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“On Bzdek” 2017 Team Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

2017 Team Previews: Arizona Diamondbacks

     This time last year there was a sense of optimism in Arizona. Paul Goldschmidt was anchoring an above average offense that included breakout star A.J. Pollock, and newly acquired Shelby Miller and Zach Greinke headlined the rotation. Of course, Pollock broke his elbow in April and missed almost the entire season. Greinke struggled mightily, posting a 4.37 ERA, and Miller took a step backwards to AAA. The Diamondbacks finished with a 69-93 record, 18 games out of the wild card and 22 games out of first place in the NL West division. Ownership needed to shake things up; here are the notable off-season transactions.

Notable Additions

  • Mike Hazen (executive vice president and general manager)
  • Torey Lovullo (manager)
  • Ron Gardenhire (bench coach)
  • Jeff Mathis (free agent; signed 2-yr deal)
  • Fernando Rodney (free agent; signed 1-yr deal)
  • Ketel Marte (acquired from SEA)
  • Taijuan Walker (acquired from SEA)
  • Jeremy Hazelbaker (claimed off waivers from STL)

Notable Deletions

  • Dave Stewart (fired from general manager position)
  • Chip Hale (fired from manager position)
  • Wellington Castillo (non-tendered, signed with BAL)
  • Jean Segura (traded to SEA)
  • Mitch Haniger (traded to SEA)

The biggest moves occurred in the front office. Dave Stewart was fired and Mike Hazen was brought in to be the new GM. Hazen comes from the Red Sox organization and brings with him Amiel Sawdaye, former Sox Director of Amateur Scouting from 2010 to 2015. The two were part of a Red Sox organization that built a strong farm system responsible for drafting Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi. After the unsuccessful seasons and questionable trades under the Stewart regime, this change bodes well for the future of the Diamondbacks organization.

Projected Lineup & Batting Order

  1. J. Pollock – center field
  2. David Peralta – right field
  3. Paul Goldschmidt – first base
  4. Jake Lamb – third base
  5. Brandon Drury – second base
  6. Yasmany Tomás – left field
  7. Chris Owings – shortstop
  8. Jeff Mathis – catcher

Projected Bench

  • Nick Ahmed – infield
  • Daniel Descalso – infield / outfield
  • Chris Herrmann – catcher
  • Ketel Marte – infield
  • Jeremy Hazelbaker – outfield
  • Socrates Brito – outfield (dislocated finger, will begin season on DL)

The D-backs offense has been above average the past two seasons and it should be above average again in 2017. At the top of the order are Pollock and Peralta, two outfielders coming off injury plagued 2016s. Pollock played only 12 games due to a broken elbow and Peralta played only 43 games due to a wrist injury. Both outfielders should be ready for opening day. Pollock hit 20 homers and stole 39 bases in 2015, while Peralta hit 17 home runs on his way to a .312/.371/.552 triple slash. These two are both prime bounce back candidates. Goldschmidt is set to bat third and play first; he should continue to be one of the game’s top first basemen for 2017 and beyond. Batting clean-up and playing third base is Jake Lamb.  Lamb had himself an impressive first half of 2016, hitting 19 homers and driving in 56 men, however his production plummeted in the second half and he finished the year with 29 homers and 91 RBIs. Lamb, a lefty, hit 25 of his 29 homers off right-handed pitching. He also batted .271 vs RHP, while batting a dismal .164 against lefties. Only 26, Lamb should see improvements in his game as he hits his prime, let’s hope one of those improvements is the ability to hit left-handed pitching.

