In this Spring Training Players to Watch series I will highlight two players (one position and one pitcher) on each club that I am interested to watch during Spring Training.
I’ll start with the Arizona Diamondbacks who finished second in the NL West with an impressive and somewhat surprising 93-69 record. Their season ended in the NL Division Series when they got swept by their arch rivals, the LA Dodgers.
Position Player to watch during Spring: Jake Lamb 3B
Jake Lamb is fascinating to me because of these splits over the last two seasons:
2016: 1st half AVG .291 Vs 2nd half AVG .197
2017: 1st half AVG .279 Vs 2nd half AVG .204
Can anyone explain this? I couldn’t find anything online that could explain the reasons for those splits, so it remains a mystery. Spring Training won’t tell me anything further about that as well. Another interesting split, although less surprisingly for a lefty, is Jake Lamb is abysmal against lefties. It will be interesting to see whether he has worked on this during Spring (all be it in very small sample sizes). Jake Lamb has shown last season that he is still improving his game as he increased his plate discipline. His walk rate jumped from 10.8% – 13.7%. In fact, he had the second most walks of any third baseman in the majors. Jake Lamb could become a Top 8 third basemen if he can address his performance against lefties and if he’s on fire it gives the Diamondbacks a chance to compete for that NL Wild Card spot again. Who knows how good he can be if he just performs consistently all season?
Pitcher to watch during Spring: Taijuan Walker RHP
Walker posted his lowest career ERA (3.49) in his first season in Arizona. Not a bad achievement considering what a hitters paradise Chase Field is. Walker also managed to decrease his home run rate, something that should decrease even further this season as the Diamondbacks introduce a humidor at Chase Field. Another potential benefit of the humidor is that Walker could have a better grip and feel for his curveball. His curveball could become a major weapon that elevates Walker to the next level. Everything points to an even better season for the former First Round pick. That’s why I want to keep an eye on him in Spring as I believe a good Spring with an effective curveball will set him up for a career best season.