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ESPN ranks Diamondbacks pitching staff 20th in MLB

Arizona Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher, left, confers with starting pitcher Merrill Kelly as first baseman Christian Walker, right, looks on after Kelly gave up an RBI double to Colorado Rockies' Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Despite Zack Greinke defying age, Robbie Ray stringing together productive seasons and Greg Holland bouncing back from a rough couple of seasons, the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching staff is still stuck in baseball’s middle class.

According to a new ESPN ranking, they may be even a little worse than that.

The site ranked the D-backs pitching staff 20th in baseball, which was six spots above division rival San Francisco, the only team in the NL West ranked below the D-backs.

The Padres and Rockies finished 15th and 12th in the rankings, respectively, while the Dodgers finished fourth.

Here’s what ESPN writer Dan Szymborski had to say about the D-backs’ positioning:

The loss of Patrick Corbin hurt, but Robbie Ray is healthy, Zack Greinke has fully adjusted to his finesse pitcher status and Merrill Kelly has been a sneaky-good signing that people haven’t yet noticed. The fact remains, however, that the quality of both the rotation and bullpen drops off considerably after the front-end talent.

The back of the rotation has been troublesome for the D-backs all season. The team had four quality starters in Greinke, Ray, Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly, but Weaver’s injury has left the D-backs with two empty rotation spots for over two weeks now. Jon Duplantier gave the D-backs average-to-below-average innings, but he also ended up on the IL with a shoulder injury. Rookie Taylor Clarke has struggled mightily with a 5.34 ERA in seven games.

Solving the rotation problem might force the D-backs to get creative. Moving Zack Godley back into a rotation spot has been discussed, but the team is weary of him losing the spark he’s been able to create in his bullpen role. A trade for the Mariners’ Mike Leake was reported in early June, but it fell apart.

Those talks, however, could be renewed. The Mariners have made it clear that they’re selling after their trade of Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees. Plus, general manager Jerry Dipito is no stranger to trades.

Suspected big names on the market like San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, any of Cleveland’s bevy of star pitchers and Detriot’s Matthew Boyd are likely too expensive for the D-backs, and a trade for someone of that quality isn’t logical for a D-backs team that is still deciding which direction to go.

Toronto’s Marcus Stroman is another name that is floating around, but he’s a name that’s expected to receive interest from top contenders like the Red Sox and Yankees of the world.

The D-backs don’t have a lot of options to improve the bullpen either, as many arms would be needed to help out that end of the staff. The lack of talent, and options to improve, puts the D-backs closer to the bottom of the league rather than the top when it comes to the mound.

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