MLB Team Roundup: Arizona Diamondbacks
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2021 Record: 52-110
Last Place, NL West
Team ERA: 5.11 (29th in MLB)
Team OPS: .692 (26th in MLB)
What Went Right
What went right? Next to nothing. And yet manager Torey Lovullo avoided the winter chopping block, landing a new contract extension in late September that will run through the 2022 season and includes an option for 2023. Madison Bumgarner threw a no-hit shutout on April 25 against the Braves, though it did not go into the record books as an official no-hitter because it came in the second half of a doubleheader and lasted only seven innings. The 32-year-old left-hander finished with a 4.67 ERA, his worst career mark in a full campaign. Ketel Marte bounced back from a highly disappointing showing in 2020 to slash .318/.377/.532 in 2021, but he appeared in only 90 games due to a pair of severe right hamstring strains. Those consecutive wins over the Rockies to close out the regular season kept the Diamondbacks from matching a franchise record for losses but also left club with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft rather than No. 1. Arizona did sport by far the best variation of Nike’s City Connect jerseys, which has to count for something.
What Went Wrong
The low point was probably the 17-game losing streak that ran from June 2 all the way to June 20, the longest losing streak in Major League Baseball since the Mariners also dropped 17 straight in 2011. Zoom out a little further and you’ll find that this year’s D-backs team earned only five wins in a span of 46 games between May 16 and July 4. They lost a record 24 consecutive games on the road as part of that stretch and finished the season with a .247 winning percentage away from Chase Field. No pitcher on the roster with more than 10 starts registered an ERA under 4.25, and only one hitter with more than 380 plate appearances logged an OPS north of .752. That one hitter was Eduardo Escobar, who got traded to the Brewers ahead of the July 30 deadline for a couple of minor prospects. Seth Beer, a promising young power-hitting first baseman, dislocated his left shoulder while making his first career MLB start at the position on September 14. Expectations weren’t all that high back in the spring, but the Snakes still well underperformed whatever those expectations were. Injuries and ineffectiveness exposed a serious lack of depth in all areas of the roster.
** Is a Ketel Marte trade in the cards this offseason? He signed a team-friendly seven-year, $46 million contract extension with the Diamondbacks in March 2018, the year before he broke out to the tune of a .329/.389/.592 batting line with 32 home runs, 92 RBI, 10 stolen bases, and 97 runs scored in 144 games en route to his lone All-Star nod and a fourth-place finish in the NL MVP balloting. The soon-to-be 28-year-old would probably be quite a bit more attractive in fantasy drafts next spring with a better supporting cast. Marte should go as a top-60 pick even if he stays, and he might because the money owed is minimal compared to the talent. The highest yearly salary in the deal is a $10 million club option for 2024.
** Daulton Varsho carries a lot of long-term fantasy intrigue and potential top-100 or maybe top-120 attention in 2022 with his eligibility at catcher and tantalizing offensive profile. The 25-year-old struggled in his first handful of call-ups between 2020 and early 2021, but he went on to hit .294/.344/.541 over his final 210 plate appearances this season. Varsho, in 259 career minor league games, slashed .302/.372/.527 with 46 home runs and 49 stolen bases. He can share starts behind the plate with Carson Kelly, who struggles against right-handed pitching, and Varsho has also proven athletic enough to get time all across the outfield.
** It’s not necessarily a great thing that Josh Rojas led all D-backs hitters in plate appearances this season -- he had an ADP of 359 on Yahoo at draft time -- but the versatile 27-year-old put up a solid on-base percentage (.341) and got semi-regular looks at leadoff down the stretch. He’ll be far more popular in fantasy next spring. Rojas flashed some decent stretches of pop and speed this summer and his numbers in the upper minors are rather eye-popping. In his 314 plate appearances at Triple-A over the last few years, he batted .337/.430/.644 with 18 homers and 21 steals.
** Zac Gallen was a top-25 starting pitcher in most fantasy drafts for the 2021 season and may be a worthwhile post-hype style of target next March. He posted a 2.78 ERA and 178 strikeouts across his first 152 major league innings in 2019-2020 before suffering a hairline fracture in his throwing arm while hitting in a cage this past year in camp. He then suffered an elbow sprain in that same arm in May. Bring on the DH! Gallen, 26, did have some good outings amid the stops and starts. Luke Weaver showed decent stuff when healthy, as well.
** Alek Thomas is a name to watch in general and could make a splash on the fantasy scene in the early part of the 2022 campaign. A second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of a Chicago high school, the 21-year-old center fielder batted .313/.394/.559 with 18 home runs, 29 doubles, 12 triples, 13 stolen bases, and 86 runs scored in 106 games this summer between Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno. His numbers only improved when he made the jump to the Triple-A level in mid-August.
** There weren’t many ninth-inning leads this year in Arizona, so there weren’t many saves to go around. Joakim Soria and Tyler Clippard shared the team lead with just six apiece. Soria was traded to the Blue Jays in July and went on to allow seven earned runs in eight innings for Toronto. Clippard could be back on a $3.5 million mutual option, but he’s going on his age-37 season. Look for that role to be a carousel again next year.
Key Free Agents: Kole Calhoun, after his $9 million club option is presumably declined. There might be a few borderline non-tender and option decisions, depending on how low the front office wants to go.
Team Needs: Patience, for the most part. There is high-end talent on the farm and some spread across the current major league depth chart. It’s an organization that is in better shape than this past season would suggest, but the Diamondbacks will continue to rank far behind the division-rival Dodgers, Padres, and Giants for at least another few years.