ESPN’s Passan buying D-backs rise, eyeing Jordan Lawlar 2023 debut

Mar 22, 2023, 6:27 PM

Jordan Lawlar #1 of the National League throws for the third out in the fourth inning during the Si...

Jordan Lawlar #1 of the National League throws for the third out in the fourth inning during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game against the American League at Dodger Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

As the World Baseball Classic wrapped up on Tuesday and spring training’s ending following soon after, it’s time for the Major League Baseball’s regular season to begin.

With that comes previews, predictions and more from the top national analysts. ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke down all 30 teams by going through four categories to make some bold predictions of his own: What its season hinges on, the best bet, a breakout player to watch in fantasy and a prospect coming soon.

Passan’s bet for the Arizona Diamondbacks was the over on their win total, a number pegged at 76.5.

Arizona is trending up, and this is a bet that the evolution toward contention happens a year earlier than some believe.

The number doesn’t suggest a big bump from last year’s mark of 74 wins, but as Passan is alluding to, the D-backs are widely viewed as an organization full of young talent that should be pretty good pretty soon. Could it threaten for .500, though, and even a wild card spot?

Passan has some of that hinging on Ketel Marte.

If the Marte of 2019 and 2021 returns, the Diamondbacks could be wild-card contenders. He can be the anchor of a lineup loaded with young talent.

Marte’s breakout 2019 had his OPS clock in at a stellar .981, and after a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he rebounded well in the tail-end of 2021 to get that number to .909. But across 137 games last season, his OPS dipped to .727 and a .240 batting average was the lowest of his career that dates back to 2016.

Passan included Arizona’s top pitching prospect Brandon Pfaadt as a “close second” with his “rotation potential.” Pfaadt, though, for now appears to not be in the Opening Day plans after he was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday.

Speaking of prospects, shortstop Jordan Lawlar is one MLB Pipeline ranks as Arizona’s second-best behind stud rookie Corbin Carroll and No. 11 in all of baseball this year. Passan thinks he could be coming a year earlier than expected.

Don’t be surprised if Jordan Lawlar, the 20-year-old taken sixth overall in the 2021 draft, debuts this season. Arizona won’t hesitate to push its best prospects, and in Kiley McDaniel’s No. 2-ranked system, Lawlar will be the best upon Carroll’s graduation.

The shortstop position was in flux for Arizona last season because of Nick Ahmed’s health. He only played 17 games in the third season of his four-year extension, requiring 23-year-old Geraldo Perdomo to make 131 starts in his first full MLB season as another highly-rated prospect in Arizona’s system. Perdomo really struggled at the plate, though, batting .195 with an OPS of .547.

Ahmed in the final year of his deal will have to prove his right shoulder issues with his throwing arm are behind him while Perdomo is expected to get some playing time as well.

Lawlar went around four different teams in the minors last season at a few levels, jumping all the way up to Double-A Amarillo for his last 20 games. In 100 total appearances, he hit .303 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs.

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ESPN’s Passan buying D-backs rise, eyeing Jordan Lawlar 2023 debut