After falling more than 10 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West standings, it’s pretty apparent the Arizona Diamondbacks are what they are — an up-and-coming baseball team that’s improving, but just not ready to compete for a playoff spot just yet.
As such, September could be an important evaluation period for players looking to carve out roles on next year’s team.
The outfield is pretty well solidified already, with All-Star center fielder A.J. Pollock flanked by the emerging David Peralta and Ender Inciarte. The D-backs also invested $68.5 million in Cuban import Yasmany Tomas, who has settled into the role of fourth outfielder.
The intrigue is in the infield. Of course, three-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt will be the first baseman. But according to chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, the other three spots could be open competitions.
“We have an embarrassment of riches,” La Russa told Doug and Wolf Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “We are going to have a very exciting, competitive situation about who plays the other three spots with Paul Goldschmidt.”
The D-backs like third baseman Jake Lamb, who has held down the spot for much of the season and done an admirable job. The 24-year-old has posted a .270/.329/.399 slash line while hitting five home runs, driving in 30 runs and committing only six errors in 198 total chances at third.
But there’s future competition at the hot corner in the form of Brandon Drury, whom the D-backs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the 2013 Justin Upton trade. Drury made his big-league debut Tuesday.
“Then you bring in Brandon Drury, who is very talented and can play second and third right now with a ton of talent,” La Russa said.
Drury is rated as Arizona’s seventh-best prospect by MLB.com and batted .331 in 63 games at Triple-A Reno this season.
That’s not all.
“You saw Phil Gosselin (Tuesday),” La Russa added. “That guy stands up there and you can tell he can hit. He’s supposed to be an outstanding competitor, he really made an impression.”
Gosselin clubbed a 441-foot three-run homer Tuesday in the first game of a double-header sweep over Colorado at Coors Field.
La Russa also singled out another play recently acquired in a trade — Jack Reinheimer, who was picked up from the Seattle Mariners in the Welington Castillo-Mark Trumbo deal in June.
“I talked to Mike Russell, our supervisor of official scouts, Reinheimer, who’s playing at Double-A, he believes is right there in the conversation with Nick Ahmed, with Chris Owings, with Drury, with Gosselin and with Dansby Swanson.”
Reinheimer, the D-backs’ 12th-best prospect, was one of eight minor leaguers selected Tuesday to participate in the Arizona Fall League, which begins in late October.
All this depth will lead to good things, according to the team’s top baseball executive.
“The best thing for our team, our organization and our fans is to have a competition where the guys have to earn a spot and they know they’re being threatened,” La Russa said. “I don’t know how much playing time September will allow (manager Chip Hale) to give to the different guys. But every time they take the field, they’ll have a chance to make an impression.
“We know our outfield works, now we just have to plug in the right infielders.”