The Diamondbacks have a lot of soul searching to do after a miserable 2017 season. Everyone from Ken Kendrick to the players need to figure out where they have failed and the plan of action is for the offseason in order to improve themselves. There are major needs for the roster, but the Diamondbacks lack the pieces to be able to add to the major league roster. If there is to be any improvement, it's going to have to come via free agency and internal improvements.
The Diamondbacks boast a pair of MVP candidates in Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock. Neither player has had the season they envisioned in March, leading to a domino effect that has negatively affected the rest of the lineup. The 2016 season brought some nice surprises with an uptick in performance from Jean Segura, Jake Lamb, Yasmany Tomas, Welington Castillo, and Chris Herrmann, but also leaves the team with more questions than answers. As 2016 proved, anything that can go wrong has, but that'snot a valid excuse for avoiding change where it is needed. The worst thing the team can do is double down on a mistake as opposed to owning up and working to fix them.
Jake Lamb showed to be a nice power threat from the left side, but a 2nd half slump aided by a deteriorated approach at the plate leaves a question of concern moving forward. Yasmany Tomás has had a 2nd half power surge, but questionable plate discipline and his poor defense in the outfield stealing from whatever value his bat brings. Welington Castillo provides a league average bat at the plate and does a good job at blocking pitches and throwing out base stealers, but his ability to handle pitchers is the one area in his game that is not up to par. Chris Herrmann showed to be a quality bench bat, but has similar issues behind the plate as Castillo. However, even if Herrmann isn't the backup catcher, he has utility off the bench to back up 1B and both corner OF spots. For Segura, the question becomes whether his 2016 numbers are sustainable. Segura doesnt walk much, but doesn’t strike out and uses the whole field. While I expect regression in 2017, he showed that he can produce.
The biggest issue that faced the Diamondbacks a year ago was where they would find starting pitching. Fast-forward a year later and not only have they been unable to fix the problem, it's gotten worse and potentially no fix in sight with the coaches currently available. Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin have fallen off cliffs with no real plausible explanation. The team is still likely counting on them in 2017, which is a very concerning thought. The rotation is currently held together with duct tape and prayers. While top prospects Braden Shipley and Archie Bradley have pitched their way in the majors, the early returns have not been encouraging. I have more confidence that Shipley will figure it out because he has a pretty good idea of what type of pitcher he is and what he needs to do in order to be successful.
Robby Ray has been a nice surprise, building on a solid rookie season and developing into a big time strikeout pitcher with 181 on the season so far. Ray has pitched well of late, but does battle the Too Many Pitches bug every other start. There is enough there that once hes able to be more efficient that hell develop into a frontline starter.
The bullpen is not in as good of shape as the rotation. The current bullpen is composed of inexperienced relievers and unwanted veterans. That has been a recipe of diaster as the younger players were unable to grasp a back-end role to make the offseason evaluation process easier. Instead, the team is almost forced to spend a decent amount if their budget building a semi-reliable bullpen or they won't spend money on it and the team will suffer from it.
The team needs to also make decision with roster players on the fringe. Players like Tuffy Gosewisch, Michael Bourn, and Rickie Weeks aren’t helpful to the team in the short or long term as aging veterans who aren’t providing value to the team. Those three are the very definition of replacement player when they invented the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat.
So to answer the main question of whether the team can compete and contend next year, I would have to say no. There are too many questions surrounding this roster, even for the players having a good year. Not only has the major league taken a step backwards, the front office has salted the farm with trades that sent Aaron Blair, Touki Toussaint, and Dansby Swanson to the Braves organization. There is no easy fix for the team, as they lack the prospect pieces needed ti swing a deal for a #2 starter plus they aren't too keen with trading from their position player core to fill that hole. In one year, not only have the Diamondbacks weakened their chances to contend in the short term with the collapse of the pitching staff and lack of depth, they’ve also weakened their chances of competing in the future by trading away highly regarded prospects as a means to shed salary or acquire an overrated pitcher. This could become both an interesting and ugly offseason as the franchise attempts to determine the next course of action.