Let's start with the good news. Paul Goldschmidt "has evolved into a broadly skilled weapon," combining on-base skills, power, base-running and even good BABIP. "His projection for 2015 suggests he’ll continue doing all these sorts of things," with Goldschmidt's expected line being .283/.378/.527, including 28 home-runs and 95 RBI, with an overall value of 4.2 WAR. But not far behind is A.J. Pollock, who delivers 3.2 bWAR - and that's while projected for fractionally below 400 PAs. Chris Owings, Ender Inciarte and Yasmany Tomas round out the top five by WAR: the last is seen at .267/.302/.464 with 21 home-runs. I think we'd take that.
However, creator Dan Szymborski is concerned about the defensive eement, pointing out that for some of them, as well as Mark Trumbo, "There’s a real possibility, supported by ZiPS, that each is occupying a place on the defensive spectrum probably more demanding than the actual skills warrant." The news is certainly less good for the better-paid members of our line-up. ZIPS is not optimistic about a rebound season from Mark Trumbo, and his projected 1.1 WAR would not be great value, regardless of which way his arb case goes. But that will still likely bebetter than Aaron Hill ($12 million, 1.2 WAR) and Cody Ross ($9.5 million, 0.2 bWAR).
Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the position of catcher. There ZIPS appears to be on the Peter O'Brien bandwagon, having his clearly as our best producer at the position, even given his defensive question-marks, projecting 1.2 WAR for him. That's an awful lot better than Jordan Pacheco (0.3) or Tuffy Gosewisch (0.2), and likely better than we could expect from any remaining free agent. A .281 on-base percentage is unimpressive, but countering that, ZIPS has him for 26 home-runs in 469 PA, good overall for a 105 OPS+. The closest comp, according to ZIPS? Mike Piazza, at the same point in his career. We can but hope.
So, bit of a mixed-bag, but definitely some upside, I think. However, things are about get real ugly, real quick.
It's a mess. We all know that the 2015 Diamondbacks do not have anything approaching an obvious ace. Looking at these numbers, however, we don't appear to have much among our likely Opening Day rotation that's a #2 or #3 either - with the honorable exception of Josh Collmenter (3.88 ERA, 2.1 WAR). Thereafter, it's mostly players who would likely struggle to make the roster on many other major-league teams. Going by the numbers, our best projected Opening Day roster (we'll get to Bronson Arroyo and Patrick Corbin momentarily) would be Collmenter, Chase Anderson, Aaron Blair, Rubby de la Rosa and Trevor Cahill.
Conspicuous by his absence on that list is shiny new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson, whom ZIPS does not like at all, projecting him for a 4.48 ERA. That's largely indistinguishable from other, cheaper rotation candidates such as Allen Webster (4.48), Vidal Nuno (4.53) or Archie Bradley (4.46). Of course, Hellickson was acquired on the belief he could be a candidate for a bounce-back season after his 2014 was derailed by injury. I hope, for Dave Stewart's sake, this indeed turns out to be the case.
There will be help coming for our rotation, with Arroyo and Corbin making their ways back from Tommy John surgery. ZIPS is quite bullish about the latter: indeed, he's projected as our top pitcher, being worth 2.6 WAR in 145.1 innings, and the only starter with an ERA+ above average, at 106, resulting from his 3.72 ERA. Dan is less optimistic about Arroyo: just over a hundred innings at an ERA of 4.23, for an ERA+ of 92 that would be the same as he gave us in 2014, before his elbow gave out.
The bullpen looks a good deal better, with the apparent makings of a solid, if not spectacular relief contingent. There is no shortage of names expected to have an ERA+ in the 110-120 range, though perhaps surprising that the leader is a man who didn't throw a major-league pitch last year, David Hernandez (119). The others who follow, not too far behind, include Evan Marshall, Brad Ziegler, Addison Reed and Matt Reynolds, with Kevin Munson, Jimmie Sherfy and Enrique Burgos all young players whom ZIPS thinks could be at least league-average in 2015.
I think these numbers, by and large, pass the eye test. Right now, in the absence of any unexpected moves - and I would put us signing James Shields into this category - it's the starting pitching which is going to be our biggest problem for 2015. I don't think this would come as a surprise to anyone, but it's nice to see numbers which appear to bear this out. We have no shortage of back of the rotation guys, but with Corbin the only starter projected as pitching above league average (and he's no sure thing, for obvious reasons), games may be out of reach before a decent enough bullpen gets into them.
The main hope appears to be that our offense can keep up, with a line-up which (if O'Brien does indeed win the job in spring training) potentially has an OPS+ above 100 everywhere bar the middle-infield. With conceivably four 20-homer guys present, in Goldie, Trumbo, Tomas and O'Brien, it would certainly be a more exciting team to watch than this season, where no Diamondback reached the mark for the first time since 2004. If the team is going to go anywhere, it will likely need some unexpected performances in the rotation, along with the hitters matching or surpassing their projections.