ESPN’s Olney: Diamondbacks have a top-10 lineup

Jan 15, 2016, 8:04 PM | Updated: Jan 16, 2016, 4:51 pm
Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock, right, is congratulated by Paul Goldschmidt after hitting a sol...
Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock, right, is congratulated by Paul Goldschmidt after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Arizona Diamondbacks spent much of the offseason upgrading their pitching staff, with the key moves being the additions of starters Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller.

Part of the reason for that is because Arizona finished ninth in the National League with a team ERA of 4.04 in 2015 and improving the starting rotation will go a long way toward improving that ranking and number.

Also, it helps that the team’s offense is already pretty good.

The D-backs ranked second in the NL last season with 720 runs scored, giving them average of 4.4 per game. They slugged 154 home runs, had a .264 batting average and tallied 48 triples.

Arizona’s lineup figures to once again be among baseball’s best in 2016, and that’s why ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, in an Insider piece ranking the top 10 lineups in MLB, has the D-backs at No. 8.

The Diamondbacks fielded two players who finished third and sixth in the majors in runs scored in A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. The duo combined to reach base 549 times last season, a tremendous base for any offense, and the Diamondbacks have some good complementary pieces in David Peralta and (perhaps) Yasmany Tomas. Welington Castillo had 17 homers in 80 games for the Diamondbacks last season after hitting 29 homers in his first 316 games in the big leagues.

The production for the Diamondbacks at second base, shortstop and third base will probably be the difference between good and great for this group. Chris Owings, the second baseman, hit .227 last season, shortstop Nick Ahmed hit .226 and third baseman Jake Lamb batted .263 with six homers in 350 at-bats.

It no doubt helps to have Pollock and Goldshmidt, both of whom are All-Stars and the latter of whom has become a perennial NL MVP candidate. And while the team may not be able to expect that kind of power again from Castillo, there is reason to believe they will see improvements at the plate from players like Tomas, Owings, Lamb and Ahmed.

It will be interesting to see how the D-backs fare without Ender Inciarte, who was part of the trade that landed Miller. Last season, the speedy outfielder hit .303, reached base at a .338 clip and stole 21 bases.

Arizona was not the only NL West team to make the top 10, as the Colorado Rockies were listed ninth and the San Francisco Giants 10th.

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ESPN’s Olney: Diamondbacks have a top-10 lineup