With their offensive hurt by injuries and their pitching staff among the worst in the league, no team won fewer games than the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. Not Colorado, not Minnesota, no one.
The D’Backs offense should be better if the lineup can stay healthy but, while they made additions to their pitching staff, the rotation looks as bad as it did last season.
Can Arizona overcome the many questions they have in the rotation? Can the D’Backs’ unproven youngsters carry the lineup? Probably not, but let’s take a look at what’s in store in the desert in 2015 anyway.
Batting Average: 18th
Notable Additions: Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Robbie Ray, Blake Beavan, Nick Punto, Gerald Laird
Notable Losses: Didi Gregorius, Miguel Montero, Wade Miley, Zeke Spruill, Eury De La Rosa, Will Harris, Mike Bolsinger
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Jordan Pacheco
After finishing second in MVP voting in 2013, Goldschmidt was limited to 109 games last season but still posted elite-level numbers. His .300 BA, .938 OPS, 19 HR, 69 RBI, 39 2B, and 75 R are all right in line with the MVP-caliber numbers he posted the previous year in a full season. He’s as good as anyone in the league at drawing walks and adds a ton of doubles to his impressive home run totals. He’s been so good it’s easy to forget he’s only been in the league for three seasons and, at 27, is still getting better.
Pacheco was traded to the D’Backs by Colorado last season and, while he’s not very productive at the plate, he gives Arizona a lot of flexibility as he’s able to play catcher, first, third, and second.
2B: Aaron Hill, Cliff Pennington
Hill has been the subject of trade rumors after another down year last season. Though he drove in 60 runs, a solid number for a second baseman, he batted just .244 with 10 HR, 26 2B, and 52 runs. That’s a far cry from the .302 BA, 26 HR, 44 2B, and 93 R we saw from him in 2012. He’s been limited somewhat by injuries but that can’t possibly account for a slide from a .882 OPS in 2012 to a .654 OPS last season. Both at the plate and on the field, Hill’s best days are clearly behind him and the 33-year-old remains a solid middle infielder but far from an elite one.
Pennington has been brutal this spring, going just 1-for-23. He produces next to nothing at the plate but plays very good defense and can play either middle infield position.
3B: Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb
The D’Backs signed Tomas from Cuba to a six-year deal and are likely to have him start the season in the Bigs despite never playing a minor league game. There’s a lot to like about Tomas and some to dislike. For one, he can’t play third. It’s very likely that his defensive woes get him moved to the outfield though it’s pretty crowded out there already.
His bat is what the D’Backs invested in after he showed solid pop and a good ability to hit the gaps for extra-bases while seeing a healthy dose of walks in Cuba. Though the defense has been rough, he’s had a solid spring at the plate, hitting two homers, two doubles, and a triple while driving in eight runs in 56 at-bats. At 24, there’s still a lot of work to be done but there’s a ton of potential in this kid’s bat.
Tomas’ struggles have opened the door for Lamb, a top-80 prospect himself. Lamb has been killing it this spring, going 18-for-54 with two homers, six doubles, and a triple. Lamb is much more solid at third and showed a great ability to hit a ton of extra-base hits in the minors while adding double-digit home runs and a steady stream of walks. Lamb is clearly best suited for the position and deserves the chance to start.
SS: Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed
Owings looked very strong in the field in his 2014 rookie campaign but could use more work on the offensive side. His .261 BA, .706 OPS, 27 extra-base hits, and eight steals are okay but hardly the top-30 prospect potential he flashed in the minors. In the farm system, Owings consistently hit better than .290 with a ton of extra-base hits and as many as 20 steals. He’s always going to strike out a lot and walk little but we’ll need to see those doubles and triples come up this season if the 23-year-old is to reach his potential.
Ahmed has hit six doubles in 50 at-bats this spring and has a very good shot to make the Opening Day roster. He’s a solid fielder but his speed is where he makes his money. He’s not a great hitter but he limits the strikeouts and draws walks and he’s a demon on the bases, stealing as many as 40 bases in 130 games while in Atlanta’s farm system. While Hill is on the downslide, a middle infield featuring Owings and Ahmed may be the longterm future in the desert.
