Few teams in baseball may benefit from the mad dash 60-game season as the Arizona Diamondbacks. They're (still) looking up at the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, but the shorter the season, the better their chances to have a Cinderella run. The 60-game season equals hope.
"In any run of baseball in a short season, chaos can ensue," D-Backs GM Mike Hazen said in a conference call prior to summer camp last month. "I'm excited for it. I think it is going to be fantastic. Would it be better if we were playing 162 (games)? Yeah, but that sailed a long time ago. I think it is going to be high intensity."
Of course, the D-Backs are a legitimate postseason contender even if the Dodgers run away with the division title again. Arizona is a strong bet to chase a wild card spot and the team made several significant additions over the winter without suffering any significant losses. Let's preview the 2020 season in the desert.
Win total projection, odds
- 2020 Sportsline projection: 33-27
- World Series odds (via William Hill Sportsbook): 50/1
- 2019 record: 85-77
- CF Starling Marte
- 2B Ketel Marte
- 3B Eduardo Escobar
- LF David Peralta
- 1B Christian Walker
- RF Kole Calhoun
- SS Nick Ahmed
- DH Jake Lamb
- C Carson Kelly
Cron and Lamb could form a sneaky-excellent DH platoon. Lamb is a career .250/.345/.468 hitter against righties and Cron, C.J.'s younger brother, hit 44 home runs 121 games between Triple-A and MLB last season. His .777 Triple-A slugging percentage was the highest in the minors in at least four decades. The D-Backs have depth throughout the lineup -- Kelly, the projected No. 9 hitter, slashed .245/.348/.478 in 2019 -- and a solid bench, which includes hit-by-pitch king Locastro (22 HBP in 250 PA last year). Utility men Josh Rojas and Andy Young may see time on the MLB roster this season as well.
Mike Leake , opening a rotation spot for Kelly, who was fine in his return from Korea last year. Bumgarner is the big name, obviously -- he reportedly took less money to go to Arizona -- but Gallen could finish the season as the team's best starter. We'll have more on him in a bit. Weaver missed time with an elbow injury last season and, should the D-Backs need another starter at some point, righties Taylor Clarke and Jon Duplantier, and lefty Alex Young, are the first line of defense.
- Closer: RHP Archie Bradley
- Setup: LHP Andrew Chafin, RHP Yoan Lopez
- Middle: RHP Stefan Crichton, RHP Kevin Ginkel, RHP Junior Guerra, RHP Hector Rondon
- Long: RHP Jon Duplantier, RHP Taylor Clarke, LHP Alex Young
The D-Backs have opted to throw numbers at their bullpen rather than invest in one or two big names and hey, that's a sound strategy. Even the best relievers can be hard to predict from one year to the next. Righties Artie Lewicki and James Sherfy, and lefty Matt Grace and Joe Mantiply, are the notable depth relievers on the 60-man player pool. Righty Taylor Widener is a sleeper despite his ugly Triple-A numbers last year (8.10 ERA in 100 innings) because he can really spin the baseball and he finished second in the minors in strikeouts in 2018.
|Date||OPP||Time / TV||Venue|
|Jul 24, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Jul 25, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Jul 26, 2020||@ San Diego||4:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Jul 27, 2020||@ San Diego||4:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Jul 28, 2020||@ Texas||9:05 pm||Globe Life Field|
|Jul 29, 2020||@ Texas||4:05 pm||Globe Life Field|
|Jul 30, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Jul 31, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 1, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 2, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||4:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 4, 2020||vs Houston||9:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 5, 2020||vs Houston||9:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 6, 2020||vs Houston||7:07 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 7, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Aug 8, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Aug 9, 2020||@ San Diego||4:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Aug 10, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 11, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 12, 2020||@ Colorado||3:10 pm||Coors Field|
|Aug 14, 2020||vs San Diego||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 15, 2020||vs San Diego||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 16, 2020||vs San Diego||4:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 17, 2020||vs Oakland||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 18, 2020||vs Oakland||6:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 19, 2020||@ Oakland||9:40 pm||RingCentral Coliseum|
|Aug 20, 2020||@ Oakland||9:40 pm||RingCentral Coliseum|
|Aug 21, 2020||@ San Francisco||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 22, 2020||@ San Francisco||9:15 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 23, 2020||@ San Francisco||4:10 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 24, 2020||vs Colorado||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 25, 2020||vs Colorado||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 26, 2020||vs Colorado||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 27, 2020||vs Colorado||6:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 28, 2020||vs San Francisco||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 29, 2020||vs San Francisco||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 30, 2020||vs San Francisco||4:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 1, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 2, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 3, 2020||@ L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 4, 2020||@ San Francisco||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 5, 2020||@ San Francisco||9:15 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 6, 2020||@ San Francisco||4:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 7, 2020||@ San Francisco||8:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Sep 8, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 9, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 10, 2020||vs L.A. Dodgers||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 11, 2020||vs Seattle||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 12, 2020||vs Seattle||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 13, 2020||vs Seattle||4:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 15, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||9:40 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Sep 16, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||9:40 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Sep 17, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||4:10 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Sep 18, 2020||@ Houston||8:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Sep 19, 2020||@ Houston||7:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Sep 20, 2020||@ Houston||2:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Sep 22, 2020||vs Texas||9:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 23, 2020||vs Texas||6:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 25, 2020||vs Colorado||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 26, 2020||vs Colorado||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 27, 2020||vs Colorado||3:10 pm||Chase Field|
Two Martes are better than one
The Nov. 2016 trade with the Mariners has looked good and bad for both teams at different times, and, right now, the D-Backs are the clear winner because Ketel Marte is a bona fide superstar. The 26-year-old hit .329/.389/.592 with 32 home runs last season, earning him a fourth-place finish in the NL MVP voting. Marte had the 16th-lowest strikeout rate in baseball (13.7 percent) and the sixth-highest slugging percentage. It's an elite combination of power and contact.
