Arizona Diamondbacks relevant in 2015, expecting even more in 2016

Sep 3, 2015, 1:03 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock is congratulated by teammates in the dugout  after hitting a two...

Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run against the Colorado Rockies during the seventh inning of the second game of a baseball doubleheader Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
LISTEN: Derrick Hall, Diamondbacks president and CEO

Though they have not been mathematically eliminated, chances are the Arizona Diamondbacks will not be participating in the playoffs.

Is that disappointing? Sure, but after a season in which the team lost a MLB-most 98 games and seemed destined for another bottom-dwelling season, the fact that the D-backs, who are currently 65-69, have stuck around in the race as long as they have could be considered a bit of a victory.

It’s made summer a bit more bearable in Arizona, that’s for sure.

“I think having relevance, really, this entire season has been tremendous,” D-backs president Derrick Hall told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday morning. “And we thought this was going to be a year of development, and I think in a lot of ways it still is, especially with our pitching.”

Hall went on to point out how the D-backs have a lot going for them, including an offense that leads the National League in runs scored and is third in batting average while also pacing the senior circuit with 120 stolen bases. Paul Goldschmidt is an MVP-caliber player, while A.J. Pollock has cemented himself as one of baseball’s best outfielders. David Peralta and Ender Inciarte have also stepped up, while the play of catcher Welington Castillo has been a very pleasant surprise.

Sure, they are still struggling to get production out of their middle infield and their pitching staff leaves something to be desired, but this team is a far cry from last year’s version and has some, including SI.com’s Ben Reiter, believing good things are on the way for the team in Sedona Red.

“What we’ve been able to see is we have a very explosive offense,” Hall said. “We’ve got exciting guys, energetic guys, really good guys. So we have a core that is going to lead us into the offseason, where we can make some powerful moves now, pitching-wise, to take us to the next level.

“We thought we were going to compete for sure next year; now we know we are, but now we’re going to be able to add to what we’ve already built this year.”

Of course, this year isn’t over yet, and until the D-backs are truly eliminated from postseason contention they are going to try and win games. The key is to not sacrifice development in the process, which is the balancing act manager Chip Hale and the organization must perform.

Hall compared it to last season when Peralta received plenty of at-bats last year, grew, and is now the impact player you see this year. He said the same plan is in place with some of this year’s players, including pitcher Rubby De La Rosa. The 26-year-old with a 12-6 record and a 4.46 ERA has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of his starts, but surrendered four or more in the same number of outings.

“He’s had his ups and downs, but you can see the dominance, you see what he has, you know the potential is there,” Hall said. “This is a developmental year where next year he knows he’s in that role, he knows every fifth day he’s going to get the ball, and he’s never done that before this year. That’s development.”

Hall noted Inciarte, Pollock, Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings as guys who are going through the same process.

“It’s a very young team and they’ve taken such a big step forward this year,” he said. “I’m excited about next year for all of them, and especially the pitchers that have now had a full year of development at this level.”

The Diamondbacks were not expected to contend for much this season, and that they have — albeit on a cursory level — is notable. And while nothing is guaranteed, you’d certainly have to feel better about the organization now than you did one year ago.

Who knows, maybe one year from now the story will be about how the team took that next step and is preparing for a postseason run. That’s Hall’s expectation, anyway.

“I think the fact that we have Patrick Corbin coming back, and you see how he’s progressing this year coming off Tommy John surgery, he has not been up very long and he looks really good, he’s getting back into form and he was our true ace,” Hall said. “If we can go out and determine which No. 1 or No. 2 we can add to our rotation, which I think we can, if we can go out and get front-line starters and work on our bullpen as well to go along with this explosive offense, I think we’re in great shape.”

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Arizona Diamondbacks relevant in 2015, expecting even more in 2016