A few weeks ago, this would have been a much different discussion, but now that the Diamondbacks have created room in their outfield, Adam Eaton has become a much more viable fantasy option for the 2013 season.
Eaton won’t provide you with much in the power categories, but he could be a significant contributor in runs and stolen bases—and in whatever your fifth category is, whether it’s batting average or on-base percentage. If you use OPS (as my league does), he won’t help as much, but he won’t kill you either.
It’s tough to gauge Eaton because of how astronomical his minor league numbers were. The owner of a career. 355 minor league batting average, Eaton took it to a whole new level in Triple-A last season, winning the Pacific Coast League MVP award by hitting .381/.456/.539. It’s safe to say he’s not going to do that in Arizona next season.
But we do know a few things. For instance, even when Eaton doesn’t hit a ton, he still gets on base. He showed this toward the end of last season, when he hit just .259, he still walked 14 times in 22 games and posted a .382 OBP. Getting on base a lot at the top of the Diamondbacks lineup means a lot of opportunities to score runs, which Eaton did frequently in his major league cameo, scoring 19 runs in 22 games.
We know the real world doesn’t abide by simple extrapolation, but it’s fun to do. Based on his brief stint in the majors, Eaton would be on pace to hit 15 homers, steal 15 bases, and score 140 runs over the course of a full season. That’s obviously not going to happen, but if he does play every day, there’s no reason he won’t score 100 runs, which would put him among the league leaders.
The caveat, of course, is playing time. Despite the Justin Upton trade, which should have cemented Eaton as the Diamondbacks everyday center fielder, reports coming out of Arizona are suggesting that Gerardo Parra is going to cut into a lot of the playing time of the other three starters, with Eaton being the most likely candidate to lose time.
Keep an eye on things in spring training. Eaton should be the starter in center with Parra and Ross platooning, but the Diamondbacks are paying Ross way too much money to platoon him. Parra and Kubel are both left-handed hitters, so they can’t platoon, which leaves Eaton’s playing time at risk.
If Eaton is playing every day, he should hit 10-15 home runs and steal 20 bases. He will be on base enough to score a ton of runs, and has a track record of posting high batting averages in the minors. The only thing he doesn’t do is hit for a ton of power, but if he’s in the lineup, he’ll help you just about everywhere else.