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The Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019

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ESPN is unimpressed with what we might be like over the next five years. But is the future really that grim?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN had an Insider piece earlier in the week, giving their "Future Power Rankings" based on their assessment of a team's current talent, prospects, finances, management and room to maneuver, combining into a figure that covers predicted performance over the next five years. It didn't make good reading for the Diamondbacks, who ranked 28th, ahead only of our expansion siblings in Tampa, and the Phillies. Major-league talent and management were the categories that hurt the team most, and Jim Bowden wrote, "The Diamondbacks won't be relevant again until they can trade for or develop a high-end starting pitcher (or two)."

But what might the team look like on Opening Day 2019? Let me gaze into my crystal ball and take a look. As we saw before, five years is a geological epoch in baseball terms, but here's my stab at what the roster may look like on Opening Day 2019.

Position players
  • C. Peter O'Brien
  • 1B. Paul Goldschmidt
  • 2B. Brandon Drury
  • SS. Chris Owings
  • 3B. Jake Lamb
  • LF. Yasmany Tomas
  • CF. A.J. Pollock
  • RF. Alex Glenn
  • Bench: Oscar Hernandez, Socrates Brito, Nick Ahmed, Evan Marzilli, Daniel Palka

This is not implausible, since Pollock is the only one of the above who will be a free agent before the end of 2019 [we have a team option on Goldschmidt for 2019, at what seems a very reasonable $14.5 million] Most of the others will be no more than 2nd-year arbitration, though there is also the opt-out clause in Tomas's contract at the end of 2018. Speaking of our Cuban, the SnakePit's favorite ESPN pundit snarks that Tomas "doesn't look like he'll be able to play third base at the major league level. But he should at least fall into 20 or so homers even if he remains out of shape." I do tend to think Lamb is a better option at 3B, particularly if an OF slot opens up.

Of course, predicting, say, who will be our backup catcher in 2019 could as well be accomplished by lobbing garden utensils at a ball-pool filled with minor-league prospects. Or by lobbing minor-league propects at a ball-pool filled with garden implements.

Starting pitching

In alphabetical order. :)

  • Aaron Blair
  • Archie Bradley
  • Yoan Lopez
  • Rubby de la Rosa
  • Braden Shipley

Even ESPN admits, "The franchise has collected a number of big arms and is betting that major rotation options will emerge from the group." [Yeah, that's the kind of cutting-edge insight you can only find on ESPN, and is why Insider is so worth the money] I certainly admit, it's highly unlikely all five of the above will blossom into fully-fledged major-league pitchers. But on the other hand, players may come out of nowhere. In March 2010, one prospect was coming off a mediocre 4.15 ERA in 27 starts as a 23-year-old with High-A Visalia. Who would have predicted then, that Josh Collmenter would be our Opening Day starter, five years later?

So, those are the five "most likely" pitchers to be present, which is a combination of talent and closeness to the major-league level [An elephant is still small when it's a mile away...] I wavered over whether Touki Toussaint should be included in the above list, but he still has just too far to go. On this date in 2019, he will still only be 22 years of age, so if he hasn't become all he can be, that's okay. And, of course, the team has the #1 pick in this year's draft, who will likely be making a quick impact. The last time we had the first overall pick, four years later, the player concerned was playing for the National League All-Stars....

Bullpen
  • Closer: Enrique Burgos
  • Set-up man: Evan Marshall
  • Set-up man: Jimmy Sherfy
  • Left-hander: Anthony Banda
  • Mid-innings: Jake Barrett
  • Mid-innings: Matt Stites
  • Long releif: Andrew Chafin

See previous notes about garden implements and ball-pools here, and perhaps add some "flailing wildly around in the dark, with a sack over your head." Let me tell you a little secret here: this section was largely accomplished by taking John's top 60 prospect list, figuring out which pitchers hadn't been used yet and then assigning them roles in our 2019 bullpen. Hey, I'm nothing if not methodical, but I defy you to come up with a method that offers sure and certain accuracy here!

Conclusions

This will be wildly inaccurate. I've absolutely no doubt of that, and look forward to re-visiting this piece in spring training 2019, and getting a good chuckle [I'm setting a Google calendar reminder] Not included at all here are any free-agent acquisitions, and given the influx of television money coming our way, I've no doubt there will be a few of those. You can also add in the draft picks we make in the next couple of years: not just the #1, but in general. The 2011 and 2012 drafts will begin to pay off for us this year, so impact players for the 2019 Diamondbacks may still be in college at the point.

All told, I don't think the long-term future is quite as black as ESPN paints it. Yes, it's quite possible the next couple of years are going to be rough, but our farm system is hardly bereft of talent. With careful management - and that is, I appreciate, quite a big caveat - we have the foundations of a solid young team, and I genuinely doubt we will be the third-worst team in the majors over the next five seasons.