Arizona Diamondbacks 2020 Season Preview 2.0

        Unless you are living under a rock, you know that sports have been gone for over three months now. That will soon end, as you probably know. In about a month, MLB will have their Opening Day. In late February, I started my season previews for each and every MLB team leading up to the original start of the year at the tail end of March. Due to a certain pandemic, I never finished them. For at least once a day until Opening Day, I will be re-doing my team previews. For the teams from Arizona to Miami, the preview will be similar but still different from the original. After the Marlins, I will finish everyone else\’s squad. Starting off once again, just one day off from exactly 4 months after the original post, will be the Arizona Diamondbacks.

           Who would have thought that the Diamondbacks would find a taker for Zack Greinke. The team was able to trade the expensive starter to Houston for four good prospects. But when that trade happened, no one expected it to lead to Madison Bumgarner. The team went out and signed the former Giants star to a five year, $85 million deal. The team finished just four games back of the second wild card spot, and now they have the deepest rotation they\’ve had in a while. They might be your 2020 surprise team, especially if they can start where they left off. They finished the season with a 21-11 record in their last 32 games, and they would have forced a game 163 if instead of getting swept by the Mets from September 9-to-the-12th, they won all four games vs a team that finished with one more win than them.

           Offseason additions: LHP Madison Bumgarner, OF Starling Marte, OF Kole Calhoun, C Stephen Vogt, RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Junior Guerra, C John Hicks, OF Jon Jay, OF Trayce Thompson, RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Matt Grace

          Offseason subtractions: OF Adam Jones, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Yoshi Hirano, OF Jarrod Dyson, C Alex Avila, LHP TJ McFarland

The addition of Bumgarner brings the Diamondbacks a replacement ace for Greinke. However, Bumgarner might not fill the role. While he was healthy for the first time since 2016, Bumgarner had a career worst 3.90 ERA and allowed his most hits since 2014. However, his K rate was up, and his walk rate was down. A three time World Series Champion and two time Silver Slugger winner as a pitcher, Bumgarner should still fit in fine. He is entering his 11th season, but he\’s only 30. Plus, all those years were spent with the Giants, so he knows the opponents on the rival Padres, Rockies and Dodgers, plus his own ex-teammates. He will not like the universal DH rule. The Diamondbacks decided to hold onto Robbie Ray while trading Greinke. A free agent at the end of the year, Ray\’s ERA has gotten worse in the two seasons since his breakout 2017. However, he was finally healthy, starting a career high 33 starts and tying his career high in innings with 174.1. He also had a 12.1 K/9, really good for a starter. If the team starts the season slow, then Ray could be the first one to be traded, especially if the team isn\’t so confident, with the trade deadline being about 35 games in. In his rookie season as a 30 year old, Merrill Kelly led the team in innings with 183.1. However, he had a weak 4.42 ERA and led the league in losses with 14. His 101 ERA+ indicates that he is a league average pitcher. In his rookie season, Zac Gallen had an impressive 2.72 ERA in seven games with the Marlins, before being traded to Arizona at the trade deadline. Gallen continued his good play, with a 2.89 ERA in eight starts. The team went out and got Mike Leake from Seattle to take Greinke\’s spot in the rotation. Leake does not strike out guys and allows a lot of hits. He had a 102 ERA+ last season and has a career 99 ERA+, showing that he, like Kelly, is very average. A 2015 2nd rounder, Alex Young impressed, with a 3.56 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) with a 125 ERA+. Luke Weaver has dealt with injuries in the past, and missed most of 2019 with right forearm tightness. In 12 starts, he had a 2.94 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.

Archie Bradley held the closer role for the second half of the season after Greg Holland struggled and was eventually DFA\’d. Bradley finished the season with 18 saves and 87 strikeouts in 71.2 innings, and a 3.52 ERA. Yoan Lopez is not a strikeout pitcher, with 42 Ks in 60.2 innings in 2019. But, he had a 3.41 ERA and allowed 7.7 hits per nine in his first full MLB season. It will be interesting to see how the three batter minimum rule affects lefty Andrew Chafin. Chafin appeared in 77 games in 2019, but pitched just 52.2 innings, striking out 68 batters. The team signed former Cubs closer Hector Rondon to a one year deal. Normally a big strikeout guy, Rondon punched out just 48 batters in 60.2 innings with a 3.71 ERA for Houston in 2019. Former starter Junior Guerra transferred to the bullpen last year, and struck out 77 batters with a 3.55 ERA in 83.2 innings. Kevin Ginkel is a nice dark horse bullpen candidate. Debuting at age 25, Ginkel had a 1.48 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 24.1 innings, plus an inflated 304 ERA+. MLB Pipeline ranks Ginkel as Arizona\’s 27th best prospect. In his rookie season, Taylor Clarke pitched in 23 games (15 starts), and finished with a terrible 5.31 ERA. If he makes the team it will be in the bullpen. The same can be said for Jon Duplantier. A third round pick in 2016, Duplantier struck out 34 batters in 36.2 innings with a 4.42 ERA. Sinkerballer Stefan Crichton played in the MLB for the first time since 2017, and pitched in 28 games, with a 3.56 ERA and 33 strikeouts.