C: Tuffy Gosewich, Oscar Hernandez
Gosewich is a 31-year-old minor league lifer who spent 742 games in the Philly, Toronto, and Arizona farm system before seeing 55 games in the Bigs over the last two seasons. His offensive contributions are non-existent but he plays a solid defensive backstop. He’s basically here because Arizona has no one else.
Hernandez is a Rule 5 pick who is expected to miss most of the first month of the season with a broken bone in his hand. The 21-year-old has some pop, hitting 21 home runs in 69 rookie league games with Tampa, but has been prone to injury and ineffectiveness. He’s never going to be a good hitter for average but double-digit pop is still more enticing than whatever Gosewich might give them.
Mark Trumbo has been on fire this spring, hitting two homers and five doubles while driving in 11 runs in just 44 at-bats. He’s looking to get back to the impressive numbers we saw in LA before he moved to Arizona last season. After hitting 34 home runs and 30 doubles and driving in 100 RBI in 2013, he was limited to 88 games in his first year with Arizona and hit 14 home runs and 15 doubles while driving in 61. In a full season, Trumbo is always good for 25-35 HR and 85+ RBI but he strikes out a ton and is not cut out to play an MLB-level outfield.
A.J. Pollock has been unreal this spring, going 22-for-59 with seven doubles, a homer, 12 RBI, and four steals. After being limited to just 75 games last season, Pollock is ready to break out. A healthy Pollock should bat in the high-.200s with double-digit home runs, a lot of doubles and triples, and 20+ steals. Despite the injuries, he posted a .851 OPS last season and, at 27, with just 243 games under his belt, we haven’t even scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.
David Peralta showed some promise in his first 88 Big League games last season, batting .286 with a .770 OPS, eight homers, nine triples, 12 doubles, and 36 RBI. In the minors, Peralta hit as many as 17 home runs and 30 doubles in a single season while stealing as many as 25 bases. He boasted an unreal .347 career BA and .939 career OPS in the farm and does a great job of limiting strikeouts. Batting .362 with five doubles, seven RBI, 11 runs, and two steals this spring, Peralta is ready to reach the next level in 2015.
Cody Ross has been relegated to the bench thanks to his injuries, struggles, and the influx of young outfielders that the D’Backs have. After impressing with 22 HR, 34 2B, and 81 RBI in 2012 with the BoSox, Ross has struggled with his health and his performance. After batting .278 with eight home runs, 17 doubles, and 38 RBI in 94 games in 2013, Ross was limited to just 83 games last season and batted .252 with just two homers, eight doubles, and 15 RBI. He should still produce off the bench but the D’Backs would be better off letting one of their up-and-coming prospects have his spot to develop. Of course, that would mean eating the $9.5 million he’s due this season, but that’s not that different from spending that much on a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Ender Inciarte showed off his great glove in his first Big League stint last season and wasn’t bad at the plate, hitting 24 extra-base hits while driving in 27 and stealing 19 bases in 418 at-bats. He’s primarily a singles hitter but one who limits strikeouts and draws a good amount of walks. He’s capable of stealing 40+, which he did in back-to-back seasons in the minors. He already has four steals this spring while batting .345.
Josh Collmenter has been very solid for the D’Backs as a starter and reliever, posting a 3.42 career ERA and 1.15 career WHIP in 516 Big League innings. His strikeouts fell big time last year but so did his walks, helping drop his 1.22 WHIP in 2013 to 1.126 last season. He’s done a better job of keeping the ball in the park and has been very reliable. He’s killing it this spring, pitching 13 scoreless innings while allowing just six hits and two walks.
Jeremy Hellickson pitched two very strong seasons with Tampa but has had a rough go the last two years. He posted a rough 5.17 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 2013 and was limited to just 63.2 innings last season, putting up a 4.52 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He’s always been hurt by high home run totals and that shouldn’t get any better in Arizona. He’s already struggling this spring, giving up eight runs, two homers, and 24 baserunners in 12 innings. Don’t look for Hellickson to make a magical resurgence just yet.
