Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2016 season. Next up: The Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks made perhaps the biggest and most surprising move of the offseason in signing Zack Greinke following his opt-out with the Dodgers. Putting him at the top of their rotation -- the day after revealing their new uniform combinations -- instantly transformed the image of the Dbacks. And instantly got people talking about them as contenders. But was adding Greinke enough?
No one player can make a baseball team, of course, but there was more than one addition this past winter. Joining Greinke at the top of the rotation is Shelby Miller, acquired in a trade from the Braves. Miller was historically unlucky in Atlanta last year, ending up being the first pitcher to lose 17 games with an ERA under 3.50 since 1984. His run support was awful and things just always broke wrong for him, rarely is own doing. While his strikeout and walk rates and his move to a far more hitter-friendly ballpark may suggest that he’s not quite as good as his 2015 ERA suggests, he’s a nice upgrade for the Snakes. Moreover, Arizona will have the services of Patrick Corbin all year long. Corbin made a nice comeback from Tommy John surgery in half a season last year and has looked sharp this spring. Expect the Diamondbacks to have the best 1-2-3 in the rotation that they’ve had in years.
The lineup is headed up by one of the best hitters in all of baseball in Paul Goldschmidt, who should be an MVP candidate once again. Behind him is A.J. Pollack, a guy so often called the most underrated player in the game that he may no longer be underrated. But he’s still outstanding, both with the bat and the glove. David Peralta hit a ton last season. Yasmany Tomas’ rookie year was nothing to write home about at the plate, but he has potential as a hitter, as do prospects Brandon Drury and outfielder Peter O’Brien and third baseman Jake Lamb. The Dbacks will score runs, both because of their talent and because of their home park.
The biggest problem on this team, however, is going to be defense. Pollock is great but the Dbacks lost one of the best defensive outfielders in the game when they traded Ender Inciarte to the Braves in the Shelby Miller deal. That will move Tomas -- who was an absolute trainwreck at third base last year -- to the outfield, where one can’t reasonably expect him to be any good with the leather either. Peralta is no great shakes himself. Between the more hitter-friendly park and the butchers in the outfield corners, Greinke and Miller may wish they came here at times.
The one other big addition of the offseason was Tyler Clippard. He’ll likely get the highest leverage innings while Brad Ziegler closes and Daniel Hudson helps out late. Assuming health, it could be a nice back-end.
There is a lot to like about the Diamondbacks. Many are picking them as a sleeper team this year, claiming that they may be a surprise challenger to the Dodgers and Giants. I don’t know that you can be that big of a surprise when you sign Zack Greinke and have Paul Goldschmidt anchoring the lineup, but I do think they could be a pretty frisky team, especially if Corbin and Miller continue to build on their 2015 performances. I do worry an awful lot about defense, though. Defense has been absolutely critical for contending teams in the past several seasons, and Arizona’s could be a disaster.
Prediction: Third place, NL West. But, like I said, they could be pretty frisky.