Diamondbacks’ David Peralta embracing leadership role
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to look different this season. That’s just the reality of parting ways with one of your top starting pitchers and arguably your two best hitters all in the same offseason.
The D-backs have more than just a void in the box score to fill now, though. They also lost the face of their franchise when they sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis in December. And while it’s not realistic to expect someone else to instantly step in and replace a perennial NL MVP candidate, they will need guys to assume some of his leadership responsibilities right away.
David Peralta is on the short list of candidates to help the clubhouse through that transition. And he’s happy to do it.
“Yeah of course,” he admitted. “Who doesn’t like that? But a leader’s not about talking and saying, ‘Hey, I’m the leader!’ No, the leader’s more about being a good symbol for everybody. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be a good symbol for the young guys. And a good role model.”
The 31-year old outfielder seems like a natural choice to step into a more prominent role on an increasingly younger roster. He’s actually played more games (571) in an Arizona uniform than anyone else in the projected starting lineup, even though he made his debut in 2014. And his stats have been trending up for awhile now, culminating in an impressive 30 home run, 87 RBI effort in 2018, all fueled by a team-leading .293 batting average.
Plus, there’s his personality as an outgoing player who genuinely seems to appreciate the fact that he’s in the majors. And that probably comes from his backstory — an unconventional path to the big leagues that started with him being drafted by the Cardinals as a pitcher before making the unlikely transition to the outfield, with stops in the independent league and even McDonald’s sprinkled in along the way.
So yeah, it’s easy to see why Peralta embraces each and every day he has playing baseball at this level. And he clearly loves being in the Valley.
“I’m glad that I’m still here,” he said. “And I want to be here for the rest of my career. I mean, I have to control what I can control, but for sure I’m going to do my best to help everybody else to feel like a family. Because this is who we are. We’re a big family and we have to make everybody – all the new people that are here – feel the same way.”
That’s a great mindset for a leader to have in any occupation. And the D-backs, in particular, need someone like that more than ever right now. Because even if Torey Lovullo is able to get the most out of his guys like he usually does, Goldschmidt’s shadow could still hang over this season. He routinely led the team in most hitting categories while he was in Phoenix, and often hovered around the top of the league with his impressive numbers. And Goldschmidt is still the name that most casual fans instantly identify with baseball in Arizona.
He’s also somebody that Peralta still talks to.
“You learn a lot from him,” Peralta said. “And even now I’m still talking with him, and asking him little tips about how he would handle all this kind of stuff. But the thing is you have to be yourself. You cannot change anything if you’ve got a different role. You just keep it simple, just be the same guy. Because that’s what got you – if I’m talking about myself, that’s what got me here.”
There’s a balance the D-backs have to hit here, though. One where they lean on Peralta as a leader in the clubhouse without giving him so much additional responsibility that it takes away from what he can do on the field.
“I know David has a very strong personality,” Lovullo acknowledged. “He has some great leadership qualities that I’ve watched over the past couple years. So I know that he’s already assumed that role with the group that was here last year. So I’m not asking him to do anything that he’s foreign to. I just don’t want it to be anything that gets him off track or gets him off the path that he’s on – and that’s to be one of the best players in the National League.”
That last part is key. Sure, Jake Lamb and Steven Souza are going to be counted on to rebound and help replace some of the stats that Goldschmidt is taking to St. Louis. They both had their 2018 campaigns derailed by injuries, so any stats they provide in 2019 will be a boost over what the team got a year ago. But the Diamondbacks aren’t looking for a rebound from Peralta. They’re counting on him to deliver another strong performance. On and off the field.