With the 2017 season just around the corner, it’s time to catch up what the other teams around the division. Instead of trying to figure out what we need to know about them ourselves, we thought it would be a good idea to ask our friends at our neighbors here at SBNation to help acquaint us with the teams in the division.
What went right for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016? What, ultimately, went wrong?
Nobody died and the team did end up with a Nice amount of wins to end the year. Other than that there wasn’t much to point to that went right beyond a few individual performances by guys like Jean Segura, Jake Lamb, Robby Ray or the usual Paul Goldschmidt goodness. A.J. Pollock’s injury in an exhibition game before the season started definitely seemed like an omen in hindsight. Neither Zack Greinke or Shelby Miller lived up to their expensive price tags. Everything was bad and on fire and narrated by Werner Herzog.
On the upside, the architects of that failure are no longer in power, so we got that going for us.
Last season expectations were about as high for the Diamondbacks as they’ve been since before Patrick Corbin went down with TJ in 2014. When did it start to unravel? At what point did you say, “This is not going to be a good season”?
I think after April when neither Greinke or Miller were performing well, and Miller in particular was having an issue with scraping his hand against the mound after delivery, is when Diamondback fans were collectively groaning. There was also a game early in the season (may have been against the Rockies if memory serves) where Chris Hermann, a catcher/first baseman, started in center field. One game of 162 and it was a bit of an emergency, but that symbolism was harsh and apparent.
What were the most important moves of the offseason?
The big one was the trade that brought Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte from Seattle for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger (among others on both sides).
Beyond that, everything was more or less minor tweaking. It seems like there was a concerted effort to get payroll down some: swapping out Welington Castillo at Catcher for the two-headed beast of Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis. I think the Front Office knows it’s going to take more than one offseason to get back on track, and so they didn’t blow anything up or double down on trying to contend.
Just how important do you think this regime change is for the Diamondbacks? Have there been any notable differences that Joe and Jane Baseball Fan could see?
Incredibly important. The last two FO regimes were either stuck in outdated ways of player evaluation, or just randomly firing shotgun blasts into the air to see what happened. New general manager Mike Hazen and the people hired to work for him seem very well regarded, and at the very least will provide a steady hand at the helm. Time will tell if that steady hand leads us over a Waterfall, but for now the change was desperately needed.
The aforementioned Walker/Segura et. al. trade was a shift in front office policy on many fronts. One: they sold high on Segura. Two: they traded from a position of depth and strength (middle infield) to shore up a position of weakness (starting pitching). Walker has been very effective in Spring so far, as little as that’s worth, but at the very least it will give the rotation another good potential arm and have some more protection against injury/ineffectiveness.
Who are some unheralded players we should keep an eye on this season? Prospects, role players, free-agent signees, etc.
I think the presumptive starting middle infield combo of Chris Owings and Brandon Drury could do some things this year. Owings has been around for awhile, but hasn’t really had an opportunity to be the starting shortstop until now. Drury has mashed in the minors, played almost every position you can think of, but is getting a lot of looks at second, and could stick there.
Beyond that, the Diamondbacks have a lot of guys who are known quantities (Goldschmidt, etc.) and the farm system is… existent. The guy to watch out for in that regard might be Anthony Banda, Number One Prospect. He’ll probably start the season in Triple-A, and, I would wager, will see some time in the big leagues this year. He’s a lefty who projects as a 3-4 in the rotation guy, but any pitching depth at all can only help the Diamondbacks.
What is the impact of having AJ Pollock back in the lineup?
When healthy, Pollock provides a very good bat in average, power, and getting on base. He also provides excellent defense in Center, which is needed because David Peralta is slightly below-average in one corner and Yasmany Tomas is slightly below-below-below-below-below-below-below-below-below-below-below-below-below-average in the other.
Pollock is one of the rare players taken before Mike Trout in that draft that you’re not *totally* kicking yourself over, and that’s high praise.
What do you expect from Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller this year?
It seems like they can’t be any worse than they were before. That sounds like overly hopeful optimism, but it seems reasonable that one or both of them could bounce back a little. Greinke has had his velocity watched all of Spring, and it has crept up and he’s garnered more starts, so he’s not turning into Jared Weaver. Miller seems like a bit of a Wild Card, but if he can give solid, if not spectacular, pitching, then that’s miles of improvement.
Is there really going to be a new stadium on the way for the Diamondbacks?
I would say… maybe? It seems the team is gung-ho about doing that, but since the county is not happy with them right now the issue of funding is the thing, especially since “Paying for your own damn stadium” is a hell-worthy sin amongst the secret cabal of team owners.
Another issue would be location. If you’ve never been there, Phoenix and its surrounding environs are crazy overbuilt, which is why the Coyotes and Cardinals built their new stadiums out in Glendale. Getting to Glendale if you live in Phoenix proper or the East Valley is not a fun drive, and that presents other problems; the Coyotes are desperately trying to not be in Glendale anymore and just had a stadium deal in Tempe fall through when Arizona State backed out.
It’s all just so very stupid. Chase Field is not the most charming looking building, but as far as buildings wherein you can sit down and watch a Baseball Game and drink beer, it is perfectly fine and functional. It’s also located downtown, near things, and is generally an inexpensive experience (while still grading on the ballpark gouging curve, of course). It has maintenance issues, nobody disagrees on that, but it seems like the team is trying to strong-arm somebody to get a shiny new stadium because that’s a thing that’s done nowadays.
What do you think is a realistic best case scenario for the Diamondbacks this year? What’s the worst case scenario? What would a successful season look like for the team?
I think if absolutely everything falls into place and everyone plays up to their potential, imagined or otherwise, the Diamondbacks could be a Wild Card contender. There are a lot of intriguing pieces on the roster that make it tantalizing. I don’t think they’ll be that good, but it’s possible. I think the best case that’s the most realistic is “Be better than the Padres and Rockies.” That would signify success and hopefully be a good building block for the future.
Worst case would be finishing last and every expensive piece being terrible and Paul Goldschmidt retiring after the season to join a monastery.