The Payoff Pitch looks at the National League West
Last Year: 79-83, 3rd in NL West
Key Addition: A formidable pitching staff (in the form of Zach Greinke, Shelby Miller and Tyler Clippard)
Key Loss: The Future (in the form of future stud Dansby Swanson)
The Diamondbacks made major waves in offseason, signing arguably the best pitcher on the market and making one of the biggest trades. The moves improve their rotation, but it still isn’t the best in the division. Or even the second best.
Not many teams can top a Zach Greinke at the top of the rotation, but, unfortunately for the Dbacks, 2 of them reside in the same division (and we’re not talking about Tyson Ross or Jorge De La Rosa). Shelby Miller is a nice addition, to be sure, but trading away Dansby Swanson is a risky move. The Diamondbacks essentially went into win-now mode, even though they don’t have the resources of the Dodgers or the pedigree of the Giants.
It’s a gamble that new Chief Baseball Office Tony La Russa (who does have a playoff pedigree equivalent to the Giants) and GM Dave Stewart felt was made when the time was right. La Russa raved about Arizona’s strong core in the offseason and the additions of Greinke, Miller, Clippard and Jean Segura only strengthen it.
That strong core is centered on Dodger killer Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt, only 28, had a spectacular season last year as he had an OPS above one and carried the Diamondbacks to one of the top offenses in the NL: they lead the league in hits, and were second (to Coors Field) in runs, total bases, and slugging. The offense should improve with Segura manning short, and an improved rotation, even with a back end that is less than stellar, has Dback fans dreaming of an NL West crown.
It’s important to note that the Dodger offense- which will be improved with Seager at short and another year under Joc and Kike’s belt- was also one of the top offenses in the league. While the Dodger rotation was weakened and Diamondback’s strengthened in the offseason, the scale still tips in favor of the Dodgers. Arizona is improved, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not enough to topple the Dodgers and Giants atop the NL West perch.
Best Benchwarmer: Socrates Orel Brito
We’re not high on the Dbacks bench, but with someone name Socrates you can never go wrong. To top it off, the dude’s middle name harks to a great pitcher from the last Dodger World Series team. The young lefty centerfielder, only 23, was solid in his cup of coffee last season, hitting .303 with a .778 OPS and five runs scored in very limited. He has had a great Spring so far- hitting .667 with 3 RBI. The looks he’s had so far are small, but the hopes are high for Brito.
Prediction: The Diamondbacks will be this year’s Padres, but with more wins: Greinke immediately gives the D-Backs a fighting change in the division. Miller is overrated in our books, and likely will be a disappointment. One of the league’s best offenses combined with the guy who should be known as the defending Cy Young award winner is going to equal success. The success won’t be in the form of the playoffs, however, as the Dbacks will be eliminated in the last week of the season, but they will make a strong push.
Final Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL West
Next week we’ll continue with part four of our five part series previewing each NL West team and predicting their fate for the 2016 season.
Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc) and Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays. Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @warming_benches.