Rubby De La Rosa is a former top-100 prospect who finally got a shot with the BoSox last season but was underwhelming as he allowed 13.4 baserunners and 1.1 home runs per nine innings. He just turned 26 and has improved his control issues that plagued him in the minors but has done so at the expense of his strikeout totals, putting up just 6.6 K/9 last year. So far this spring, his control issues have come up again as he’s allowed 11 walks through 14 innings, though his other numbers aren’t bad, allowing six runs, eight hits, and striking out 14. He’s a work in progress but will need to significantly reduce his hit totals and propensity for the longball if he’s going to stick.
Trevor Cahill won a rotation spot this spring despite allowing four runs and 17 baserunners in eight innings so far. He’s coming off the worst season of his career, going 3-12 with a 5.61 ERA and 1.61 WHIP last year. He put up serviceable-but-not-great numbers the previous four seasons but has consistently struggled with his control and susceptibility to getting smacked around. There’s not a lot to get excited about here, except the best-case scenario of an ERA in the high-3’s.
Chase Anderson has also won a rotation spot this spring, though he actually earned his. Through 14.2 innings, Anderson surrendered just three runs while walking four and striking out 10. He was solid as a rookie last year, putting up a 4.01 ERA and 1.37 WHIP while striking out 105 and walking 40 in 114 innings. He gave up too many home runs (16) but showed a much better ability to limit the longball in the minors, allowing 0.7 homers per nine. He’ll need to get his HR/9 rate down to that level in order to be successful but he has all the tools to be a good strikeout pitcher.
Patrick Corbin is expected back in June after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of last season. In his first full season in 2013, Corbin was an All-Star, going 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 178 K to 54 BB. Having him back should be huge for this otherwise underwhelming rotation as the 25-year-old does a great job of limiting free passes and home runs.
Bronson Arroyo is also recovering from Tommy John after being limited to 14 starts last season. He’s a solid high-3’s ERA pitcher who does a great job of limiting walks but has a tendency to be hurt by the longball. He won’t be the savior of this rotation but he’s a more reliable than someone like Cahill.
Addison Reed blew six saves in 38 opportunities last season and, while that’s not horrible, his 1-7 record and 4.25 ERA don’t inspire a lot of optimism going forward. Reed is a high-strikeout arm but is often hurt by the longball and pitching in ‘Zona is certainly not going to help. You’d think the D’Backs would have looked elsewhere after he surrendered 11 home runs in 59 innings last year but there’s enough depth in the pen to turn elsewhere if need be.
Brad Ziegler was phenomenal in his first 2.5 seasons with Arizona but saw his hit and walk totals jump last season and posted a career-worst 3.49 ERA. He’s a very good pitcher and the fact that last season’s effort was his worst speaks to that, but at 35, there’s legitimate concern about Ziegler’s ability to be effective for the first time since 2009.
Oliver Perez has been one of the most effective left-handed relievers in the game since leaving the Mets. In his first stint with Arizona last year, he posted a 2.91 ERA and 1.26 WHIP while striking out 11.7 batters per nine innings. Expect more of the same this season.
Daniel Hudson will join the bullpen after being limited to just 2.2 innings since 2012. He was solid as a starter, doing a good job of limiting home runs and walks. Hopefully that translates to a good transition to the pen.
Randall Delgado is one of the many starters-turned-relievers in this pen but his 4.87 ERA and 1.365 WHIP last season suggests he’s getting worse, not better. The former top-40 prospect has looked good this spring, allowing just three earned runs while striking out 14 and walking just two in 13 innings but he’s also given up two homers.
Evan Marshall showed promise in his rookie season last year, posting a 2.74 ERA through 49.1 innings despite putting up a 1.36 WHIP. He struggled to keep runners off base in the minors too but has a great strikeout arm and does a fantastic job of keeping the ball in the park and working out of jams.
Defense: C+ to B-
Starting Pitching: C-