NL West Competition: D-backs Additions and Pitching

The Diamondbacks had one of the best offseasons out of any club this last year. They made key acquisitions this year, trades that are finally paying off now, and are set to compete for several years. Much like the Dodgers, they are rebuilding and competing.

Highlights:

  • Who’s new?
  • Pitching

New Diamondbacks

Coming into the 2020 season the most blaring needs for the D-backs was bullpen help, a CF so Ketel could play 2B, and corner outfield help. They got all of that and more.

  • Madison Bumgarner- he’s poised to be the resident ace in the 2020 starting roto. He’s not the pitcher he was, but he’s a competitor who always finds a way and will probably pitch 200 innings for at least the next few years barring injury. He’ll be with them for the next 5 years.
  • Starling Marte- he was arguably the biggest pick up of the offseason next to Bumgarner. He’s had his history of issues including a PED suspension in 2017, but is one of the few 5-tool players in the game. His batting profile is most similar to Altuve (86%), Guerrero Jr. (84%), and very close to LeMahieu (78%). His bat is still there. He was in the 92nd percentile in speed, 72nd in OAA, and 90th in Outfield jump. It’s all still there, the D-backs got him for two years and only traded 2 young prospects outside of the top 100.
  • Junior Guerra- he was another cheap veteran to add to one of the leagues most average bullpens. He was converted to the bullpen last year and thrived. He’s supposed to be a set up option, if not possible closer. He ‘s only here for a year but could be the steal of the year.
  • Kole Calhoun- Here is probably the most interesting pickup the D-backs made. He’s taking the place of Adam Jones who produced a negative WAR so the bar is not high. Calhoun produced 2.4 WAR in 2019. But he’s getting paid $16 million for the next two years as a 32 year old ($8 mil/year). He was the fifth most expensive OF on the market. At best he is an average defender. And he’s a hitter who relies on his power for value, he hit 33 HR last year and still only OPS’d .792. His career OPS+ is 105, so he’s barely an above average bat. Why did the D-backs sign him? Two words. DODGER KILLER! He’s OPSing about 1.000 in his career against current Dodger pitchers. You can assume he’ll be in every game against us.
http://www.espn.com/mlb/player/batvspitch/_/id/31413/teamId/19
  • Hector Rondon- he was a cheap steady bullpen addition. He’s getting older, but he has save and postseason experience. He’s only been on the cubs and Astros so he’s used to pitching with a lead. He’s supposed to be a 6-7 inning arm that Lovullo can trust. He’s another one year contract. Which gives him all the motivation to pitch extremely well this year.

Starting Pitching

Ranking by ERA, Arizona was a middle of the pack starting rotation last year. The only pitcher from 2019 that actually pitched more than a half season for them was Robbie Ray. Every other pitcher is new, or pitched a small sample size. So let’s take a look at the new starting 5 and see if they’ve improved or not.

https://www.rotochamp.com/baseball/TeamPage.aspx?TeamID=ARI

The projected stats above show a rotation that will perform about the same as 2020. But the stats play it pretty safe.

Bumgarner– gave up more homers last year than he ever has before in 2019. The average launch angle off him was 17.4. Well above the 11.2 MLB average. His peripherals besides that actually suggest a small resurgence. He’s adapting and recovering from his injuries in 2017 and 18. If he can keep the ball on the ground it’s very possible he gets his ERA back down into the low 3’s.

Mike Leake- is still only 32 but there’s no reason to believe he’ll do any better than the stats above.

Robbie Ray– was last years ace and only put up 0.8 WAR while going 12-8 with a 4.34 ERA. His 2017 All Star campaign, where he was 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, is starting to look like the outlier though. As his fastball has declined in velocity, his subpar off speed offerings have been pounded. He had a .638 SLG against his sinker. Yikes. He needs to figure out how to adjust his pitch repertoire. But lucky for him he has Madbum as a mentor now. His stats would probably be about what projected. Or maybe a switch to the bullpen could cause a resurgence.

Luke Weaver– progress hasn’t been linear for this top draft pick but it looks like he may be ready to take it to another level. In 64.1 IP he put up a 2.94 ERA, 1.6 WAR, 1.07 WHIP, 3.07 FIP, and a 152 ERA+. Ryu led the NL with an ERA+ of 179 for perspective. If he can maintain his progress he could transition into the ace he was projected to be.

Zac Gallen– he came over via trade with the Marlins last year for Jazz Chisholm who has since fallen off the Top 100 Prospect list. An absolute steal. His 2019 totals in 80 IP were a 2.81 ERA, 2.5 WAR, 1.22 WHIP, 3.61 FIP, and a 156 ERA+. This was his first year in the league. They have him until 2026. He has a variety of pitches with great control. He’s thrived at every minor league level. He could very well turn into a #1 or #2 as well and should pitch better than the stats say.

Overall it’s very likely that the D-backs take a step forward in their starters’ production this year. They have a mix of durability and young guns with high ceilings.

Bullpen

The only people in the bullpen that really matter on any team, is who you put in when you’re winning. So let’s take a look at the most likely pitching candidates if let’s say the D-backs are leading after 5 innings and need someone for the 6th inning on for the win.

Closer

Archie Bradley- is the current closer but doesn’t have a firm hold on the role. He was 18-21 in SVO but mostly has this role still due to a lack of competition (until this year) and a stellar 2017 campaign where he put up a 1.73 ERA. He’s one of the worst closers in the game but he’s still more reliable than most of the bullpen. Even if he gets demoted he’ll still be used in high leverage situations.

Setup Men

Junior Guerra- He blew 8 saves last year in an otherwise successful move to the pen. His ERA of 3.55 would make him one of the best in the d-back bullpen. His average exit velocity was in the Top 6% of the league last year. Probably because batters had to watch out for his gnarly splitter. Like we said before, this guy could’ve been the steal of the offseason.

Andrew Chafin- he’s been nothing but consistent for the past few years. An ERA in the 3’s, a WHIP around 1.3, and a good strikeout rate. He’s also been a workhorse being 3rd in the NL in appearances for back to back years. He’ll be called on to hold leads throughout the year. The one point of worry is the 3 batter minimum and his poor stats against RHB.

Mid-Relief

Hector Rondon- he’s the heat out of the pen. He’s our bet for alternate closer to Bradley. Like we said before his career stats are great and his high leverage experience is extremely valuable.

Yoan Lopez- he has two pitches. A 4-seam at 97MPH, and a slider at 84 MPH with elite movement. He’s 27 and has about 70 IP as an MLB pro. He shouldn’t be putting up as good of stats as he has, but he is. He’s either going to regress like crazy, or his peripherals will catch up to his production stats. Time will tell, but he’ll definitely have opportunity.

Summary

The D-backs improved dramatically from last year, and I’m sure are excited to possibly be in a division without the Dodgers.

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