May 28, 2020

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Arizona Diamondbacks 2020 Preview

Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Photos of 2019: #10 Ketel Marte GRAND SLAM!!!! Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

By: Nate McMullen

2019 Recap: 85-77, 2nd in NL West

Team MVP: Ketel Marte

Team Cy Young: Zack Greinke

Offseason Grade: A-

Prepare yourself, I’m about to drop the worst of all sports clichés: this is our year. No, really. Mike Hazen and the Arizona Diamondbacks objectively improved their roster this offseason and have a real shot at contention in 2020. If you don’t believe me, just look at…

…THE ROTATION: It’s no secret that pitching wins ballgames. The Nationals proved that in last year’s World Series. That’s not to say the Diamondbacks have two Cy Young-type guys headlining the roster, because they don’t. However, they do have a strong, deep rotation that should give them a chance to win every night. The addition of Madison Bumgarner provides the team a marquee starter. Robbie Ray is coming off a 2019 performance nowhere near as effective as his outstanding 2017 campaign, but his hard fastball/power slider combo should produce lots of solid outings. The rest of the rotation is extremely promising, with young guys Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen (both entering their second season in Arizona, both extremely effective in their brief time here) ready to further establish themselves. Mike Leake worries me, but he’s capable of holding down a spot in the rotation. He doesn’t strike many guys out, but that’s okay, because those balls in play will fall victim to…

…THE DEFENSE: Defense wins championships, and boy, do the Dbacks have a great one. Nick Ahmed’s glove, a veritable black hole, is on a quest to earn its second consecutive Gold designation. His pairing with Ketel Marte at second is a double-play machine. With Gold Glove runner-up Christian Walker and Eduardo Escobar holding down the corners, Arizona’s infield should be one of the best in the league. The outfield made considerable strides this offseason, adding former Gold Glovers Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun to last year’s right field winner, David Peralta. Oh, and Mike Leake took home gold last year in the American League. It’s an embarrassment of riches. The Dbacks will be stingy on this side of the ball, but they still need production from…

…THE LINEUP: Last year’s lineup was frustratingly inconsistent, pairing periods of prolificity with stretches of childlike helplessness. Ketel Marte was the shining star, but few others truly stood out. Catcher Carson Kelly put together a passable offensive season for a backstop, Ahmed continued to improve, Escobar was solid, and Peralta remained effective while he was healthy. I’m not confident that’s enough, though. I don’t think the Dbacks have improved enough offensively—the addition of Starling Marte should provide a boost at the top, hopefully giving his counterpart Ketel more opportunities with runners on base, but Calhoun’s low-average tendencies don’t have me convinced of his offensive value. Maybe new hitting coach Darnell Coles can make a splash in his first season in Arizona. A potent lineup is undoubtedly key to a playoff run, but few teams remain relevant relevant unless they can rely on…

…THE BULLPEN: A bullpen is a bit like a spouse: a good one makes you feel happy, safe, and secure; a bad one takes your heart, your soul, half your money, and the kids. Jokes aside, bullpens can make or break a contender. Arizona’s additions of Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon bolster a group that struggled at times last season. Kevin Ginkel made a fantastic impression in his rookie season last year and could play a huge role in the late innings, while Andrew Chafin will continue to hold down the fort against lefties. Despite all the moving pieces, the key to a successful Dbacks bullpen will be Archie Bradley’s performance as the closer. We know how effective Bradley is when he’s hot, but we’ve also seen how detrimental a bad stretch of his can be. If he locks down the back end of games, this team can do some serious damage.

All things considered, the Arizona Diamondbacks are legit contenders in 2020. What was seemingly a lost season last year turned into one with legit, albeit tenuous, playoff hopes. The farm teams are loaded with talent, particularly in catcher Daulton Varsho and first baseman Seth Beer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Dodgers still run the West and they aren’t going anywhere. Despite Arizona’s clear improvements, the best manager Torey Lovullo and his crew can hope for is a Wild Card appearance, and I think they’ll get there. The Dbacks have another year of experience under their belts, a fantastic defense, several hot new additions, the impeccable Mike Hazen at the top, and no excuses. I’d guess those factors combine for another three or four wins. Would 89 wins be enough for a Wild Card berth? Milwaukee made it with 89 last year, and few if any National League teams improved like the Dbacks. Arizona claims the second Wild Card slot in 2020 and ends their three-year playoff drought.  

2020 Record: 89-73

Finish: 2nd in NL West, 2nd in Wild Card