ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

The Ain’t No Fang Podcast: D-backs 2023 Opening Day roster predictions

Feb 15, 2023, 7:30 PM | Updated: 7:45 pm

Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen...

Pitcher Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks before the MLB opening day game at Chase Field on April 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Pitchers and catchers reported to camp today in Scottsdale, and we have waited a long time to say that!

We’re still several weeks away from regualr season baseball, but on the latest episode of The Ain’t No Fang Podcast, Steve Zinsmeister and Cody Fincher discuss what they think the Opening Day roster will be when the Arizona Diamondbacks face the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 30th.

CATCHER: Carson Kelly and Gabriel Moreno

The Diamondbacks traded OF Daulton Varsho to get Moreno from the Toronto Blue Jays. That tells us that he will have a significant role this season. However, we expect Carson Kelly to be the primary catcher, at least out of the gate. Don’t be surprised if Moreno’s playing time increases throughout the season, but for now, this is basically a platoon.

FIRST BASE: Christian Walker

Walker has evolved into one of the best two-way players on the team. He won a Gold Glove in 2022 and led the team with 36 homers last season. Walker played in 160 games last year, which isn’t likely to happen again, but a good sign that he’s locked in at first base.

SECOND BASE: Ketel Marte

In 2019, Marte was 4th in MVP voting. Since then, injuries shortened some of his seasons and his power has completely fallen off (only 12 homeruns last season). We still believe he is capable of doing big things, but it’s no secret that he struggled in 2022. Nonetheless, he’s a lock at second base.

THIRD BASE: Josh Rojas and Evan Longoria

The D-backs were very left handed in 2022. Hence the need for Longoria. Last season, he hit .282 against lefties. He will balance out the lineup for a team that’s in the same division as southpaws like Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Blake Snell. We expect that Rojas will still get looks at third base, while also helping Marte at second base at times.

SHORTSTOP: Nick Ahmed and Geraldo Perdomo

Nick Ahmed is reportedly ready for spring training, after missing almost the entire 2022 season. Some people question if his defense is still at an elite level, and his bat was never anything intimidating. But with Perdomo’s struggles at the plate last season (.195/.285/.262), Ahmed is a welcome replacement. Let’s be honest, these guys are placeholders until top prospect Jordan Lawlar is ready for the big leagues.

OUTFIELD: Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Kyle Lewis

Trading away Varsho was painful, but it also clears a path for some other young outfielders to get more playing time in Arizona.

Carroll is among the top prospects in the sport and getting a lot of hype for NL Rookie of the Year. Alek Thomas struggled with the bat at times in 2022, but showed that he can be an elite defensive center fielder when given the chance. McCarthy shows similar qualities to both of those players, including speed (23 stolen bases in only 99 games). Gurriel Jr. is the type of high-contact hitter that general manager Mike Hazen loves while also playing a solid left field. Lewis is a low-risk, high-upside player who won AL Rookie of the Year during the weird 2020 shortened season.

STARTING ROTATION: Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Madison Bumgarner, Zach Davies, Drey Jameson

Gallen is a Cy Young Award candidate in any given year. It’s time people started talking about him like he’s one of the best pitchers in the league (because he is)! Kelly is as steady as they come and will be their No. 2 as he provided the D-backs with over 200 innings last season.

However, Bumgarner is getting tougher to predict. After a hot start to the 2022 season, he completely fell off with an ERA of 9.23 in August. If the former World Series MVP doesn’t have a bounce back season, we fear he may not be around when we make roster predictions in 2024. Davies is back in the fourth spot in the rotation, but it’s the fifth spot that has us intrigued.

It could belong to someone like Tommy Henry, who pitched in a College World Series run in 2019 and got some time in the majors last year. It could also go to someone more surprising, like D-backs top pitching prospect Brandon Pfaadt, who might need a little more time in Triple-A. Our money is on Jameson, who impressed during his September call up last season. His stuff is better than Henry’s and he doesn’t appear to need any more seasoning in the minors.

BULLPEN: Mark Melancon, Andrew Chafin, Miguel Castro, Joe Mantiply, Scott McGough, Kevin Ginkel, Kyle Nelson, Carlos Vargas

Melancon was frustrating in 2022, but you can’t deny that he was solid in save situations. Perhaps that closer role will go to someone new, like Castro, who has incentives in his contract for finishing off games. The Sheriff is back! Since being traded in 2020, Chafin has only gotten better and is a perfect fit for the D-backs. Fellow lefty Joe Mantiply is coming off an All-Star year and should have a role in the middle innings. McGough was brought over from Japan and credits his nasty splitter for his success. Ginkel was flat out dominant in the final month of the season with an ERA of 1.23 in September and October. Neslon is another good lefty who only gave up multiple runs TWICE last season.

The last spot in the bullpen is a toss up, and could easily go to several different players. We are banking on Carlos Vargas getting a chance because of his high velocity and raw talent, which will be a fun project for pitching coach Brent Strom this spring.

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The Ain’t No Fang Podcast: D-backs 2023 Opening Day roster predictions