Marte split last season between second base and center field, and while the versatility is appreciated, the D-Backs want him to get settled in at one spot. So, on Jan. 27, Arizona sent two prospects to the Pirates for Starling Marte (no relation). Starling will play center field and Ketel will play second base full-time. Now he can focus his efforts on one position and that might even help his bat as well. Ketel possibly having another level to his game is exciting.
"We think he's a fantastic baseball player," Hazen said following the Marte (Starling, not Ketel) trade. "He has power. He can hit for average. He is a very good athlete. Plays a very good outfield, center field as well. And he fits a lot of what we're trying to do."
Starling missed the start of summer camp for undisclosed reasons but has since joined the team, and is on track to be ready for the start of the regular season. He authored a .295/.342/.503 batting line last season and remains a good defender, though he's slipped a bit since his days as a Gold Glover. Even still, the D-Backs added an impact player and gave Ketel a permanent position. The trade helped Arizona in more ways than one.
A breakout star in the rotation
My pick for this year's Shane Bieber: Zac Gallen. Bieber was a good but not truly elite pitching prospect despite eye-popping minor-league numbers, and he parlayed his solid partial rookie season in 2018 into a breakout 2019. He threw 214 1/3 innings with a 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts. Bieber finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting in his first full MLB season.
Similarly, Gallen was a good but not truly elite pitching prospect despite eye-popping minor league numbers. He had a very good partial rookie season in 2019 and is in position to have a breakout 2020. Gallen threw 80 innings with a 2.81 ERA and 96 strikeouts with the Marlins and D-Backs last season. Arizona acquired him for shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm at the deadline.
Gallen's walk rate (10.8 percent) can be chalked up to inexperience rather than a longstanding control issues (career 6.4 percent walk rate in the minors), and he missed bats at an above-average rate with five pitches last season:
|Swing & Miss Rate||MLB Average|
"He has a number of weapons," Hazen told MLB.com's Steve Gilbert in February. "He's got really good stuff, he's a really good competitor and a really good strike thrower. Those were the really big things we liked about him."
The D-Backs have some questions at the back of the rotation -- Leake opted out, Kelly was demoted to the bullpen last year, and Corbin Martin is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery -- but Gallen is a potential breakout player behind Bumgarner, Ray, and Weaver. Don't be surprised if he is the team's best starter come the end of the season, the same way Bieber emerged as Cleveland's best starter last year despite sharing a rotation with bigger names.
No glaring weaknesses
The D-Backs have a legitimate superstar in (Ketel) Marte and Bumgarner is certainly a big name. Otherwise Hazen and his staff have built a roster loaded with solid contributors and no glaring weaknesses. Last year's ranks tells the story of the roster:
- 13th in hitting WAR
- 1st in baserunning WAR
- 5th in fielding WAR
- 13th in rotation WAR
- 14th in bullpen WAR
Last season's roster was not bad at anything. At worst, they were league average at the plate and on the mound, though they were among the game's best on the bases and in the field. To that roster they added (Starling) Marte. Bumgarner, and a full season of Gallen. The only significant loss is a half-season of Zack Greinke.
The D-Backs were not eliminated from postseason contention until the final week of the regular season in 2019. Sportsline gives them the third-highest win projection (33) in the National League this year, trailing only the Dodgers (40) and Nationals (35). Their roster may lack the name recognition of those teams, but make no mistake, the D-Backs' whole is greater than the sum of the parts and they are a dangerous team in a short season.
That said, beating out the Dodgers in the NL West will take a minor miracle. The D-Backs' best 60-game stretch last year was 34-26. The Dodgers' worst was 35-25. In a short season though, who knows? Maybe Arizona can end LA's reign atop the division. If not, the club figures to be in the wild card hunt all year, and if the D-Backs make it to October, opponents will have their hands full with the Bumgarner-Gallen duo.