Rounding out the bottom half of the batting order is Brandon Drury, Yasmany Tomás, Ketel Marte, and Jeff Mathis. Drury had himself a strong rookie campaign in 2016. He saw playing time at every position except catcher and pitcher, but he appears to be the team’s full-time second basemen to start 2017. Drury will look to build upon the 16 homers and .282/.329/.458 triple slash of 2016. Next up is Tomás, whose defense leaves a lot to be desired, but his offensive production is too good to keep him out of the lineup. Tomás hit 31 home runs in 2016, and finished strong as 18 of those came in the second half. At 26 years of age he will be in his prime and should continue to produce at the plate. Batting seventh will be the Diamondbacks’ starting shortstop, a battle between Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, and offseason acquisition Ketel Marte. Owings has the most offensive upside of the three and stole 21 bases last season which is a plus. Ahmed is the best defensively, but he doesn’t offer much with the bat. Marte is a 22-year-old switch hitter acquired by AZ in the Taijuan Walker trade. He has some speed and a decent contact rate, but is also coming off a down year in 2016. If he doesn’t win the starting job, Marte might be best served getting regular at bats in the minors rather than occasional ones in the bigs. However, with Socrates Brito out for a couple of months Marte may find himself on the bench to start 2017. Wrapping up the bottom of the order is the catcher. This is another position battle that has not been won, but it will likely be new addition Jeff Mathis. Mathis is very good defensively, which will be a nice upgrade from last year’s Wellington Castillo. Don’t expect much from Mathis offensively, but his strong defense and pitch framing skills should give the Diamondback pitching a much-needed boost. Speaking of pitching, here is the projected rotation.

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Zach Greinke
  2. Robbie Ray
  3. Taijuan Walker
  4. Shelby Miller
  5. Patrick Corbin / Archie Bradley

Projected Bullpen

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Randall Delgado
  • Jake Barrett (questionable for opening day due to shoulder stiffness)
  • Enrique Burgos
  • Zach Godley
  • Andrew Chafin

The Diamondbacks starting pitching was horrible last season, there’s no other way to put it. They finished dead last in ERA, 29th in walks allowed, and 22nd in home runs allowed. On paper, the rotation has potential. Greinke is a former Cy Young award winner who is one season removed from leading the national league with an insane 0.84 WHIP.  He struggled in his debut season with Arizona and the velocity is down a couple of ticks in spring training, which has many rightfully concerned. Greinke is an excellent pitcher who should be able to improve on his sub-par 2016 even if the velocity remains slightly down.

The next three in the rotation are all names that come with excitement as well as disappointment. The #2 spot in the rotation belongs to Robbie Ray, a lefty with enormous strikeout potential (11.25 K/9) but is marred by walks and getting hit hard. His 2016 ERA was 4.90, which is 5th starter material, but his FIP was 3.76, which suggests he pitched better than his ERA reveals. At age 25, Ray will be looking to take a step forward in 2017 and the elite K rate makes him a player to watch out for. The third spot in the rotation belongs to Taijuan Walker. Arizona acquired Walker from Seattle this winter, paying the steep price of Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger. Walker has a great fastball and splitter combination which he used to strike out 119 batters in 134 innings with the Mariners last season. However, Walker lacks a reliable third pitch to make him a top of the rotation option. The move to AZ won’t help his ERA, but pitching in the NL should boost his K/9. The fourth rotation spot belongs to Shelby Miller. He’s another starter the D-backs paid a high price for and he has not lived up to that price tag at all, pitching himself all the way to AAA last season. Prior to arriving in AZ, Miller posted ERAs of 3.02, 3.74, and 3.06 from 2015 to 2013, respectively. Surely, he can improve upon his 2016 ERA of 6.15 and return to respectability.

The fifth rotation spot is up for grabs between Patrick Corbin and Archie Bradley. Corbin is the likely candidate as he’s had major league success in the past. In 2013 he won 14 games with a 3.41 ERA. He missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery but looked solid in 85 innings in 2015 posting an ERA of 3.60 with an 8.3 K/9 ratio. In 2016, Corbin was hoping to pick up where he left off but wound up struggling. He was demoted to the bullpen and finished the year with a 5.15 ERA. Bradley, the competition, threw a career high 141 innings in 2016 with an impressive 9.08 K/9 ratio. The ERA was ugly at 5.02, but almost a full run above his 4.10 FIP. Whether he makes the rotation or not out of the gate, Bradley should find himself some innings in 2017 and is a nice depth option to go along with the several other starting pitchers the D-backs have in training camp, including Rubby De La Rosa, Jorge De La Rosa, and Braden Shipley.

The Diamondbacks desperately need to improve upon their league-worst pitching of 2016. Up and down, the rotation has a lot of guys who can whiff batters, but strikeouts can only take you so far. This staff is prone to high ERAs which is not helped by the ballpark.  But if a few breaks go their way the D-backs rotation could be decent. The bullpen, on the other hand, offers less optimism.

