually make a solid contribution to the team.