Arizona Diamondbacks 2020: Reasons for optimism

What happened in 2019?
The glass-half-full view is that second-place behind the Dodgers was probably the best that the Diamondbacks could have hoped for, and they achieved it with a +70 run differential. The less optimistic view is that 21 games back behind Los Angeles was the biggest margin between first and second in any division.

Arizona enjoyed their third-straight winning season, and with 85 wins, they finished between the Mets and Cubs just outside of the Wild Card spots.

For the first time in eight years, they entered the season without their talismanic first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Another reason why finishing second in the division was impressive.

Eduardo Escobar took over the title of chief slugger, hitting 35 home runs, although the emergence of Ketel Marte (32 HR, .981 OPS) as a genuine superstar was the highlight of the season.

With 4.2 WAR, Zack Greinke was clearly the best pitcher on the staff. And in an impressive move by GM Mike Hazen, the franchise netted three of the Astros’ top five prospects in the trade deadline deal that sent Greinke to Houston.

Moves & shakes
OUT: Jarrod Dyson, Yoshihisa Hirano, Wilmer Flores, Steven Souza Jr., Alex Avila, Adam Jones, Taijuan Walker, Caleb Joseph, Matt Andriese,
IN: Stephen Vogt, Junior Guerra, Madison Bumgarner, Kole Calhoun, Hector Rondon, Starling Marte

One to watch
Zac Gallen – We are indebted to @DBacksUK for the suggestion. Follow them on Twitter.

Embed from Getty Images

The Diamondbacks sent one of their best prospects (Jazz Chisholm) to the Miami Marlins last season to secure the services of the 24-year-old right-handed pitcher. His 2.89 ERA in eight MLB starts flattered him, but even so, his 2019 Triple-A stats of 1.77 ERA and 0.71 WHIP make him one of the most intriguing young pitchers to watch. To put that number in perspective, the average ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL was 5.52. Gallen could be very special.

Five reasons for optimism in 2020

(1) The financial wiggle room achieved after the Greinke deal freed up cash which allowed the D-backs to double their Martes. Former Pirates’ stalwart, Starling Marte, will offer dynamism in the leadoff role, along with speed, power, and proven contact skills.

(2) The arrival of Starling Marte in centre fielder will enable Ketel Marte to shift back to the less demanding position of second base. The 26-year-old finished fourth in MVP-voting and looked like the real deal. The upgrade over Ildemaro Vargas could be worth as much as seven wins.

(3) Over the last three seasons, the most prolific slugger in D-backs colours was Paul Goldschmidt, despite not playing for the team for one-third of that time. Second on the list is David Peralta, with 56 home runs and over 400 combined runs and RBI. The Venezuelan agreed to a three-year, $22 million extension to keep him in Arizona. Not bad for a guy who was working in McDonalds eight years ago.

(4) The acquisition of Madison Bumgarner was quite a coup. Despite having the worst season of his career, the iconic left-hander finished his tenured in San Francisco with 3.13 ERA over 286 starts. He brings tenacity and postseason experience to headline a rotation that includes four from Gallen, Luke Weaver, Merrill Kelly, Mike Leake, and Robbie Ray. The Diamondbacks are spoilt for choice.

(5) In his first full season, rookie first baseman Christian Walker was a 2.8 WAR player. Coincidentally, over in St Louis, Paul Goldschmidt, who he replaced at first base, was also a 2.8 WAR player. Although Walker faces competition from Kevin Cron and Jake Lamb, it is his job to lose, and if he puts up another 29-home run, .825 OPS year, it’s unlikely that he will be unseated.

Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire, Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Gavin is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @_tramps

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