MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL MLB

Arizona Diamondbacks Playing For Second Place & NL Wild Card Spot

March 14, 2020

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Photo: Ketel Marte | Yahoo Sports

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been a competitive team over the last three seasons, but they missed the playoffs in 2018 (82-80) and 2019 (85-77). In the team’s 22-year history, Arizona has one World Series title and six trips to the postseason.

After adding starter Madison Bumgarner along with outfielders Starling Marté and Kole Calhoun, Arizona will be chasing a wild card berth late into the season. It is hard to believe that the Diamondbacks could catch the perennial powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers.

The DBacks are the ideal prototype of a team that’s pulled off a rebuild without a full teardown. GM Mike Hazan has not only strengthened the big-league team but also has replenished the farm system.

They signed SHP Madison Bumgarner to a five-year $85 million contract in mid-December. RHP Junior Guerra and RHP Hector Rondon were added to the bullpen over the winter via free agency.

Bumgarner had a rebound in his command (1.9 walks per nine and 8.8 strikeouts per nine), but he still posted the highest ERA (3.90) of his career. His WHIP (1.127) supported an ERA closer to 3.40 while still battling home runs (30 over 207.2 innings). Bumgarner allowed 26 of his home runs to right-handed batters (.258 over 605 at-bats).

The health of RHP Luke Weaver and the development of RHP Zac Gallen would be keys to their push toward the postseason. Bumgarner is the ace of the staff. LHP Robbie Ray is a solid No. 2 starter. Ray made the push to a career-high in strikeouts (235) while his highest total in innings pitched (174.1). Unfortunately, his walk rate (4.3) still has plenty of risk, with more damage in home runs allowed (1.5 per nine). Ray never gave up more than five runs in his 33 starts, but he allowed two runs or fewer in only 16 games.

RHP Mike Leake when healthy once his left broken wrist heals will be the No. 3 starter. Leake can over late in the 2019 season and can eat up plenty of innings for the DBacks.

Then comes the No.4 and 5 starters which will be Weaver and Gallen. RHP Merrill Kelly, LHP Alex Young and RHP Taylor Clarke are all spot starters and long relivers which is an upgrade from last season.

Archie Bradley is more than capable of handling the 9th inning. The set-up staff includes LHP Andrew Chafin, RHP Yoan Lopez, newcomers Guerra and RHP Hector Rondon. Kevin Ginkel, Stefan Crichton.

Depth with position players was an achilles heel for the franchise especially in the outfield. Not anymore, Starling Marte has come over from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kole Calhoun from the Los Angeles Angels. They will join David Peralta when healthy has been a big threat from the left side from the plate. Tim Locastro has made himself someone who can get on base, steal a base and use his speed to create offense for the Dbacks.

All-Star Ketel Marte had a break out season setting career-highs in at-bats (569), runs (97), double (32), home runs (32), and RBI (92) while becoming a much better hitter with runners on base (RBI rate – 18). He remains tough to strikeout (13.7 percent) with about a league average walk rate (8.4).

Third baseman Eduardo Escobar set career-highs for the second straight year in at-bats (636), runs (94), hits (171), home runs (35) and RBI (118).

The other Marte, Starling finished with the lowest strikeout rate (16.0) of his career in 2019. Marte hit .312 in his last 461 at-bats with 87 runs, 20 home runs, 71 RBI, and 22 stolen bases highlighted by an impactful August (.339 with 20 runs, five HRs, 17 RBI, and 11 SBs over 115 at-bats).

Peralta played well over his first 182 at-bats (.319 with 27 runs, seven HRs, and 30 RBI) in 2019. He missed the end of May with a right shoulder injury that flared up again in early July and ended his season in late August with surgery. The Diamondbacks signed him to a three-year, $22 million contract in early January, which shows that they are confident that his shoulder will be fine going forward.

The key piece to all the success in manager Torey Lovullo. With the type of roster, the DBacks need to be competitive Lovullo is the right communicator for the job.

Over the past two seasons Lovullo has compiled a 175-149 regular-season record. He led the squad to the National League Division Series in 2017. He was named the NL Manager of the Year in 2017 after helping the Diamondbacks win 24 more games than they did the year before.

The DBacks and Lovullo agreed to a contract extension, which will keep him under contract through the 2021 season.

Projected opening day starting lineup:

Starling Marte, CF

Ketel Marte, 2B

Eduardo Escobar, 3B

David Peralta, LF

Christian Walker, 1B

Kole Calhoun, RF

Nick Ahmed, SS

Carson Kelly, C

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