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ESPN’s Olney: Yasmany Tomas is Diamondbacks’ ‘linchpin player’

Arizona Diamondbacks' Yasmany Tomas, right, hits a solo home run as Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, left, watches along with home plate umpire Bob Davidson during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Arizona Diamondbacks enter the 2016 season with high expectations after the offseason saw them upgrade their pitching staff with the signing of Zack Greinke and trade for Shelby Miller.

The belief is the team, which finished with the second-most runs in the National League last season but was ninth in ERA, was a mound upgrade away from competing in the very difficult NL West.

But with all the D-backs added to the roster — along with Greinke and Miller they also acquired shortstop Jean Segura — it is someone who was already on the team who ESPN MLB reporter Buster Olney views as their “linchpin player.”

In a piece for ESPN Insider, Olney presented one player from 14 different teams who might not be a sure thing, but is, at the same time, most vital to any chances of success, and his choice for the D-backs is Yasmany Tomas.

Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona is arguably the best defensive team in the National League, and they have Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller at the front of what should be a good rotation. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, meanwhile, provide the backbone of the lineup.

But the Diamondbacks don’t have a lot of position-player depth, and they will open the 2016 season with offensive production questions at second base, shortstop and third. After trying Tomas at third base, the Diamondbacks are now committed to trying him in an outfield spot, and he needs to take advantage of the opportunity and generate runs if Arizona is going to prevail in what should be a really competitive NL West. In 118 games in his rookie season of 2015, Tomas batted .273, with 19 doubles, 3 triples and 9 homers, and with 17 walks and 110 strikeouts.

Tomas, who is from Cuba, signed a six-year, $68.5 million contract with the D-backs in Dec. 2014, and had a decent-but-not-great rookie season. He got off to a hot start, batting .333 in April, .316 in May and .311 in June, with four home runs and 29 RBI over that span, but tailed off in the latter half of the season.

As Olney notes, the team is likely to have him play in the outfield, with the move making sense after starter Ender Inciarte was dealt to Atlanta in the Miller trade. If Tomas can handle the position and provide more consistency and power at the plate, then the D-backs will not only have a good player, but also a legitimate chance to make a postseason run in 2016.

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