Zack Greinke the lone D-back on SI’s top-100 list for 2019

Feb 21, 2019, 11:31 AM | Updated: 3:11 pm
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke throws to the plate during the first inning of a...
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Arizona Diamondbacks are banking on collective improvement from the returning players after losing All-Star-caliber talents in Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin.

But in terms of individual talent heading into the 2019 season, Arizona doesn’t have many known pieces. Undoubtedly, the most consistently effective piece returning is their highest-paid player, pitcher Zack Greinke. He is the only Diamondback to appear on Sports Illustrated’s list of the top 100 MLB players for this upcoming season.

The list was a composite of eight SI writers’ rankings, and Emma Baccellieri says that it’s Greinke’s availability and consistency that puts the right-hander at 31st on the list.

Like just about any 35-year-old, Zack Greinke has lost a tick on his fastball in the last few years. (In 2018, it averaged a perfectly round 90.0 mph, per Brooks Baseball.) He’s responded by throwing his changeup more and developing a wicked slow curve. With last year’s 3.21 ERA (135 ERA+), he ranked among the top ten qualified starting pitchers in the NL. He may not be the same pitcher that he was previously, but he can be one that’s nearly as sharp, by camouflaging his flaws and developing new strengths—and isn’t that what aging gracefully is all about?

While his six-year contract worth $206 million received criticism when it was inked in 2015 — and continues to do so in 2019 — Greinke has at the very least been available and dependable.

He pitched more than 200 innings in each of the last two seasons with Arizona, and his ERA, WHIP, strikeout and walk numbers over his second and third years in the desert have been nearly identical.

Now it’s a matter if he can remain as steady as his game evolves around slower fastballs and perhaps more use of the near-eephus curveball he implemented into his game last season.

Moreover, it’s a question of whether those around him on Arizona’s roster make the necessary leaps forward to keep the D-backs competitive.

Does Robby Ray return to his 2017 form to give them a menacing one-two pitching punch? Can Jake Lamb do enough to replace Goldschmidt playing first base? And is David Peralta or someone else going to provide enough middle-of-the-order power for Arizona to score runs?

Those questions explain why Greinke was the only Diamondback to make Sports Illustrated’s list.

Goldschmidt, by the way, appeared 16th while Corbin came in 63rd in SI’s ranking.

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Zack Greinke the lone D-back on SI’s top-100 list for 2019