It seems so long ago now, but Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton was hyped as a pretty nice sleeper headed into the season. Eaton collected 198 hits and 44 steals to go with a .456 OBP between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, then made a solid impression with a .382 OBP in just over 100 plate appearances for the big club. Though he didn’t add a lot of pop, that kind of potential for on-base skills, steals, and enough speed to stretch singles into doubles set him up to be a nice under-the-radar choice. With Justin Upton & Chris Young traded, Eaton would man center while Kubel & Cody Ross would handle the corners, and Gerardo Parra would spot all over.
But that situation never really came to fruition, since Eaton injured his left elbow in the spring. He didn’t get into minor league games until May, suffered a setback, and finally returned to the Diamondbacks in July. Now Kubel has been DFA’d, Ross is out for the season, and Eaton finds himself playing left field as much as center, with Tony Campana & A.J. Pollock filling in up the middle.
He’s also hitting .306/.372/.459 in August, and it’s time to see if he can be the asset that everyone hoped he’d might be entering the season.
When Eaton came off the disabled list, he struggled at first, hitting only .192/.288/.250 in July. While looking at either month individually is indeed a small sample size, the August line looks a lot closer to what we’d expect from him, and a slow start wasn’t that surprising after how much time he missed to start the year. (In addition to the elbow trouble, he’d been dealing with a severe case of hives that made it difficult for him to maintain his weight all year, until early August.)
Now that he’s healthy and more productive, what’s interesting is what his presence has done to the batting order. After a year of having Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hill, & Martin Prado variously hitting second at times, Eaton has hit there in every one of his seven starts over the last week. What that does is put him directly in front of one of the most dangerous sluggers in the league in Paul Goldschmidt (as well as Hill, who has lately been hitting fourth or fifth), and by simply getting on base, Eaton is now in position to score a ton of runs. So far, that’s how it’s played out, with Eaton scoring nine times in the last week.
The downside is that manager Kirk Gibson may not be so apt to allow Eaton to steal, because the risk of running yourself out of an inning while Goldschmidt is up is real. While he does have two steals in the last week, they’re the only two he’s had all season, and he’s still only got four in his short big league career of 60 games.
Eaton is owned in about 23% of ESPN leagues and roughly a third of Yahoo leagues, so there’s some chance he’s still freely available. If he is, he’s worth the pickup, either to help down the stretch — we are at the point in the season where hot streaks can be ridden even if career stats don’t entirely back them up — or to look towards keepers, since he isn’t even 25 until August. If he’s not going to steal bases, his ceiling is well short of a star. But if he’s getting on base and scoring runs, he can help your team. At this late date, that’s all you can ask for as the playoffs loom.