Myworld is on our way home with a stop in Savannah, Georgia to wait out the East Coast Blizzard. For the NL West we got the top two teams correct with the Dodgers winning the division and the Giants finishing in second. We had the Rockies at the bottom but they surprised and finished in third, a position we thought the Diamondbacks would have occupied. That did not pan out with the collapse of their starting pitching.
Overview - Dave Stewart thought he had all the answers. He traded away a fairly stout farm system to acquire veterans with what he thought was going to be a playoff run. He also traded a promising prospect to rid his team of salary obligations. The big loser of all the trades was giving away Dansby Swanson, the top pick in the 2015 draft, Ender Inciarte, a starting centerfielder and Aaron Blair for Shelby Miller, who finished the season 3-12 with an ERA of 6.15. He also signed Zack Greinke to a six year $206 million contract. That did not work out so well but Zack was able to put up a winning record (13-7) after a slow start to the season, putting his ERA at a troubling 4.37. He still has five years on the contract to make amends for the poor season. Despite being a pitcher in his career as a major leaguer and claiming to know a major league pitcher when he sees one, the Diamondbacks were last of the 30 teams in ERA (5.09). The Diamondbacks fired Stewart and now are going into a rebuilding mode with a paucity of prospects in their system.
Strengths - The starting pitching could still be good if Zack Greinke bounces back and Shelby Miller finds his 2015 form. Taijuan Walker was acquired from the Mariners to squeeze into the rotation. He was once a top prospect for the Mariners but he also had a rough year. Robby Ray can pick up a lot of strikeouts (218) but he also gives up a lot of hits and a 4.90 ERA is only good for the back end of the rotation. If those four pitchers have bounce back seasons Arizona can surprise. They also have one of the better offensive players in the game in Paul Goldschmidt at first base. Last year was a bit of an off year for him with only 24 homeruns and a .297 average. He had gone three years in a row slugging over .500 or better but last year he fell short.
Weaknesses - Myworld would not be confident having Fernando Rodney as a closer. He bombed in that role as a Marlin and at 40 years old he is way past his prime. Not a lot of proven alternatives should Rodney fail, though they could convert Archie Bradley to a closer if he continues to struggle as a starting pitcher. They traded for Ketel Marte to compete at the shortstop position with two other players, Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings, who also struggle to put together consistent offensive numbers. The one with the best bat wins. Behind the plate they are empty on offense with Jeff Mathis behind the plate, though he is a good defensive catcher. Chris Ianetta may be able to provide better offense but not enough to make this position a strength. Brandon Drury could provide a power bat at second but sacrificing a little defense in return. If he does not hit his below average defense would force the Diamondbacks to turn to Chris Owings. Yasmany Tomas hit 30 homeruns last year but his best position could be DH. He is another one that needs to hit to justify throwing him into the outfield mix.
Non-Roster Invitees - With their weakness at catcher Josh Thole could win a backup role with a good spring. Teams are looking for lefthanded pitching and if Brian Matusz has anything left in his arm he could be used as a lefthanded set up man. In 2015 lefties hit only .188 against him. There really is not a fourth outfielder on their roster, which means Gregor Blanco or Reymond Fuentes have a good opportunity of winning that role with a good spring. My money would be on Blanco.
Breakout Prospects - If not for the Miller trade Dansby Swanson would be a nice name to throw out there. Anthony Banda is perhaps their top prospect now. The lefthander started 13 games in AAA and the Diamondbacks lack a clear fifth starter. A good spring could earn him a rotation spot. Socrates Brito was injured much of the year last year keeping him on this prospect list. He will miss a good portion of the start of the season, but the centerfield job was his when he was healthy. Ildemaro Vargas could be asked to fill a utility role if Chris Owings wins a starting job. Vargas was an Independent League sign in 2015 who hit .354 in 200 plus at bats in AAA last year.
Prospects to Watch - Dawel Lugo and Domingo Leyba are two Dominican prospects who are also the Diamondbacks best position prospects. Both were acquired via trades, Lugo from the Blue Jays and Leyba from the Tigers. Lugo will have to show he can hit for some power with his move to third base from shortstop. Last year he hit 17 homeruns. Leyba may not have the arm for shortstop so a move to second may be in his future. Anfernee Grier was the Diamondbacks first round 2016 pick. A weak arm, but above average to average in other tools could result in a solid centerfielder. That is about all myworld can get excited about.
Expected Finish - If two of the pitchers have comeback seasons the Diamondbacks can rise to third place in this division. Miller is struggling in spring training and there are not a lot of choices on the depth chart should he fail. The poor defense at a couple positions will also hurt the starting pitchers. Extra base runners because of poor range can raise those ERAs and leave struggling pitchers demoralized. Myworld expects them to finish at the bottom of the division.