What they’re saying about the D-backs heading into 2019 Opening Day
What will this look like?
That’s the quite broad question for the Arizona Diamondbacks. They’re hoping for big years from two new starting pitchers, adjusting with roles assigned in a reshuffled bullpen and require new leaders to emerge.
Stability will come from up top, where manager Torey Lovullo enters his third season with a 2017 playoff appearance and a hot-and-cold follow-up campaign under his belt.
The list of D-backs needing to prove themselves — or improve — is long. New starting pitchers Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly don’t have caches of MLB success. Closer Greg Holland and setup man Archie Bradley must shake off rough seasons from a year ago in their own ways.
Ketel Marte faces the challenges of a position switch now that Steven Souza Jr.’s catastrophic injury just this week changed the makeup of the roster. Jake Lamb changed position too — and it’s at first where he must fill in after Arizona traded star Paul Goldschmidt this offseason.
David Peralta is naturally on deck to be the heart and soul of this team with Goldschmidt gone. Is he ready?
Those things are only scratching the surface of what needs to happen for the D-backs to challenge in the National League West. With Arizona opening 2019 in Los Angeles at 1:10 p.m. Thursday against the Dodgers, a game which will air on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, here is what baseball writers, publications and scouts are saying about the Diamondbacks heading into Opening Day.
Prediction: 75-87, fourth in NL West
The Diamondbacks started their rebuild and could continue it this summer, which is why I’ve gone on the pessimistic side for their win total, and the Giants are already down far enough that I can’t see them anywhere but last place, especially given their rotation and the likelihood that their lineup will post the worst OBP in the NL this year.
Prediction: 70-92, fourth in NL West
Appreciate This Man! David Peralta is a late bloomer, but the lefty outfielder compiled a splendid 2018, setting career-highs in home runs, runs and total bases. The 31-year-old outfielder was one of the league leaders in making consistent hard contact and punishing the outside corner. Peralta no longer has the protection of A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup, but the outfielder deserves to be recognized as a formidable middle-of-the-order presence.
Rival Scout’s take:
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
“For me, it’s just whether their offense can hold up well enough. It just looks like a light offensive club to me and they don’t have a lot of depth there. The pitching’s going to have to carry a lot of weight on its shoulders. I think they’ll probably battle for the cellar with the Giants.”
Wins: 79-83, third in NL West, 21-percent chance of the playoffs
Gone tanking: The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. (Maybe?) The D-Backs aren’t bad enough to fully qualify yet, but they seem to be steering in this direction. And while the Giants would never commit to a full tear-down with their attendance numbers being what they are, it’s not totally obvious where the franchise goes from here — with the core of its dynasty eroding and a lack of reinforcements on the way.
One bold prediction:
By the end of the season, Luke Weaver will be the team ace. He has all the tools, and at last, the opportunity. (Plus, Zack Greinke might be traded by then.)
Arizona’s going to have a good rotation again this year, headlined by Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray. Former Arizona State standout Merrill Kelly returns to the U.S. after four eventful years in South Korea, and pitching prospects Jon Duplantier, Taylor Widener, and Taylor Clarke are all set to make their big league debuts in 2019.
The lineup? Well, it would look a lot better if Paul Goldschmidt were still in it. If the two young buy-low candidates Arizona received in exchange for Goldschmidt, catcher Carson Kelly and pitcher Luke Weaver, perform well in 2019, losing Goldschmidt will sting a little less acutely, but only a little.
No. 15 starting rotation
Trading a franchise institution like Paul Goldschmidt can cast a pall over an offseason, but the Diamondbacks aren’t too bad. Their rotation features four nice assets including a sturdy ace (Greinke), strikeout stud (Ray), mid-rotation workhorse with some rebound upside (Godley), and the buy-low prospect who came over in the aforementioned Goldy trade (Weaver).
Prediction: Third in NL West
“They can be a really tough series for three games, if you see Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. They’re all really well prepared, they know how to exploit hitters’ weaknesses — and then nobody wants to face Archie Bradley in the bullpen. But when you lose your best position player and best starter in the same offseason, you’re going to feel it. They’re not in full teardown mode, but with no Paul Goldschmidt or Patrick Corbin, there’s no pathway to contention. On a day-to-day basis, they’ll be pesky — not just because of the pitching, but because that lineup still has enough to cause problems.
“But Goldschmidt was such a steady force, a reliable run producer who took the pressure off everyone else. They can’t make up for that bat, or for the high-quality innings they got from Corbin. They’ll win some games, but not enough to contend.”