2017 MLB Preview: NL West- Arizona Diamondbacks
2016 Record: 69-93 (4th Place)
Manager: Torey Lovullo
The Diamondbacks did not have much to show for an eventful 2016 offseason, finishing with an even worse record than the previous season and coming in fourth place in the NL West.
Losing center fielder A.J. Pollock for most of the season certainly didn’t help, who would not return until late-August after fracturing his elbow in April. Pollock established himself as a five-tool player in 2015, hitting .315 with 20 HR and 39 SB while playing a Gold Glove center field. Still 29-years-old, Pollock should put up similar numbers this season hitting at the top of their lineup. Four-time All Star Paul Goldschmidt will hit right ahead of him, who’s numbers fell off a bit last season with little to no protection in that lineup, finishing the year under .300 for the first time since 2012. Goldschmidt would be a regular MVP candidate if he had more protection, which makes it very important for the young players in Arizona’s lineups to continue to make strides at the plate.
Jake Lamb was a pleasant surprise last season, smashing 29 home runs in his second season in the major leagues. The 26-year-old will look to be more patient at the plate this season, who could become one of the more promising young third baseman in baseball if he could bring his average above .275. Chris Owings also made strides last season, raising his batting average to .277 while demonstrating his defensive versatility, splitting the season between shortstop and center field. While he wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the lineup at the start of camp, Owings looks to get most of the looks at shortstop over Nick Ahmed and the newly acquired Ketel Marte. 24-year-old Brandon Drury should lock down second base, coming off an impressive rookie season where he hit .282 with 16 HR while making appearances at five different positions on the diamond.
After losing Wellington Castillo to free agency, newly signed catchers Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta will split time at the position. Mathis has never brought much to the table offensively as a .197 career hitter, while Iannetta has had success in the past but has posted a combined batting average of just under .200 over the last two seasons. Both 33, Iannetta will need to pick it up with his bat if he wants to keep his spot on the roster, with Mathis considered to be a superior defender behind the plate. David Peralta will also look to bounce back this season, who appeared in just 48 games last season after spending most of the season on the DL with wrist and back injuries. Peralta wasn’t great when he played last season, hitting an uncharacteristic .251 after hitting .286 and .312 in his first two seasons with the team. If he can stay healthy for the most part this season, he should be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate with 20 HR potential.
The six-year contract worth nearly $70 million that the D’backs gave to Yasmany Tomas in the 2015 offseason finally began to pay off last season, with the young Cuban slugging a team-high 31 home runs while hitting .272. While his current focus will be to nurse an oblique injury as Opening Day approaches, the 26-year-old will need to make vast improvements to his defense in left field as he continues to adjust to the major leagues.
The Zack Greinke signing highlighted Arizona’s busy 2016 offseason, coming off three dominant seasons with the division-rival Dodgers. Yet the former Cy Young winner struggled with his new team, who posted a 4.37 ERA over 158.2 innings while missing all of July with an oblique injury. While it will be harder for the 33-year-old to produce sub-2.00 ERA seasons in the hitter-friendly Chase Field, Greinke is almost certain to improve this season as he has yet to show any issues with his velocity. Shelby Miller was another major offseason move that didn’t pan out, who went 3-12 with an abysmal 6.15 ERA in 20 starts and eventually found himself in Triple-A. Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the now 26-year-old, who had put up ace-caliber numbers in Atlanta just a season ago that garnered the enormous package it took to acquire him. Even if he doesn’t completely iron out his mechanics, it’s hard to imagine Miller performing any worse than he did last season.
Robbie Ray also found his mechanics out of whack last season, finishing the year with an 8-15 record with a 4.90 ERA over 174.1 innings. The 25-year-old Ray did strike out a ton of batters with his 11.25 K/9 ranking second in all of baseball, and must focus on not letting these strikes hang over the plate to lower his ERA. Tajuan Walker is the only new addition to the rotation, who never quite met the high expectations he had in Seattle as their 2010 first round pick. The 24-year-old Walker will get a fresh start in Arizona, who biggest struggle has been durability in his first two seasons as a full-time starter. Walker will be under a lot less pressure in the middle of their rotation, which could help the young righty finally develop into the top of the rotation pitcher he has the stuff to be.
Patrick Corbin was once thought to be their ace of the future after a dominant 2013 season, but now finds himself at the back of their rotation. He has failed to return to his old-self after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2014, and his struggles would hit an all-time low despite staying healthy last season. He would go 4-12 with a 5.58 ERA in 16 starts but would perform much better after moving to the bullpen, posting a 2.70 ERA as a reliever over 23.1 innings pitched. The D’backs still view Corbin as a starter, but he will have to show signs of his old self to fight off Archie Bradley for a rotation spot. Although he has struggled in limited MLB experience Arizona still has high expectations for the 25-year-old Bradley, who is expected to begin the season in the bullpen.
Fernando Rodney will close games for the club at 40 years of age, who joins the team coming off a season where he saved 25 games for the Padres and Marlins. Most of this success came with the Padres, going a perfect 17/17 in save opportunities while posting a microscopic 0.31 ERA. He would struggle mightily after joining the Marlins, which raises questions about the veteran’s durability. *
Bottom Line: On paper, the Diamondbacks have the talent to be in the Wild Card mix, who will need some of their acquisitions from last season to bounce back if they want to compete this season.
*Stats and Info from Baseball Reference
-Featured Image from Arizona Sports