By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
2016 season (Majors): 134 G, 461 AB, .282 BA, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB, .786 OPS
Brandon Drury was a bit of a jack of all trades for the 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks. A top prospect entering the year after a few strong seasons in the Minors, Drury managed to stay with Arizona for much of the season while playing every position on the diamond except for shortstop and catcher.
While Drury was expected to have a role entering this season, there was some uncertainty regarding what it would be. A third baseman for much of his Minor League career, Drury doesn’t particularly excel at any position but has the versatility to play everywhere. With Arizona wanting to keep Drury’s bat in the lineup, the club looked at its hole at second base and decided to give Drury a chance to plug it.
Drury’s offense has never been a problem, and it once again wasn’t this spring. He posted a .339/.359/.565 line with 10 extra-base hits and six RBIs in 21 games to lock down the starting job. Not only did he hit well, but manager Torey Lovullo went out of his way to praise his improvements defensively at second base. So with the starting gig locked up, what is Drury capable of in his sophomore campaign at a new position?
Originally a 13th-round pick by the Atlanta Braves in ‘10, Drury came to Arizona in the trade for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson in ‘13. That trade was ultimately a flop for Atlanta, and Martin Prado and pitching prospect Randall Delgado (who has fallen into a role as a middle reliever) were initially the headliners for the Diamondbacks in the trade. Four years later, it’s the 24-year-old Drury who has become the centerpiece.
Drury tore up two levels of Class A in his first two seasons with Arizona before advancing three levels in ‘15, even managing to play 20 games for the Diamondbacks. Entering last year he cracked the Baseball America Top 100, forced his way onto the big league roster with a great camp (.389/.423/.722, four homers, 13 RBIs) and put together a solid year.
What we saw from Drury last year was basically along the lines of what he did in the Minors. He hits for average and plus-power as a middle infielder while striking out a good amount. Drury’s 16 homers were ninth among rookies last year and would have put him in the top 15 among second basemen. His .176 ISO, which is considered above average, proves his power is legitimate. The reality of a 20-homer season probably isn’t too far off, though it may not happen right away in ‘17.
ZiPS projections have him hitting just 13 homers in 145 games with a .137 ISO and .399 slugging percentage. They also project a drop in average to .262, likely due to his high strikeout rate. If Drury can drop his K% at least down to around 15% where it was in the Minors while keeping his contact rate up, he should be able to hit 15-plus homers again and continue to put up strong peripherals.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo