D-backs 2023 ZiPS projections takeaways: model bullish on Corbin Carroll

Dec 18, 2022, 7:57 AM
The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate their 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers after game two of ...
The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate their 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers after game two of a doubleheader at Dodger Stadium on September 20, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

The ZiPS projections for the Diamondbacks are out, and they are bullish on Arizona’s young corps for 2023.

ZiPS, developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski, compares past performance and aging trends by player type to come up with a future outlook.

According to this model, the most valuable member of the 2023 D-backs is expected to be MLB’s No. 3 prospect, outfielder Corbin Carroll.

The projections have Carroll finishing with the team’s highest WAR (wins above replacement) at 3.9, just ahead of RHP Zac Gallen (3.4) and second baseman Ketel Marte (3.1).

Carroll made a loud introduction in his first MLB stint last season, amassing 1.4 fWAR in only 32 games. ZiPS anticipates Carroll’s five tools producing for Arizona in his official rookie season, including speed with 20 stolen bases.

Since Carroll didn’t lose his rookie qualifications for 2023, he’s going to be one of the top few players on the ZiPS Top 100 Prospect list next season. ZiPS rarely projects a rookie to play this well …

The D-backs don one of the deeper outfield pools of any team in the bigs, which has drawn interest from other clubs this offseason. As it stands, Daulton Varsho is projected to lead the team in home runs with 25 after his breakout campaign in 2022. Varsho led the team in fWAR last year with 4.6.

Alek Thomas (1.9 WAR) and Jake McCarthy (1.7WAR) are also projected to contribute at league-average levels to compliment Carroll and Varsho. Newcomer Kyle Lewis is expected to provide some pop with 13 projected home runs from the right side.

Bounce back for Ketel Marte

Marte signed a five-year extension ahead of the 2022 season and had a rather up-and-down campaign. He dealt with hamstring issues for the second straight season, missed 25 games and had to be the designated hitter for 19 straight starts as he continued to recover. He finished the year with 1.5 fWAR, 12 home runs and a .240/.321/.407 slash line.

The projections expect Marte to produce a slash of .283/.352/.470, not quite his 2021 showing (.318/.377/.532) but closer to the form the organization has been accustomed to leading to the extension.

Manager Torey Lovullo said during Winter Meetings that he expects a different version of Marte offensively in 2023.

Modest outlook for starting pitchers

Gallen and Merrill Kelly made up one of baseball’s most productive pitching duos last season, each having career years. They both took home an NL Pitcher of the Month awards, and Gallen finished No. 5 in the Cy Young race.

ZiPS expects to see less dominance from the top of the rotation in 2023.

The projections have Gallen’s strikeouts rate and walk rate similar to last season, but a change in opposing babip (batting average on balls in play) could make a difference. An average babip is .300, but opponents against Gallen had a .237 average last year. ZiPS sees that going up to .276 and his ERA rising from 2.54 to 3.42.

That said, Lovullo has praised Gallen’s preparation and detail over and over. At 27, is there another level the starter who was unhittable in stretches last season can reach?

Szymborski’s model is less optimistic on Kelly with his ERA jumping from 3.37 to 4.27, a resemblance to his 2021 numbers.

Like Marte, Kelly signed an extension last offseason through 2025, as the D-backs are counting on the 34-year-old to continue staying solid as he gets older.

The projections have numbers for rookies Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson and Brandon Pfaadt, who has yet to make his MLB debut. The numbers are most optimistic on Pfaadt coming out the gate well with a 3.66 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.8 WAR.

A number of Diamondbacks starting pitchers get really solid projections: Drey Jameson, Ryne Nelson, and especially Brandon Pfaadt. He, like Carroll, is going to be very high on that ZiPS prospect list; his 10 starts in Reno were absolutely mind-blowing in context.

Pfaadt is Arizona’s No. 4 prospect on MLB Pipeline after striking out an eye-opening 218 batters in 167 innings last year.

Top 10 projected WAR

1. OF Corbin Carroll 3.9

2. RHP Zac Gallen 3.4

3. 2B Ketel Marte 3.1

T4. 1B Christian Walker/RHP Brandon Pfaadt 2.8

6. OF Daulton Varsho 2.6

7. INF Josh Rojas 2.5

8. SS Nick Ahmed 2.1

9. RHP Drey Jameson 2.0

T10. RHP Merrill Kelly/RHP Ryne Nelson/OF Alek Thomas/C Carson Kelly 1.9

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