Arizona Diamondbacks Roundup: What went right/wrong? fantasy slants
2022 Record: 74-88
4th place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.25 (23rd in MLB)
Team OPS: .689 (21st in MLB)
What Went Right
Even though the Diamondbacks finished below .500 for the third year in a row, they did win 24 more games in 2022 and towards the end of the season, we saw more baby Snakes (Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Drey Jameson, and Ryne Nelson) playing every day that surely gave their fan base something to dream on. If it wasn’t for Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen would probably be the frontrunner for NL Cy Young. From August 8th to September 11th, Gallen didn’t let an opposing batter to score which broke the franchise record, previously held by Brandon Webb at 42 innings. While the batting average was hovering around .200 for most of the season, Christian Walker, not that one, had the best year of his career and walloped 36 homers across 667 plate appearances. The dawn is rising in the valley of the sun.
What Went Wrong
The Diamondbacks have a massive hole at shortstop. Veteran Nick Ahmed was the starting shortstop but landed on the injured list after a shoulder injury that resulted in surgery. Geraldo Perdomo then filled in as the everyday shortstop in June and slashed an abysmal .195/.285/.262 with five homers and nine stolen bases. The 22-year-old is an above-average defender but if Arizona wants to take the next step and compete with the Padres or Dodgers, they have to address this position. Top prospect Jordan Lawlar is coming (and dominating the Arizona Fall League) but will be ready to contribute fast enough? The Diamondbacks signed Madison Bumgarner away from NL West rival, Giants prior to the 2020 season, which just happened to be their last competitive season. The first year was quite awful but the 33-year-old bounced back to respectability last year or was it just a dead cat bounce? Sadly, it is looking more of the later than the former. He limped to the finish this year with a 6.50 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 43/16 K/BB ratio in the second half and was sent home after his last start on September 21, as the team wanted him to finish on a high note. Not to be outdone, the Diamondbacks bullpen was easily the worst in the majors this year. As a group, they finished with a 4.58 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and 33 saves. To put this into context, the Orioles finished with a 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 46 saves. If the Diamondbacks want compete for a Wild Card spot next year, this is the biggest hole to fill.
** Zac Gallen returned to top-25 starter arena this year with his masterful performance. He posted a 2.54 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 192/47 K/BB ratio over 184 innings of work, which are all career-best numbers. Fantasy managers were snagging him around the 65th-70th pitcher off the board going into the season and there is absolutely no way he lasts that long in snake drafts next year. It is easy for me to say that Gallen is going to regress (you just said he had career-best numbers everywhere!) but his .237 BABIP and 0.73 HR/FB ratio gives me a slight pause. That being said, Gallen is shaping up to be a set-it-and-forget pitcher with strong strikeout numbers due to volume and won’t kill your ratios. Who does that sound like? Oh yeah…ex-teammate Sandy Alcantara. (It still blows my mind that the Marlins could have had a rotation of Zac Gallen, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Jesus Luzardo, Trevor Rogers, and Braxton Garrett.)
**Daulton Varsho - Due to a Carson Kelly injury, Daulton Varsho clings to catcher eligibility for at least one more season. His 27 homers this year was an easy career-high but came at the expense of his batting ball profile. To get to all that power, the 26-year-old went full steam into the “grip it and rip it” approach. His pull percentage jumped from 38% to a whopping 54% so it isn’t surprising to find out that all of his over-the-fence power production came from the pulled side. So you are probably wondering why this is such a big deal. Well…26 of his 27 homers came off right-handers and he hit an awful .221 against southpaws. Add in the fact that the Diamondbacks outfield is pretty stacked with much younger and exciting talent and I could easily see Varsho becoming a platoon bat at some point next year. I will freely admit 16 swipes are great but with the new rules and influx of talent at catcher, Varsho is an easy pass for me.
**Christian Walker should probably change his name to Christian Homer after blasting 36 homers which were the fourth-highest in the National League and second among all first base eligible hitters. His 667 plate appearances lead the Diamondbacks this year and his 368 ADP made him an absolute steal before the season started. So what changed? Walker became much more patient at the plate (swing-rate dropped to a career-low 44%) but his in-zone contact rate jumbled from 82% to 87% this year. The 30-year-old’s 27% o-swing% is a career-low and he will be far more popular in fantasy next spring.
**What do we do with Ketel Marte? The now 29-year-old broke out in 2019 but has failed to get back to those lofty heights. Marte finished with a .240/.321/.407 with 12 homers and five swipes in 137 games but finished the season on the injured list undisclosed injury on September 30th. While it was great to see Marte play in 130+ games this season, he was bothered by a barking hamstring in July and only hit .195/.257/.345 in the second half. Marte also lost outfield eligibility after playing on the infield dirt all year. With a career-low .276 BABIP and a promising Diamondbacks team on the horizon, he could be a great bounce-back candidate next year. Well…as long as can avoid yet another hammy injury.
**After signing a two-year extension, Merrill Kelly stepped up to take the place of Madison Bumgarner as the team’s number two pitcher. The 34-year-old has been stateside for four years and finally eclipsed the 200+ innings pitched mark and was one of eight starting pitchers to pass a once easy bat to clear. The righty posted a respectable 3.37 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 177-61 K/BB ratio over 200 ⅓ innings. While I hate to be the person that says “If you remove this start…” but here I go. If you take out the five starts against the All-Star team known as the Dodgers, Kelly would have had a 2.71 ERA and 1.03 WHIP across 176 ⅓ innings which closely align to the ratio stats of Jordan Montgomery and Tyler Anderson. While Kelly will never be a lights-out starter, he should fill in as a great number four or five starter for your fantasy squad, just remember to bench him when he faces the Dodgers.
**Brandon Pfaadt could be another interesting draft-and-hold option this winter. Pfaadt (pronounced fat) was a fifth-round draft pick during the 2020 pandemic draft. His professional career did not start until the following spring but made it up to Triple-A and is knocking on the door of the D-backs rotation. Across Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno, Pfaadt posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 218/33 K/BB ratio over 167 innings. With the current depth of the Diamondbacks rotation, he is probably ticketed to Triple-A. However, with how dreadful a place Reno and the rest of the Pacific Coast League is to pitch at, the Diamondbacks might be better suited to have the youngster start the season with the big league club.
Team Needs: Honestly, I think they need to continue with what they have been doing the past few seasons. The NL West is a tough division to play in but the team saw major improvements this season. If they were to sign a big-time shortstop, like Dansby Swanson or Trea Turner, it would lengthen the lineup more. If they want to shock the world and be the 2023 version of this year’s Orioles, they need to redo the entire bullpen, outside of Joe Mantiply.