It’s not currently clear how different the Opening Day roster in 2017 will be from the one which started the 2016 campaign. Given the dismal results which followed this year, you could argue that repeating things with largely the same players, and simply hoping for a different result, is bordering on the insane. But it’s not clear what scope there might be for the team to improve. The free-agent market looks likely to overpay the players available, and the team doesn’t have much in the way of depth or farm prospects that could be leveraged to address the team’s holes [most obviously, pitching, in all its forms]
On the position player side, it’s possible the only significant change sees a healthy A.J. Pollock back on the roster, in place of Rickie Weeks - and, clearly, getting a lot more playing time [Weeks has been on the roster the entire year, and has 26 starts in the field, plus half a dozen at DH]. We may see Mitch Haniger preferred over Socrates Brito: small sample size (under 100 major-league PAs for each), but as well as hitting significantly more, Haninger has shown far better plate discipline, with a K:BB of 18:10, as opposed to 21:2 for Brito. That’s not a mis-print.
The other big question would be with regard to the infield. We could conceivably go with the same nine players. That would mean Beef and the Herrmannator behind the plate, Goldy at first and Jean at second - then short and second manned by a rotating combination of Owings, Ahmed, Drury, Lamb and Gosselin. This is an area where we could look at thinning the herd, as that seems at least one too many players. Dare I suggest, trading Jean Segura? While he has certainly been much better this season, there are grounds to believe he had batted-ball luck which may not be sustainable. He’d thus be a good “sell high” candidate, perhaps the best trade-chip the team has. A post-Segura landscape could see Owings moving over to 2B on an everyday basis, and a Gosselin/Ahmed combo at short.
Beyond that though, I’m fairly satisfied with the offense, which has scored the fifth-most runs in 2016 by a National League side. Add a full season of Pollock, and it should be solidly above average next year, reasonable health permitting. The issue - and I appreciate, this hardly counts as breaking news, is going to be the pitching. If the Diamondbacks improved their current ERA by an entire run, they would still be worse than league average, and rank 10th in the league. Unless the team decides to spin Segura into a good pitcher - and, hopefully, their choice of what represents “good” is a damn sight better than Shelby Miller has been - it seems any improvement is largely going to come from within. By that I don’t mean farm prospects: I mean the existing guys, ones we’ve already seen, simply pitching better.
In the rotation, there is some cause to hope for this. If you’re really optimistic, you can imagine a 2017 where the following happens:
- Zack Greinke returns to his career norm (ERA+ 122)
- Robbie Ray has an ERA commensurate with his strikeout-rate.
- Patrick Corbin pitches as well in the rotation as he has done lately in the bullpen
- Rubby De La Rosa, our best starter this year, remains healthy
- Shelby Miller figures it out
If all these happen, we have the rotation we actually expected to have last season, with five better than average starting pitchers. Now, the odds of each one of these does vary, and the odds of all five going in Arizona’s favor are, to be honest, pretty slim. But beyond that, we do have Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, who have both shown flashes of competence. If Bradley, say, pitches to his FIP (4.32) in 2017, he’d also have an ERA+ above 100. The key is likely Miller, but sadly, I think the odds of him being fixed at slim, particularly under the current regime. They’ve shown themselves apparently clueless about the situation, and neither of Shelby’s minor-league sojourns appear to have had any significant impact. Yay, he’s no longer dragging his knuckles! But he still sucks.
A bigger issue may be the bullpen which has disintegrated in the second half, to the tune of a 5.82 ERA since the All-Star break. I really would like the team to make a strong effort to re-sign Brad Ziegler and provide some stability at the back end. The 7-8-9 run we had in the first half of Tyler Clippard, Daniel Hudson and Ziegler was solid and effective at protecting leads, and Hudson seems to have rediscovered his mojo since quitting Twitter. Replace Clippard with, say, Jake Barrett, and that has potential. However, I’d far rather have another reliable arm as one of the issues this year was a sense the back-end trio were over-worked. If we had four reliable bullpen arms, then hopefully on any given night, three would be available for use, if needed.
Andrew Chafin may be the best bet for the fourth option. His ERA this year was a very disappointing 6.75, but he had some horrible luck - his BABIP was .375. Striking out 28 in only 22.2 innings helped give him a sub-three FIP, and I’m hopeful his ERA in 2017 will reflect that. Elsewhere in the bullpen, I can see Randall Delgado sticking around, Zack Godley taking over the Josh Collmenter role of long relief, and Steve Hathaway getting a shot at the LOOGY role. Enrique Burgos, prospect Jimmy Sherfy, Matt Koch and Tyler Wagner are other names who may be in the mix for a shot. The last two could potentially work at the back of the rotation, but that would likely require significant injury and/or ineffectiveness for several pitcher higher on the depth chart.
Putting it together, here’s what I would currently expect to be the D-backs 2016 Opening Day roster. Obvious cautionary notes apply: that’s still more than six months away, and a lot of water (not least, a number of additional pink slips in the front-office) could flow under the bridge between now and then.
- C. Welington Castillo
- 1B. Paul Goldschmidt
- 2B. Jean Segura
- SS. Chris Owings
- 3B. Jake Lamb
- LF. David Peralta
- CF. A.J. Pollock
- RF. Yasmany Tomas
- Chris Herrmann
- Brandon Drury
- Mitch Haniger
- Phil Gosselin
- Nick Ahmed
- Zack Greinke
- Robbie Ray
- Patrick Corbin
- Rubby De La Rosa
- Shelby Miller
- Brad Ziegler
- Patrick Corbin
- Jake Barrett
- Andrew Chafin
- Steve Hathaway
- Randall Delgado
- Zack Godley