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SnakePit Round Table: Season predictions edition

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We asked the staff to gaze into their crystal balls...

21st Biennale of Sydney Media Preview Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

[Note: season win totals will be the subject of a separate post tomorrow...]

Who Who will be the D-backs MVP?

Michael: It will be David Peralta in left field. Peralta will be the main run producer in the middle of the lineup although he will see some time on the bench against tough LHP in favor of Adam Jones.

Jack: Zack Greinke. He’s the best player on this team. I had originally picked Ketel Marte as 2nd choice for MVP, but it’s sounding more and more like Adam Jones will be the primary centerfielder and Wilmer Flores has to play too. All 3, as well as Nick Ahmed, probably end up around 500 PA.

Makakilo: I see the possibility that the Diamondbacks will be dominated by middle performers, without a clear MVP. That type of team could dramatically surpass expectations.

Wesley Although I think Michael’s, Makakilo’s, or Jack’s scenarios are all likely, I think it’ll be someone on no one’s radar. In other words, one of the rookies. I think Christian Walker or Kevin Cron could really surprise now that they both have an actual chance at getting playing time at first.

Steven: The pitching is going to carry this team and the leader of that group is Zack Greinke. Although most playoff teams have him circled as a trade candidate and if he gets off to a strong start I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on his way out the door.

Jim: I’m going for Robbie Ray. I think this is the year he finally puts it all together, and cuts down on the walks, while still posting those video-game strikeout numbers. He certainly has the highest upside of any of our rotation.

James: Out of the position players, I figure David Peralta has the best shot at team MVP. However, I also see that as being the best of a rather mediocre bunch. I suspect the team MVP will come from the pitching. Zack Greinke will have the inside track, but if Robbie Ray pitches anything like he has so far in spring, then he could snag the honour while commonly being mentioned in the same breath as Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.

Who will most outperform expectations?

Michael: My money is on Luke Weaver, who has been working hard at improving his curveball to be a viable 3rd pitch. I believe having a legitimate curveball takes Weaver from a fringe rotation arm to a #2 or #3 starter in the rotation with perhaps more upside in the future. Weaver gets strong spin rates on his fastball as well, which should allow him to attack all parts of the strike zone with his stuff.

Jack: I’m with Michael, I’m picking Weaver as well. In addition to the curveball he may also have a 4th pitch, a “cutter/slider” that was discussed in This interview

Makakilo: This choice was a struggle because I seriously considered nine players. Two factors were decisive in finding who will most outperform expectations. After re-signing with the D-backs in October, my pick was largely ignored. My pick’s projected OPS of .770 is average for a NL position player. As a little noticed player expected to perform near average, Eduardo Escobar has great potential to surprise people by above-average performance.

Wesley: He may not make the roster out of spring training, but I think I’ll go with Taylor Widener. He had a very strong season last year, has excellent stuff,, and having recently spoken to him, he told me he “feels great” this spring. (Yes, I actually contacted Taylor Widener to quote him this for article) I think will strongly outperform at least his ZIPs and STEAMER’S projections, which have him pegged for an ERA and FIP north of 4.39 despite his strong numbers. I also have a sneaking suspicion that our infield is going to look very different if you compare the roster from the first game vs the last game of the year. You may see wild Domingo Leyba, Jazz Chisholm, Ildemaro Vargas, Dominic Miroglio, Kevin Cron, or Daulton Varsho,

Steven: I think the Carson Kelly is going to take advantage of more playing time and finally show why he was consistently on Top #100 prospects lists before settling in behind Yadier Molina. The bar for catchers is so low that any type of breakout, even the 90 wRC+ variety is going to be seen as a huge win for him and the organization.

Jim: Probably someone who isn’t on the Opening Day roster, in the sense that expectations for them will be lowest - see Clay Buchholz last year. A replacement starting pitcher is not a bad bet for that, perhaps Matt Koch or Taylor Widener. Among the position players, I think Alex Avila is a good bet, again considering how low expectations are for him.

James: Among those expected to make the 25-man roster, I would have to go with Alex Avila or Merrill Kelly. Neither one of them is expected to provide much, despite what we were told about Kelly when the team signed him out of the KBO. Of those not making the Opening Day roster, I’ll take a flyer in Taylor Clarke. Precious little is expected of him, yet he continues to do enough to keep pushing forward. Maybe, once the team turns to him to make a start for some reason, he demonstrates enough to stick for a while.

And who will fall furthest short?

Michael: I think it will be either Jake Lamb or Steven Souza that ends up disappointing in 2019 in some way, shape, or form. Souza’s style of play is reckless, so I imagine he’ll end up doing something to get injured in the field and spend time on the DL.

Jack: Lamb’s spring is concerning, he is definitely a candidate, but I think expectations for him have already been lowered quite a bit. Ditto Souza. So I am going with David Peralta. He is a good player, but last year was a career power year, and there are a lot of expectations for him to be the big bat in the middle of the lineup now with Goldy gone. I think it’s going to be tough for him to deal with that. The combination of natural regression, high expectations, and a somewhat injury prone nature as well will probably take its toll.

Steven: Peralta’s expectations are sky-high after a massive 2018 season saw him hit 30 homers and be a rock in left field, so I think the chances of him duplicating something like that season are pretty slim to none. He’s another year down the line and as much as I love the guy, you have to start to wonder when he will decline, especially since he started so late. Others include Nick Ahmed who still can’t hit and Alex Avila, who also can’t hit.

Jim: I think Lamb is definitely a contender, considering he has to handle a move to another position as well (albeit one further down the defensive spectrum). But I’m going with Greg Holland, whose decline in velocity is pretty concerning. If he can’t turn that around once the pitches (and games) count, then he’s going to be no use for anything other than mop-up.

James: Here I thought maybe I was going to be picking an overlooked candidate in Greg Holland, but I see Jim has already beaten me to him. Honestly, I could see the team exercising an early out to save money on a veteran who appears to have nothing left in the tank.

***Of course, as I am answering these questions, the team names Holland the Opening Day closer. If anything, this just sets him up for a bigger fall though.

Makakilo: My comment about Holland fit better here, so I moved it from another question. I wrote it without knowing who would be named closer.

“I think Greg Holland will be the closer for the entire season, and he will be amazing!

I acknowledge that his spring training velocity was lower and his ERA was unimpressive. My points are spring training is not predictive and as a closer his vital stat is goose-egg conversion rate. Although in 2018 his ERA was not impressive, his goose-egg conversion rate was impressive -- 81% for the season and 88.9% with the Nationals.”

Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

Michael: Taylor Widener at some point will likely take an extended audition for the rotation, as I believe he’s most likely to stick in an MLB rotation of the Dbacks’ Top 3 pitching prospects. Merrill Kelly and Zack Godley both can be optioned to the minors should they struggle this season.

Jack: If not one of the 3 SP pitcher prospects (Widener, Duplantier, Clarke) Yoan Lopez probably ends up having the most impact, as I think by the second half of the season he will be the closer. I think it’s more fun to imagine a position player breaking through and playing a lot by the second half. While none of the top position player prospects are expected to get more than September cup of coffee, if there are a rash of injuries one or more could actually get pulled up from AA. Jazz Chisholm ? Pavin Smith ? Daulton Varsho ? How about Andy Young ?

Makakilo: My thoughts are aligned with Jack’s on this question, with possibly one exception - who will be the closer.

Wesley: I’ve already said Taylor Widener overall as a guy who will outperform expectations, and Michael has picked him here as well. Jack is dead on picking the pitching prospects, and Yoan Lopez has absolutely filthy stuff. I’d go with Jazz Chisholm. The kid is a stud of a prospect with a fantastic speed/power combo and very solid fielding combined with a canon of an arm. If I had to pick an underrated no name prospect, i would go with Dom Miroglio. The only way he’s going to sniff the majors this year is if he absolutely rakes while all three or four catchers ahead of him are awful or injured.

Steven: Jon Duplantier will tear up the MLB whenever he gets the shot. He has been everything the D-backs expected he would be when they drafted him out of Rice in 2016. You can tell when pitcher’s have the juice, and Jon definitely has the juice.

Jim: I’ll go with Ildemaro Vargas. He’s likely closer to the majors than some of the other prospects, with a shot at the Opening Day roster at the time of writing and has hit .393 going into Sunday’s game. It may well take an injury for him to become an everyday player, but he does have some positional flexibility, so can slot in at a number of spots.

James: Barring injury, I think it will be Yoan Lopez. He’s in the best position to make an impact without needing to rely on someone else falling apart just to get a shot. Otherwise, I’ll go with whichever of the three starter prospects get the nod if/when there is an injury that presses them into service.

What are your overall hopes and fears?

Michael: I just want watchable games for the most part, with a bit more offense than last year. I think this team has a bunch of question marks and this year is the year to determine who is worth keeping long term.

Jack: My hope is they are competitive and healthy and fun to watch. In other words, exceed my expectations. My fears are two fold: On the one hand, if it all goes south quickly with the tough early schedule, it could be a very long season with a lot of losing and discord. Another lesser fear is if they are within “striking distance” they could be tempted to move prospects at the deadline. This does not seem to be Mike Hazen’s strategy at this point, but the JD Martinez example, and the reliever hoarding last year do exist.

Makakilo: My hope is the D-backs play well, and secondarily that they experience enough good luck to reach the playoffs.

Previously, my fear was about a possible stumble in the first month of the season which would lead to a tear-down and complete rebuild. Now that I better understand how Hazen thinks, that fear is allayed. Instead my fear is the D-backs are on track to contend for the playoffs and they repeat the September collapse of last season.

Wesley: I would like to see the team not trade away the farm for once, and actually develop a good team through drafting and acquiring more prospects by trading away the right players at the right time. If the team is going to trade away veterans this trade deadline, i’d like to see them get good returns on the players. At the end of the season, I’d like to see the beginnings of a new core of players assembled that can contend and compete at the highest level for an extended run of multiple seasons.

Steven: My real concern is they just stay competitive enough that they keep Greinke and Ray going forward. Greinke in particular has no reason to be on this team without any of the supporting cast to support him. The defense is fine, but worse than in years prior. The offense won’t sustain any sort of league average output. And the pitching is a huge question mark outside of Greinke. It’s a miracle this team is actually seen as .500 ballclub.

Jim: I think mediocrity is what concerns me. I want this team either to be good enough to make the playoffs, or bad enough to go into full rebuild mode. A repeat of 2018, where they compete, then melt like a chocolate teapot in the final month, barely finishing over .500, would be about my worst-case scenario.

James: I’m with Jim on this one. Staying competitive early, only to fall apart late will hurt this team. It will keep them from rebuilding while making additional tweaks around the edges to compete. I would rather see the prospects become the tweaks. My best hope is that the youtmovement is forced into service and performs as well or even better than hoped for. My fear is 2018 v2.0.

Predict the World Series teams. Who will win, and in how many games?

Michael: Yankees over the Dodgers in 7, with MLB pulling some levers to get such a series to happen although both teams are capable of making a run without help.

Jack: Astros over Cardinals in 6. Goldy in the world series is the punch in the gut that seems inevitable. Astros are still the best team on paper, and I think they will go for it big time in 2019 before their window shrinks.

Makakilo: Phillies over Yankees in 7. Wouldn’t it be surreal if Bryce Harper hits a walk-off homer in the ninth inning, similar to the character Joe Boyd (aka Joe Hardy) in the Broadway musical comedy Damn Yankees?

Wesley: I’m just going to go with the Dbacks over whomever… just for the off chance that they actually are good and win the World Series in a super long shot dark horse World Series run, I can say I called it. It’ll probably be something lame but hilarious like the Yankees or the Astros and the Dodgers, with the Dodgers becoming the Buffalo Bills of baseball, going to the World Series three times in a row, only to lose in glorious fashion each time.

Steven: Astros over Dodgers in 5.

Jim: Astros over Phillies in six. But I’d be fine with Not-the-Yankees over Anyone-but-the-Dodgers in whatever-it-takes.

James: Astros over the...uhm...lemme think… I guess I’ll pick Braves. It might make it to five games if that is the series.