Carson Kelly, who came over from St. Louis with Weaver for star Paul Goldschmidt, broke out with an .825 OPS and 18 home runs in 365 Plate Appearances. In a league where catchers just don\’t tend to hit for power, Kelly is a luxury for the D-Backs. Two time all-star Stephen Vogt was hurt for all of 2018, but returned with the Giants in 2019, hitting 10 home runs with an .804 OPS. He will be a very good backup catcher if healthy. The Diamondbacks used four catchers last year, but three of them (Alex Avila, John Ryan Murphy and Caleb Joseph) are gone. The third catcher, if needed, would be former Tiger John Hicks, who hit a career high 13 home runs last year and is with the team as a non-roster invitee.

The Diamondbacks found their replacement for Paul Goldschmidt, the former face of the franchise, in an odd way. Christian Walker, a then 28 year old rookie who debuted back in 2014 but barely played, hit 29 home runs with a .259 batting average and an .825 OPS. It was a welcome surprise for Arizona. Ketel Marte moved to center field last year, and had an MVP-caliber breakout season. Marte hit 32 home runs, stole 10 bases, hit .329 with a .981 OPS and a 149 OPS+. He finished 4th in NL MVP voting. He will move back to second base with the acquisition of Starling Marte (no relation). Nick Ahmed signed an extension in the offseason. Always a great defender, Ahmed had career highs in home runs (19), batting average (.254) and OPS (.753) among other categories. He also has won back-to-back Gold Gloves at shortstop. Another breakout infielder was Eduardo Escobar. With a move to third base for good, Escobar hit 35 home runs with 118 RBIs and an .831 OPS. He also lead the league with 10 triples. Jake Lamb hit 59 home runs from 2016-2017, but has been awful since with a 12 home runs in the combined two seasons. Lamb had a .193 batting average in 2019. He will still be the backup corner infielder. Ildemaro Vargas is the utility infielder. In his first full season he hit six home runs with a .269 batting average while playing third base, shortstop, second base and both corner outfield positions. Kevin Cron will compete for a roster spot. Cron hit six home runs with a .790 OPS in his first taste of MLB experience last year. A 27 year old first baseman, Cron has a .319 average with 60 home runs and a 1.057 OPS in his AAA career.

The D-Backs\’ big trade this offseason was getting Starling Marte from the Pirates. Marte is a power and speed threat in center field. He hit 23 home runs and stole 25 bases with a .295 batting average and an .845 OPS. All they had to give up for him was 2019 33rd round pick Brennan Malone and 19-year-old Dominican shortstop Liover Peguero, plus some international signing pool bonus money. Arizona also brought in Kole Calhoun on a two year contract. His 33 home runs and .792 OPS for the Angels last year were career highs. David Peralta rebounded to a breakout season poorly, with just 12 home runs. However, he still had an .804 OPS. He played in just 99 games last season. The D-Backs did not bring back Jarrod Dyson, who stole 30 bases for the fifth time last year. However, their fourth outfielder is arguably better. Tim Locastro returns after stealing 17 bases without being caught once in his rookie season. He can play all four outfield positions. Baseball savant has Locastro and Dyson as similar hitters. Locastro had an average sprint speed of 30.8 ft/second, 2.4 ft better than Dyson. Josh Rojas, acquired in the Greinke deal, has mostly played left field, but he can also play right field, third base and second base. Making his debut just after the trade, Rojas\’ numbers weren\’t good. He hit two home runs in 41 games, and had a matching OBP and slugging percentage at .312.

          Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Starling Marte (right handed hitter)
2B Ketel Marte (S)
3B Eduardo Escobar (S)
1B Christian Walker (R)
LF David Peralta (L)
C Carson Kelly (R)
RF Kole Calhoun (L)
SS Nick Ahmed (R)
DH Jake Lamb (L)

          Projected Rotation
Madison Bumgarner (L)
Robbie Ray (L)
Luke Weaver (R)
Zac Gallen (R)
Mike Leake (R)

          Projected Bullpen
Archie Bradley (R), closer
Yoan Lopez (R)
Andrew Chafin (L)
Hector Rondon (R)
Junior Guerra (R)
Kevin Ginkel (R)
Alex Young (L)
Merrill Kelly (R)
Stefan Crichton (R)
Jon Duplantier (R)

          Projected Bench
C Stephen Vogt (L)
OF Tim Locastro (R)
IF Ildemaro Vargas (S)
LF Josh Rojas (L)
1B Kevin Cron (R)
C/1B John Hicks (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP simulator stats (at time of writing):
40-41, 3rd in NL West
Most home runs: Eduardo Escobar (10)
Highest batting average*: Ketel Marte (.318)
Highest OPS*: Ketel Marte (.872)
Best ERA, starters**: Madison Bumgarner (3.75)
Best ERA, relievers***: Andrew Chafin (2.08)
Most innings pitched: Madison Bumgarner (108)
Most Strikeouts: Robbie Ray (119)
Best K/9***: Archie Bradley (13.9)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 30-30
2018: 32-28
2017: 35-25
2016: 25-35
2015: 28-32

The Diamondbacks have a good roster. It is not better than the Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, Brewers and Mets, and depending on health, probably not the Phillies and Reds. In a 60 game season, anyone can get hot. And while I do not think that they have a chance at the NL West title, they could easily squeeze into a wild card spot. However, I am not predicted that outcome, and think that they will once again finish second in the division, but outside the postseason.

*Qualifiers only. This leaves out Christian Walker, who has only played in 38 games in the sim, but leads the team in batting average and OPS.
**You must have 12 starts to qualify.
***You must have pitched in 20 games to qualify. All qualifications were made up by me.

Published by carterhud SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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