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A far-too early Arizona Diamondbacks 2020 Opening Day roster: relief pitching

Another year, another Opening Day closer for the D-backs...

St Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The closer’s spot has been a revolving door for the Diamondbacks of late. Over the last eight seasons, we’ve seen seven different men lead the team in saves: in order, they were J.J. Putz, Heath Bell, Addison Reed, Brad Ziegler (in 2015-16, the only repeat closer), Fernando Rodney, Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley. And the last-named only just pipped Greg Holland, by the odd save in thirty-five. While Bradley is potentially the favorite for the role in 2020, that’s by no means certain. And many of the other roles are potentially up for grabs as well. But for now, here are the players you thought most likely to be part of the Opening Day bullpen with Arizona for 2020.

Archie Bradley (316 votes)

O volatility, thy name is Bradley... On June 22, Bradley had thrown 35 innings with a 5.66 ERA, and seemed potentially on his way out of the bullpen entirely. You’d have got very long odds on him ending the year with more saves than anyone else. But that’s exactly what happened. The rest of the way, Bradley threw 36.2 innings with a 1.47 ERA, clearly getting his mojo back and taking over as closer from Holland. The team has shown an aversion to going with internal candidates for that role under Mike Hazen, instead signing experienced free agents each of the past three years. But that hasn’t really worked the last couple of years: 2020 might see Archie at least given the chance to repeat as our top saves man.

Kevin Ginkel (277)

In at #2 with a bullet is Ginkel, an impressive showing for a prospect who didn’t even make his major-league debut until August 5 this season. He certainly made an excellent first impression, allowing only four earned runs in his first 25 appearances, covering 24.1 innings. The resulting ERA of 1.48 was the fourth-best over that time for a D-backs’ pitcher. While we probably shouldn’t expect that to be sustainable, his FIP was not far over three, a good sign. However, neither ERA nor FIP for Ginkel that different from that produced by Sherfy over the same early period, and... Well, we’ll talk about him in a bit. Hopefully, Kevin can avoid suffering a similar “sophomore slump”.

Andrew Chafin (276)

No pitcher has appeared more often in the majors over the past three season, Chafin’s 225 outings being six more than anyone else. Andrew’s ERA has always been higher than his FIP, but the main issue fans think of is probably his first-batter struggles. While not as bad in 2018 (when his K:BB there was 16:14), they still batted .292 off Chafin. An overall BABIP of .359 didn’t do him any favors though, and there’s every indication he’ll be the LOOGY specialist out of the Arizona bullpen again next year. His price will be higher, Chafin entering his final year of arbitration. MLBTR estimates his cost at $3.2 million; probably still less than an equivalent replacement on the free-agent market.

Yoan Lopez (272)

After getting his feet wet in the majors in 2018, Lopez secured a full-time position in the Diamondbacks’ pen for 2019, and performed well enough, with a 3.41 ERA over 70 appearances, covering 60.2 innings. A worrying sign though, was a sharp drop in his strikeouts, with a rate of just 6.2 per nine IP. For comparison, Mike Leake’s career rate is 6.1, and the average NL reliever last season was at 9.35. Lopez had the second-biggest gap between ERA and FIP among NL relievers last season. If Yoan isn’t able to miss more bats in 2020, then the resulting balls in play are likely to turn into hits, and his ERA will end up nearer his FIP, and sit north of five.

T.J. McFarland (171)

Maybe it should be, “O volatility, thy name is McFarland.” For after a crappy 2017, and brilliant 2018, McERA reverted to his poor form with a 4.82 ERA. He has never been a high strikeout guy, but an increased walk-rate and too many home-runs were the keys to his underwhelming performance. While still skewing groundball-heavy, he was no longer ZieglerLite, with a GB/FB of 1.57, compared to 2.12 in 2017-18. Arizona has a $1.85 million option for 2020, with a trivial ($50K) buyout. That’s fairly cheap, and T.J. being a left-hander does make him more valuable. But he’d be considerably more valuable if he gets back towards the form shown last year, rather than this.

Yoshihisa Hirano (169)

Much the same goes for Hirano in terms of production, who followed up an excellent 2018 with a 2019 to forget. That was despite an increased K-rate, and his FIP was only about one-third of a run higher. Last year was probably as much over-achievement, as this year was under-, with the true level of Yoshi’s ability somewhere in the middle. On that basis, he might be a decent “buy low” candidate this winter, with Hirano’s market value probably lower than his talent, due to the disappointing campaign. Certainly, if his two MLB seasons had been swapped round, the Japanese pitcher would be looking at a considerably larger contract in free-agency.

Jimmie Sherfy (163)

Just scraping in with slightly over half the votes, there was an ironic element to Sherfy’s 2019, or at least, fan reaction to it. Through his first 31 games and 36.2 innings, Sherfy had a sub-one ERA. Understandably #FreeSherfy was a thing early on, to the point where even Fangraphs noticed. But he seemed to be forgotten in Reno, even before injury cost him more than a month. When rosters expanded in September, he got his chance... and allowed 12 hits, including four home-runs, in 8.2 innings of work, with an 11.42 ERA. Everyone went “Ah. Never mind.” But he did have a 13:0 K:BB ratio in that stint, so there’s still hope. Hard to say what the future might hold, without knowing the full story here.

26th man: Stefan Crichton (151 votes)

As mentioned in the bench piece. there will be an extra roster spot for Torey Lovullo to utilize next season. That could be used for an additional position player, or an extra bullpen arm. If the latter, then Crichton would get the nod, according to the poll results. I’d forgotten Arizona actually released Crichton in June 2018, to make room for Shelby Miller. But he stuck around, and was much better this year. Almost half (5 of 12) the earned runs he allowed came on three pitches in one mop-up outing against the Nationals, which included a Matt Adams grand-slam. Threw the final pitch for Arizona in 2019, getting his first major-league W in the last game, thanks to Tim Locastro’s walk-off single.

Not selected:

  • Matt Andriese (138)
  • Robby Scott (70)
  • Matt Koch (42)
  • Joel Payamps (17)

Andriese was a workhorse, his 70.2 innings trailing only Bradley. But they weren’t very good innings, though his FIP was a run lower than his ERA. Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo seem considerably keener on him than SnakePit readers, shall we say. I’d not be at all surprised if he’s there again next March. Scott, Koch and Payamps all served a purpose in 2019, but it’s hard to see a situation in which any of them would make the Opening Day roster next year.

We’ll finish off this series next week, with a look at some potential names whom people suggested might make the roster, outside of the ones already suggested...