Fernando Rodney is the team’s closer to start the season. He was a free agent signing on a 1 year deal. Rodney notched at least 25 saves in 4 of the last 5 years; experience is not something you can knock him for. His 10.19 K/9 isn’t bad either, but his 1.39 WHIP and a 3.44 ERA are far from elite. Behind Rodney the ERAs get even uglier. Jake Barret had the next best ERA in 2016 of 3.49, however he is questionable for opening day with shoulder stiffness. Randall Delgado posted a 4.44 ERA last season, and he is followed by Andrew Chafin, Enrique Burgos, and Zach Godley, who’s 2016 ERAs were 6.75, 5.66, and 6.39, respectively. This bullpen is a mess, and in today’s baseball a strong bullpen is more important than ever. If everything else goes right for the D-backs in 2017 the bullpen will keep them from being true contenders.

Prospect Watch

     The Diamondbacks emptied a lot of their farm system in the Shelby Miller and Taijuan Walker trades, however they do have one prospect in Baseball America’s top 100, and that is Frank Anthony Banda. Banda is a 22-year-old southpaw who features a fastball, curve, and changeup. The curveball is his best pitch, with the fastball and changeup projecting to be average. In 150 innings split between AA and AAA in 2016 Banda struck out 152 batters while posting a 2.88 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Banda’s stuff isn’t amazing, but he has potential to be a back-end of the rotation starter and he could see action as soon as 2017.

Fantasy Breakdown and Final Thoughts

From a fantasy perspective, the D-backs have much to offer offensively. Goldschmidt is a bona fide top talent, as is Pollock. Given Pollock’s injury history he will come at a discount on draft day. Much of Pollock’s fantasy value is derived from his ability to steal 35+ bags. The injury he sustained was to his elbow, so there is no reason to believe he won’t be able to contribute again on the base paths. Tomás and Lamb are also quality bats and worth drafting in most fantasy leagues. As noted above, Lamb struggles against left-handed pitching. If you have the team build to platoon Lamb with another third base option, that would be optimal until Lamb proves he can handle lefties a little better. The sleeper of the D-backs line up is Brandon Drury. He quietly had a successful rookie campaign and is going undrafted in many leagues. A multi-position eligible player who could hit 20 homers and bat above .280 is worth a late round flyer.

On the pitching side, I will be avoiding Zach Greinke for sure. While he should improve on last year’s debacle, I would rather take my chances with Tanaka, Hamels, Porcello, or Quintana, who are all being drafted around pick 90. Robbie Ray is worth a gamble at around pick 215 though, as is Taijuan Walker at pick 230. At least you can hang your hat on strong K rates with these two. Shelby Miller is basically going undrafted. He could be worth owning at some point in 2017, but a wait and see approach seems best, same goes for Patrick Corbin. I wouldn’t recommend anyone in the Diamondbacks bullpen except Rodney, and that is only if you are desperately chasing saves.

Overall, the Diamondbacks should be able to improve in 2017. If their bats stay healthy the offense could push the top 10 offenses in the league. Almost everyone in the rotation is coming off a down year and are bounce back candidates, but realistically there are too many question marks in the rotation and the bullpen will cost this team some games. The Diamondbacks will take a step forward but will not be good enough to contend for the wild card.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #78 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both West divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Kevin Bzdek and Kevin O’Hara. Kevin Bzdek is one of our newest additions to our baseball writing staff in 2017. His articles publish every Friday morning. Kevin O’Hara is a big dynasty baseball fan and a moderator for the fantasy baseball community on reddit.com.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 19th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #79 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss player updates, players being overdrafted, and overall fantasy updates.

Our guest this week is Jon Merkel. Jon is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com in both baseball and football. His articles publish every Wednesday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I am a fantasy baseball enthusiast. I joined my first league in 2004 and haven’t stopped playing. I am also an auditor and CPA at a midsize public accounting firm where I analyze information every day. Combined, my passion for baseball and my analytical background create a unique perspective to analyzing fantasy baseball.

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