It’s the most wonderfully meaningless day of the year, when our baseball hibernation is officially a an end, with the first workouts for pitchers and catchers taking place at Salt River Fields this morning. What are the main questions which the team will look to address over the next six weeks or so, between now and Opening Day? We’ll take a look at each of these in detail a bit down the road, but for now, get your thinking caps on...
The middle infield
It seems almost like a perennial problem: the Diamondbacks come into spring training with too many players for the available spots at shortstop and second-base. This season, the names in the frame include Brandon Drury, Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte. The last-named made a very good impression at short after injury forced his call-up in 2017, and gives Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo an enjoyable dilemma. If it’s Drury and Marte as everyday starters, where does that leave Owings? Could the answer be...
The outfield line-up
The Diamondbacks still appear to be significantly involved in the competition to sign J.D. Martinez, but that’s far from guaranteed, with the Red Sox the most obvious competition. There is, it seems, a fallback plan in place should Martinez prove elusive, but what might that be? It could involve signing another free-agent, trading from the above surplus and/or Patrick Corbin, or perhaps relocating Owings. What’s clear is, it does not appear the team considers Yasmany Tomas the long-term solution: he’ll need to prove he’s healthy and capable if he wants a spot.
Figuring out the bullpen
While there are some names who should presumably be inked into relief slots, we still don’t know how they’ll line up. If last year is any guide, there will be a single, definitive closer, but there are at least three candidates, in Brad Boxberger, Yoshi Hirano and Archie Bradley. The rest of the positions in the bullpen are largely up for grabs, with the odds of the candidates varying from near-certs like Andrew Chafin, through to long-shots on the non-roster invitees list. This promises to be the most competitive area of the team this spring.
There’s a new catcher in town, in the shape of Alex Avila, replacing Chris Iannetta (though we’ll still see plenty of him around Salt River Fields, since he’s now a Colorado Rockie!). Though Jeff Mathis returns this year, there may be a significant difference, in that he and Avila form a natural platoon, with Avila being a left-handed bat. Will that mean he gets the bulk of the playing time, with Mathis being mostly Greinke’s personal catcher? Or will we see Mathis again the main man, as he was in 2017 until injury ended his season?
The rotation looks to be fairly stable: Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Taijuan Walker and Patrick Corbin. However, if Corbin ends up traded, then a replacement would need to be found. We’ll also keep an eye on Shelby Miller’s return from his Tommy John surgery: while he won’t be ready for Opening Day, it would be nice to get some idea of his estimated schedule.
What’s the main area of concern this spring?
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