Ain’t No Fang podcast predicts D-backs’ 2021 Opening Day roster
As the 2021 Arizona Diamondbacks prepare to take the field in their first spring training game this Sunday, the hosts of the Ain’t No Fang podcast — Steve Zinsmeister, Derek Montilla and Cody Fincher — take a swing at their predictions on what this year’s roster will look like come Opening Day.
First base was pretty easy for us. Since Paul Goldschmidt was traded to St. Louis in 2018, Walker has locked down the position quite well. In that span, Walker has hit .256 with 39 home runs and 113 RBIs while playing solid defense, including being named a Gold Glove finalist in 2019. When Walker needs a day off, you can expect to see the newcomer Cabrera get some reps at first base. Of the 42 games Cabrera spent in the field last season, 25 of them were at first base. – Fincher
Does any other team in the league move their best player between two or three positions? That’s exactly what we expect the Diamondbacks will do with Marte. While he’s primarily played second base the past few seasons, don’t be surprised when he plays a lot in center field as well. Andy Young is a high on-base guy who made his major league debut in 2020, switching between second and third base.
There are other names who you could see playing second. Cabrera has played there in the past, and Josh Rojas is certainly capable. But the name to watch out for is Eduardo Escobar, who could be asked to move over to second more often so Cabrera can play third. Josh VanMeter also has a chance to make this roster at some point. – Zinsmeister
Ahmed has become a team leader on and off the field. The 30-year old two-time Gold Glove winner will try to do what many of his teammates must do and shake off a bad 2020 season that was unpredictable, to say the least. However, Ahmed did post his highest career batting average for a season of .266, as well as career highs in on-base percentage and OPS. His typically stellar defensive fielding was where he saw a drop-off, committing an uncharacteristically high number of errors in the shortened season. With that now behind him, he should be a lock for starting shortstop for Arizona on Opening Day. – Montilla
Even though he had a miserable 2020 season, Escobar will be the starting third baseman for the D-backs in 2021. In 2019, Escobar hit .269 with 35 home runs and 118 RBIs and will look to get back to that form in what looks to be a somewhat normal season, at least in terms of length. Just like at first base, you will likely see Cabrera play some games at third base when Escobar needs a day off. – Fincher
We are interested to see how a potential battle for the second catcher position develops in camp. Kelly continued to improve behind the plate and developed a relationship with the pitching staff last season, including starters Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen, who he came up with through the Cardinals organization. While Kelly’s offensive numbers were down from his first season with the D-backs in 2019, his defensive fielding stats improved.
Meanwhile, we never got a chance to see Daulton Varsho get much time behind the plate. Instead, he played everywhere else. And don’t get me started on the time he bunted on the shift! The D-backs front office seems committed to Varsho playing behind the plate this season based on comments Mike Hazen made, whether it ends up being in Phoenix or in Reno.
With Stephen Vogt missing the start of camp due to a positive coronavirus diagnosis, the door may be open for the D-backs catcher of the future to win a spot in spring training. – Montilla
While there have been rumblings about the D-backs adding a free agent center fielder on a short-term deal, this is what the depth chart may look like if the season started now.
There is a good chance that Marte will inevitably be moved to center if no additions are made, but it wouldn’t be ideal despite the fact that he has proven in the past he can play the position well. Peralta and Calhoun in the corners seems to be set, but the big question mark is center. The D-backs have so many young, highly ranked prospects for the outfield that there is no need to commit to a long-term, high-priced deal, but the question remains about the here and now.
Torey Lovullo stated that both Locastro and Fairchild would be getting time at center field prior to all players reporting to camp, so expect to see a heavy dose of that duo should nothing change. – Montilla
The D-backs starting rotation seems to be relatively easy to predict. The top three spots in the rotation are locks.
Bumgarner was Arizona’s big acquisition last offseason and even after his dreadful 2020 season, he will still land on top. Gallen is the best pitcher the Diamondbacks have right now. After setting a major league record of allowing three or less earned runs in his first 23 career starts, you could argue he’s the ace of the staff. Now that Merrill Kelly is healthy, he should be the third man in the rotation.
The last two spots should go to Weaver and Smith, the latter of whom was acquired from Miami in the Starling Marte trade at the deadline last season. A couple guys to keep an eye on who could push for a rotation spot are Corbin Martin and Taylor Widener. – Fincher
The bullpen is the trickiest part of the team to predict.
We know Soria and Clippard are safe, as they were just signed to major league deals to fill veteran roles. Crichton was the best pitcher in this bullpen a year ago, and Hazen has been gushing about him lately. Lopez and Ginkel would like to forget about their 2020 seasons, and will look to get back to their pre-pandemic forms.
The team would love for Alex Young to be a solid starter again, but with no room in the rotation, and a lack of left-handed options in the bullpen, Young should be in the pen again this year. Bergen makes our list for the same reason. As for Mella, he appears to be out of minor league options and could be the last guy on the roster.
We’d love to see J.B. Bukauskas get a chance in the bullpen, and some other starting pitchers might be a fit in the bullpen this year, such as Jon Duplantier, Riley Smith and Widener. Several veterans on minor league deals could get the call, like Chris Devenski, Ryan Buchter or Ben Heller. – Zinsmeister