2016 Recap: 69-93, 4th in the NL West. After finishing just below .500 in 2015 (79-83) the Diamondbacks felt as if they were just a few front line starting pitchers away from making some noise in the NL West. They started things off last December by surprising everyone and signing former Royals and Dodgers All-Star Zack Greinke to a huge 6 year, $206 million dollar contract. The ink was barely dry on the Greinke deal when then GM Dave Stewart pulled the trigger on another deal sending the previous year’s number one overall pick Dansby Swanson (along with starting center fielder Ender Inciarte and prospect Aaron Blair) to the Braves for starter Shelby Miller. A deal that was questioned by many at the time turned out to be an ever bigger disaster than anticipated as Miller was beyond terrible in 2016. The right hander won just 3 games last season, finished with an ERA over 6.00 and was even demoted briefly. Greinke was solid, but not anywhere close to the ace Arizona hoped they were getting. The Diamondbacks pitching staff as a whole was pathetic as they finished with the worst team ERA (5.09) in the NL and their preseason playoff dreams were quickly crushed. After going all in on Greinke and Miller, Dave Stewart was let go at the end of 2016 and new general manager Mike Hazen was left to pick up the pieces.
Significant Additions: RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Fernando Rodney, INF Ketel Marte, C Chris Iannetta, OF Jeremy Hazelbaker, RHP Kevin Jepsen, RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, Dave Stewart is no longer the GM
Significant Subtractions: 2B/SS Jean Segura, C Welington Castillo, OF Peter O’Brien, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, OF Mitch Haniger, RHP Daniel Hudson
Projected Lineup and Breakdown:
- CF AJ Pollock
- 3B Jake Lamb
- 1B Paul Goldschmidt
- RF David Peralta
- LF Yasmany Tomas
- 2B Brandon Drury
- SS Chris Owings
- C Chris Iannetta
The Diamondbacks were a solid lineup across the board last year finishing in the top five in the NL in runs scored, team batting average and team OPS. Arizona was able to accomplish all this despite getting only 12 games out of center fielder AJ Pollock. The Diamondbacks also benefited from career seasons by Jean Segura and Welington Castillo both of whom were let go this offseason. If Pollock can stay healthy this season and young third baseman Jake Lamb can continue to develop, the Diamondbacks should be able to produce a similar offensive output again and make up for the loses of Segura and Castillo in 2017.
Projected Rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:
- RHP Zack Greinke
- RHP Taijuan Walker
- LHP Robbie Ray
- RHP Shelby Miller
- LHP Patrick Corbin
- RHP Fernando Rodney – Closer
- RHP Jake Barrett
- LHP Andrew Chafin
- RHP Randall Delgado
- RHP Kevin Jepsen
As bad as the D’Backs pitching staff was in 2016, there is some optimism for 2017. Zack Greinke admitted that he needed to make a few adjustments to succeed in the launching pad that is Chase Field and after a terrible April (5.50 ERA), those adjustments came to life (3.82 ERA in May, 1.63 ERA in June) before a second half injury derailed Greinke’s season. I expect those adjustments to carry over into 2017 for the former All-Star. Lefty Robbie Ray showed flashes last season posting an elite 11.25 strikeouts per 9 innings, which was a necessity for Ray to stay on the mound considering his home run to flyball rate was on obscene 15.5%, a number that has nowhere to go but down. Look for Ray to make a nice jump up from his 4.90 ERA this season. There is a chance Shelby Miller is just broken, but even with last season’s disaster Miller still has a career 3.66 ERA. If he can get anywhere close to that number this season it will go a long way to helping out his team. Newly acquired starter Taijuan Walker never quite lived up to the hype in Seattle posting a modest 4.18 ERA in 62 career starts, but there is still hope for the 24 year old righty and was definitely worth the gamble after Arizona smartly cashed in on Jean Segura’s career year. All the optimism I have for this Arizona pitching staff was used up on the starting rotation as this bullpen has the potential to be one of the worst in the league. “Fernando Rodney – Closer” should tell you all you need to know about this group.
Stud: 1B Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy will be one of the first hitters off the board in your drafts and if you are fortunate enough to be the one who selects the sweet swinging right hander you will not be disappointed. Goldschmidt is a career .300 hitter with 57 home runs and 53 stolen bases total over the last two seasons and is still on the good side of 30. There just aren’t many players like Goldschmidt at any position, let alone first base who have to potential to go 20/20 and be a plus asset for your batting average.
Sleeper: 3B Jake Lamb. Lamb had a semi breakout in 2016 finishing with 29 homers and 91 RBI. The young lefty also chipped in 6 steals and while his .249 average didn’t help you much it also didn’t hurt you like a few other starting corner infielders did last season. Lamb is currently going outside the top 100 players at pick 146 despite finishing as a top 100 player in standard leagues in 2016 and is currently the 16th third baseman off the board in NFBC drafts. I’m grabbing Lamb as my corner or utility wherever I can at that price knowing he has already built a solid floor with his power and at age 26 there is still some room for growth here as he could easily be a top 12 third baseman at seasons end.
Bust: OF AJ Pollock. As it is in any fantasy sport, the first few picks of your draft are key. Not only do you need big time production you also need stability to help build the base of your team. If you agree at all with that theory, you cannot take AJ Pollock at his current draft price. The Diamondbacks center fielder is currently going as the 7th outfielder off the board and the 35th player overall. That is just insane. Pollock’s talent is obvious, but the poor guy just cannot stay healthy. A third round pick on a guy who has been healthy just one season out of four in his career? No thanks. Going directly behind Pollock in the outfield are guys who are much more stable like Nelson Cruz and if you want to take a chance on an injury prone outfielder that high you should look at Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton who if he can put it all together will likely put up first round numbers, something even when healthy Pollock might not be able to do. As a baseball fan, I hope Pollock can stay healthy, but using a third round pick in my fantasy draft to acquire him is a hard pass.
2017 Prediction: It won’t be an easy season for Diamondbacks fans. While they have a fun team to watch, they just aren’t up to the level of the Giants and Dodgers. Their bullpen will also likely be a nightmare again this season which really limits their upside. 72-90, 4th in the NL West.
Check out our other 2017 team previews here.
Photo Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs
Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 2/20
Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC