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2018 D-backs vs. 2019 D-backs: Pitchers we gained

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Things are looking brighter than they were.

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The last part of this series, and we take a look at the pitchers who arrived in Arizona before or during the 2019 season. This might have been the results of trades over the previous off-season, or because they were promoted up from the farm system at some point in the year. We don’t distinguish. But I feel quite optimistic about the future, with the arrival of Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen appearing to give us a solid couple of pitchers for the next few years. That’s something which Arizona needed, especially with the departure of Patrick Corbin, the trade of Zack Greinke and the looming, likely loss of Robbie Ray at the end of next season. Weaver and Gallen are a good foundation on which the team can build.

But it wasn’t all about them. There were a full dozen pitchers who made their debut as Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019, for one reason or another. The table below lists them all, along with their 2018 bWAR where appropriate (not in Arizona, obviously), along with the bWAR this year (just for us, in cases like Gallen, where they arrived mid-season). They are in declining order of 2019 production, and we’ll see you on the far side for some player-specific commentary.

Pitchers gained

Player 2018 bWAR 2019 bWAR
Player 2018 bWAR 2019 bWAR
Luke Weaver -1.1 1.7
Merrill Kelly 1.4
Zac Gallen 1.3
Alex Young 0.8
Kevin Ginkel 0.7
Stefan Crichton 0.4
Jon Duplantier 0.3
Greg Holland -0.2 0.1
Joel Payamps 0.0
Robby Scott -0.3 0.0
Mike Leake 1.6 -0.2
Taylor Clarke -0.3
Total 0.0 6.2

Luke Weaver

If you watched Weaver this year, it’s probably hard to believe how poor he was in 2018. Over 25 starts, and five relief appearances, he had a 4.95 ERA, and deserved the great majority of it. He spent some time back in the minors, and there were even suggestions in some quarters a move to the bullpen would be needed. But after arriving in the Paul Goldschmidt trade he was excellent, shaving more than two runs of the ERA, and 1.38 off his FIP, thanks to a K:BB approaching five. Health derailed his season, but he looked every inch the top 50 prospect he was ranked by Baseball America prior to the 2017 campaign. But he may not be the best pitcher on the D-backs next year...

Zac Gallen

Between Florida and Arizona, Gallen put up 2.7 bWAR in only 15 starts. If he’d had a full season at that rate, he’d have been approaching six wins in value, and potentially been in the Rookie of the Year conversation. His FIP was higher than his overall ERA, at 3.61 compared to 2.89, but I did like the way his walk-rate was better for the D-backs (3.7 per nine innings) than for the Marlins (4.5). There was, and likely will continue to be, a learning curve for Gallen as hitters adjust to facing him, and he adjusts back. But it has been a while since the Diamondbacks have had one good young guy in their starting rotation, never mind two of them...

Alex Young

Could it even be three? Because let’s not forget about Young, who had a 3.56 ERA over 15 starts and two relief appearances, after being almost unheralded among out starting pitching prospects. However, he is probably going either to need to start striking out more people, or walking fewer. His .252 BABIP was almost fifty points lower than the MLB average (.298) and probably won’t be sustained. This isn’t to write him off, of course. Like Gallen and Weaver, he’s young, still developing and learning. But I think Young’s raw “stuff” is probably not on the same level as the other two, and if he’s to succeed over the long-term, he’ll likely have to out-think opposing batters to a greater degree.

Kevin Ginkel

Certainly made a great first impression, posting a 1.48 ERA over his first 25 major-league games, striking out 28 over 24.1 innings. That ERA is likely to increase, naturally, but there’s no reason why Ginkel won’t be part of the Opening Day bullpen next year. He did have a 2.60 minor-league ERA since being drafted by Arizona on 2016. And that included 15 games in Reno, where pitchers go to die. If Archie Bradley does become the closer for 2020, then Ginkel may well be in the mix for a set-up role. He will need to prove he deserves it. Yet his fate would seem to be entirely in his own hands. That is, unless Mike Hazen goes out and signs some proven relievers, such as...

Greg Holland

I’m slightly surprised that Holland ended up being better than replacement level, but I guess recency bias has made me forget he had a sub-two ERA in the middle of June. He ended with a 99 ERA+, which is actually an improvement over the 88 he posted across two teams in 2018. But when he fell apart, he fell apart completely: an ERA of exactly nine from that mid-June point on, and with more walks than strikeouts. As we documented in early August, that’s now two seasons in a row that Mike Hazen’s strategy of going for a veteran with non-immediate closer experience, hasn’t made it through the year. Be interesting to see what he does this winter.

Mike Leake

I can see the point of bringing Leake in for the tail end of this season - someone had to make those starts. His ERA+ for Arizona was 103, which surprises the heck out of me, considering how often it seemed we saw opposing batters jogging around the bases, as Leake got a new baseball lobbed back to him (15 times in only 60 innings of work for the D-backs). If we can get that out of him next year, that can only be considered a success, though with his overall FIP this year being 5.19, I can easily imagine him being replaced in our rotation mid-season, if one of our young prospects comes forward. We can then add Arizona to the long list of teams paying Leake not to pitch for them...