With the 2018 season just around the corner, it’s time to catch up with 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 catch us up.
What went right for the Diamondbacks in 2017? What, ultimately, went wrong?
Ultimately, the starting pitching finally pitched to the most optimistic fan’s expectations. Zack Greinke was the Ace the team needed, Robbie Ray finally broke out after a career of pornographic peripherals and not much else. Taijuan Walker was a solid rotation addition, and Zack Godley planted his flag somewhat out of nowhere to become the team’s third best starter.
What went wrong? When you folks rudely tried to come back in the Wild Card game and the 2017 Playoff Bullpen Acid Trip began and the Diamondbacks burned Greinke and Ray in the WCG, setting them behind the 8-ball in the LDS. Also, the Dodgers were kind of good last year, you might have heard something about that.
Last season outside expectations for the Dbacks seemed pretty low and then they just kept winning. At what point did you say, “This is going to be a good season”?
I think around May-June is when fans started perking up a little. It helped that the Giants were extremely terrible, removing one roadblock for a potential postseason berth. I think there was a general feeling that the 2016 team underachieved by quite a bit, but I don’t think people quite believed that the pendulum would swing the other way so drastically.
What were the most important moves of the offseason?
Even though he’ll be out for about a month because of a Spring Training injury, acquiring Steven Souza Jr. from the Rays after not succeeding in/not trying to succeed in retaining J.D. Martinez. He won’t have near the bat that Martinez did, but having someone who is quite the opposite of a gaping defensive hole in the outfield in what is still a hitter’s park can only help.
Beyond that, signing Alex Avila was a smart move for a team that was otherwise going to ride Jeff Mathis into the underworld.
There were rumors that Dbacks leadership was shopping Zack Greinke this summer. Was there anything to that? Why would they be shopping him now coming off an NLDS appearance?
Zack Greinke signed a piece (or many pieces) of paper in the winter of 2015 that said that he would be paid a lot of money for awhile. If this last offseason showed us anything, it’s that paying baseball players a lot of money is not a priority for pretty much every team, so I can see why they’d throw some feelers out there in search of someone maybe biting.
I also think that this current window of contention basically shuts and seals itself after 2019, at the latest, so I could see trying to get out ahead of that. It is odd, and I don’t think they were gung-ho about doing it, but you can kind of see reasons why a team might shop him.
Who do you think is more underrated: Paul Goldschmidt or Robbie Ray?
I think Paul Goldschmidt is a known quantity at this point among the general baseball-consuming public, so I’d say Ray of the two. Ray had an underground following of people looking at his peripheral numbers, which were very good despite his regular numbers being okay. He’s always had Top of the Rotation potential, but never quite hit it, hence two teams before the Diamondbacks being okay with trading him, but if can keep his early-game pitch count down and doesn’t walk too many folks, he’s basically unhittable.
Who are some unheralded players we should keep an eye on this season? Prospects, role players, free-agent signees, etc.
He’s not a role player, or at least shouldn’t be, but I think Ketel Marte is due for a solid season at the plate, and should get the majority of starts at either middle infield position now that Brandon Drury was traded.
Prospect wise, there’s some interesting depth at starting pitching that may be needed, so don’t be surprised if you see a guy like Taylor Clarke, a third round pick in 2015, or maybe Jon Duplantier get a lot of innings at the Major League level.
What would prevent the Dbacks from getting back to the playoffs this year?
I think you can copy and paste this for any playoff team: Negative regression and injury. Already it’s unknown as to how Greinke will be starting the season, as he’s gone through his usual Spring Training soft tossing. If someone like David Peralta or Jake Lamb were to miss a lot of time, that would severely impact the offense negatively.
What do you think is a realistic best case scenario for Dbacks this year? What’s the worst case scenario? What would a successful season look like for Dbacks?
Realistic best case is making the playoffs again with a very remote outside shot of winning the division if everything breaks right (or, for the Dodgers, wrong.) This is, for better or worse, mostly the same team as last year, so it stands to reason that they should perform as well.
Worst case is the aforementioned regression or injury catches up to them and they fall back down and finish around or below .500 and in 3rd-4th in the West. At this point, a successful season would be, at the very least, a Wild Card Game apperance again.
What will be the best part of watching the Dbacks this year? Or, put another way, why should the casual fan (who’s not scoreboard watching) watch a Dbacks game this season?
Paul Goldschmidt is still the light and the truth and more people need to bring themselves to accept that and his majestic dingers and very-good glove at First Base, and above-average baserunning. Also you never know what uniform they’ll be wearing on any particular evening, and that’s always fun to keep track of.