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Questions for the Arizona Diamondbacks as they begin the 2017 season

The Diamondbacks open the 2017 with a ton of questions that will be answered as Spring Training opens up. With moderately low expectations, there is little chance of disappointment unless the team performs badly enough to get Paul Goldschmidt traded.

The Diamondbacks enter Spring Training with plenty of questions on the roster. The team is coming off of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, a theme for Arizona Sports teams in 2016. The calendar is now 2017, so the Diamondbacks need to put last year in the rear-view mirror of all intents and purposes. With a new front office regime and a different on field staff, every player has a clean slate as far as I’m concerned, including the players who struggled in 2016.

The health of AJ Pollock and David Peralta?

The injuries to both CF AJ Pollock and RF David Peralta were huge blows to the 2016 team that was not only bad, but unlucky from the start. Pollock missed the first three and a half months with an elbow fracture injury that turned out to be a ticking time bomb. Peralta dealt with nagging wrist injuries, the first injury happening at the tail end of 2015. Both players figure to be a big part of the team’s plans for 2017, with Pollock hopefully back in his All-Star form. The Diamondbacks need Pollock healthy for 2017 if they hope to make any kind of run towards the postseason.

Is Paul Goldschmidt truly declining?

From 2013 through June 2015, Goldschmidt was one of the league’s premier hitters, putting up a wRC+ of 156. Since then, Goldschmidt has posted a wRC+ of 134. That’s not elite, but still very productive overall. Goldy is at the age where his speed and range are declining, but his bat has always been the big driver in value. Goldschmidt failed to hit 30 HR and drive in 100 runs for the first time since 2012, in fact posting a .899 OPS, lowest since 2012. The question is whether or not Goldschmidt will be able to bounce back up to that elite hitting production. Even if he doesn’t, Goldy is still the best hitter and player on the team without debate.

Will Robbie Ray be able to finally put it together?

The yearly Robbie Ray potential segment because lefties that throw 95+ don’t grow on trees. Ray can dominate hitters at times, with a Top-10 strikeout rate across MLB for qualified starting pitchers in 2016. However, that hasn’t led to batted ball success although similar profiles have yielded a .283 and .345 BABIP. Despite the velocity and a slider that I think is a tick above average, right-handed batters hit him to the tune of a .343 wOBA. I worry about Ray, who is arbitration eligible after the season, not being able to tap into the amount of potential he has. The Dbacks should allow Ray to pitch the way he is comfortable with, even if that means only having 5 good innings a start.

Is Zack Greinke still that ace?

For the Diamondbacks’ sake, he better be. The team gave Greinke a $206.5M contract and he responded with a season of being a little bit above average. Greinke started the year slowly, but turned things on in June, looking like the $200M ace the Dbacks sought until an oblique and shoulder injury capped his season prematurely. The Dbacks need Greinke to be healthy in 2017 and continue to pitch like he did from May 17-June 23. If the Diamondbacks can get Greinke to pitch a lot like he did in the middle of the 2016 season, the team will find its way more on the winning column.

Can Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin rebound from career-worst seasons?

Shelby Miller is often referenced for the failure of the 2016 season, but Patrick Corbin was another veteran pitcher who didn’t live up to standards. Both will be pitching for their rotation lives this Spring, although Corbin has a second avenue to the roster as a reliever. The Diamondbacks need at least one of the two to have a strong Spring and claim a rotation spot, the other likely heading to the bullpen. Both pitchers need to simply flush 2016 out of their memory because dwelling on the past is not healthy for a pitcher who now has a clean slate with a different regime.

Who sticks behind the plate?

The Diamondbacks made a lot of moves behind the plate, signing Chris Iannetta, Jeff Mathis, Josh Thole, and Hank Conger in the offseason. Iannetta provides the Diamondbacks with a player in the bottom of the order with a decent amount of power and on base ability while not being a liability behind the plate. Mathis is the quintessential backup catcher who handles his pitchers well and is an adept framer. That quality will be huge for a young pitching staff and a command and control pitcher like Greinke. Thole and Conger have MLB starter experience, although neither has had a consistently enough bat to stick around long term. Thole is one of the worst offensive catchers in the game, but he’s had the task of having to catch knuckle-baller RA Dickey in his career so moving to pitchers that put spin on the ball should be easier. Conger has decent pop and shows the ability to walk at times, although he is very inconsistent with a high strikeout rate. As far as the front office is concerned, they do not like the catchers they inherited between Welington Castillo (non-tendered), Chris Herrmann (bench bat), and Oscar Hernandez (questionable bat).

Open-Ended Discussion: Which Dback needs to step up the most in 2017?

This question is open-ended for everyone to consider. The team has players with experience at the MLB level. Whether you look at Fernando Rodney in the bullpen, Chris Owings hopefully finding a way to turn into a utility defender and help out with his bat, Jake Lamb finally stringing together two halves, etc. My pick for the player who needs to step up is Lamb because I bought a jersey and he’s arguably the 2nd best hitter on the team after Goldschmidt. The microscope will certainly be on him, 2B Brandon Drury, and RHP Taijuan Walker considering the highest profile move in the offseason.