The Diamondbacks started the offseason with a lot of rotation questions. Greinke missed his final three starts with shoulder problems, Archie Bradley and Robbie Ray inconsistent, and Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin coming off horrible 2016 seasons. Miller and Corbin were supposed to help anchor a rotation that was to help the Diamondbacks push for a postseason spot. It didn’t happen as the pitching staff imploded and the team limped to a 69-win season. The team added Taijuan Walker to the rotation in November, and Walker has been brilliant this Spring so far.
With the top three rotation spots locked up with Greinke, Ray, and Walker going into camp, the real competition was the #4 and #5 spots. So far, three candidates have emerged. Miller, Corbin, and Bradley have all pitched reasonably well this Spring. Bradley does have another option and is still a pre-arbitration player, so he could be the odd man out this Spring in a close race. However, I don’t believe it is a close race.
Last week, I did have the fortune of being able to watch both Patrick Corbin and Shelby Miller pitch at Salt River Fields. I attended Tuesday and Friday’s games, with Corbin pitching against the Texas Rangers and Shelby Miller against the Seattle Mariners. Corbin baffled a very good Rangers lineup for 5 innings, being able to command both the 4-seamer (93-95), 2-seamer (91-93), along with his slider and change-up (both 81-83). Corbin faced a lineup stacked with lefties, although right-handed batters didn’t fare much better either. Corbin has been very consistent this Spring, allowing no fewer than 2 runs in an outing and has been able to pitch deeper into games than other rotation members.
On Friday, Miller didn’t have great command of his secondary pitches, but was consistently flashing mid 90s and blowing it by Mariner batters. Even though pitch count caused his outing to be cut short, seeing him blow away MLB hitters is a positive sign. Miller has been consistently mid-90s with the fastball, although his curveball has been very flat. I do worry if Miller’s composure can withstand a bad break going against him and avoid melting down. I do hope his secondaries become more consistent when the games start to count because his stuff can be flat out nasty when it’s working. When in doubt, he can always reach back for that mid-90s fastball.
While we should tamper our expectations that the team is in a position to contend, even if Corbin and Miller both rediscover their All-Star forms. However, both have shown encouraging signs to be able to handle rotation spots to start the 2017 season. The team will be looking to put 2016 behind them as soon as possible. In order for that to happen, both Miller and Corbin need a bounce-back season.