Roundtable: Which D-backs are we most excited to see in 2023?

Mar 30, 2023, 8:23 AM

Arizona Diamondbacks OF Corbin Carroll (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...

Arizona Diamondbacks OF Corbin Carroll (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

We first asked what our Arizona Sports hosts and editors think this Arizona Diamondbacks team can achieve this season.

For the most part, there’s agreement the D-backs should take a step forward and end the year in the range of 80-plus wins with an aggressive, exciting offense making up for some of the questions about a rebuilt bullpen and backend of the starting rotation.

But will that be enough to push for the team’s first postseason berth since 2017? A new schedule with fewer divisional games and rule changes should help matters.

Moving on, who are the key players we’re keeping an eye on as the D-backs enter 2023?

Which one or two D-backs are you excited to watch in 2023? What’s so intriguing about them?

Ron Wolfley, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Corbin Carroll is the obvious answer, but I’ll say Gabriel Moreno. Carson Kelly was going to platoon with Moreno at the catcher position and then he broke his forearm and will miss at least the first two months of the season. Moreno will get a crash course in handling the likes of Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly and, eventually, Mark Melancon. Although his 25 games of MLB experience might terrify onlookers, Moreno’s bat is strong and his athleticism is rare behind the plate. He not only has an above-average arm but he has the mobility to protect the dish and get into the dirt.

I do not question his physical skills but his lack of experience at the major league level and handling of thorny pitchers will be tested. Watching Moreno develop will be an obvious watch – at the plate and behind the plate – pitch by pitch.

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: It all starts with Carroll, as he has the ability to be the most exciting player in baseball both offensively and defensively. But I will go with the outfield defense as a whole as it is going to save a lot of runs with the ability to get to balls in the gaps and on the lines. So Carroll, Thomas and McCarthy for me is where all the excitement starts.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: (Don’t say Corbin Carroll … don’t say Corbin Carroll) I’m gonna have to go with Carroll. The D-backs haven’t had a National League Rookie of the Year and Carroll represents the best chance of that happening in their franchise history. I could also single out any of their other young up-and-comers, but I’m also really intrigued by Ketel Marte, who in a way has become a forgotten man in the D-backs lineup. If he can get close to his 2019 form, look out!

Dan Bickley, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: Carroll is the obvious pick and a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate in the National League. But I’m interested in Kyle Lewis, a reclamation project/lottery ticket and a guy who won that award in 2020 for the Seattle Mariners.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Carroll? Check. Zac Gallen? Of course. Beyond the obvious, I’m looking forward to finding out what Moreno is all about. He was the centerpiece to the offseason as one of the most highly touted, major-league-ready prospects in baseball. After that, I’m intrigued by a trimmer Marte. He was asked to reshape his body and complied. While that is no guarantee of success, I’m hopeful the results deliver a throwback to better days.

Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Everybody’s going to say Carroll and for good reason. He’s a potential star, and he’s locked in for eight years now, so every good thing he does belongs to the Diamondbacks unequivocally. You don’t have to worry that they’re just developing him for the Yankees or some other team that prints money.

So I’ll throw out two other names: Alek Thomas and Moreno. Thomas was a monster when he first broke in, then major league pitching adjusted to him and he told us on the midday show that the next step for him is to adjust back. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does with that. His defense is basically already elite, so he becomes really valuable really quickly if he can hit too. And Moreno is a prospect that people around the league have been excited about for a while now. The D-backs traded Daulton Varsho for him, so they’re obviously high on him, too. He’s the future at catcher, and now he’s the present because Kelly is hurt. If Moreno delivers on that upside sooner rather than later, this lineup is dangerous.

Steve Zinsmeister, co-host of The Ain’t No Fang podcast: Sure, Carroll is lightning fast, and electric on the base paths. But don’t forget about Jake McCarthy, who stole 23 bases in 354 plate appearances last season. That’s a pace of 32 steals over a moderate increase to 500 plate appearances. He’s going to get more playing time, and the new rule changes favor his speed. Keep an eye on McCarthy, but don’t blink, or you might miss him!

Kellan Olson, editor: Hey, remember Marte? The guy who was supposed to go right alongside Devin Booker and Kyler Murray as faces of the franchise in the Valley after getting MVP votes in 2019? That guy? Marte had a weird year in 2022. On top of the career-low batting average of .240 and a 254-point dip in OPS  from the aforementioned All-Star campaign, he spent a fair amount of time as a designated hitter and didn’t look like himself when he was in the field.

Whether that was due to injury or disinterest, neither is a good thing! His transition to center field two years ago speaks to how explosive and athletic of a ball player he is before, again, whatever the heck last year was. I’m not asking for the MVP votes guy to be back, but if Marte can just return to the form of being a really good contributor again, that would be a huge boost for the D-backs.

Jake Anderson, editor: Carroll winning NL Rookie of the Year is the obvious choice, so I’m going to go on the other side of the diamond. I’m going to cheat a little bit and pick two 25-year-old pitchers in Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson. While the former won the final starting spot in the rotation, the latter is donning the No. 99 jersey because of Wild Thing from the movie Major League and also told manager Torey Lovullo he “doesn’t give an (expletive) about not starting, he just wants to win.” That selfless mindset for a pair of righties who were drafted 22 picks apart in the 2019 MLB Draft and were roommates throughout the minor leagues has only made them better, which is why I expect both to be in starting rotation by 2025 if not next year.

Tyler Drake, editor: Carroll — and his hefty contract extension — is the easy choice given all the buzz the speedster has built really since Arizona drafted him, but I’ll give you two more in Moreno and Lewis. With Kelly sidelined for several weeks with a fractured forearm, it’s the Moreno show behind home plate. And while Kelly’s injury speeds up Moreno’s timeline, Lovullo seems relatively comfortable with the young catcher stepping in. As for Lewis, I had to include him here after a strong spring training that showed off his power. Averaging .429 and slugging .857, Lewis ripped three home runs and three doubles on his way to 12 hits, 11 RBIs and six runs scored. I don’t see him doing a ton of fielding but could be a strong DH option if his current trend continues.

Kevin Zimmerman, lead editor: I’m also on the train of folks with remaining Marte intrigue. It still sticks with me that in four games during Arizona’s 2017 playoff appearance, he just had this “it” factor, especially with three hits in the Wild Card win against the Colorado Rockies. Lovullo was honest about how Marte needed to work on his lower body after 2022 ended. Let’s see if he can come close to becoming that worry for opposing pitchers and away from the mistake-prone defender we’ve seen in the past year.

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Roundtable: Which D-backs are we most excited to see in 2023?