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Diamondbacks 2020 Rotation Options

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Crowd Sourcing with the AZ Snake Pit writers

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks rotation is in flux. It has been ever since Luke Weaver got hurt on May 26th. And now with the trade of Zack Greinke and the injury to Robbie Ray it’s been thrown into total disarray . Below is a breakdown by time frame.

After the Weaver injury the rotation held together due to Zack Greinke’s excellence and Robbie Ray’s resurgence. Some good starts by Alex Young and Merrill Kelly helped keep the rotation afloat through June and July as well. The numbers are comparable to the April-May numbers. The average IP per start are the same, and this includes the ill-fated Archie Bradley bullpen game and some abbreviated starts by Taylor Clarke and Zack Godley. However you can also see the large spike in homers allowed.

Since the Greinke trade and Ray injury the rotation has fallen apart. It’s impossible to say what will happen over the next 5 weeks. Ray is expected back on Sunday as of this writing. But suffice to say, there are a lot of questions about the rotation as the season winds down and we look forward to 2020.

As of this moment, the starting rotation for 2020 looks like:

Robbie Ray Luke Weaver Zac Gallen Mike Leake Merrill Kelly

There are a lot of questions here.

  • Will Ray be traded?
  • Can Weaver recover from his elbow injury and not end up needing surgery? Will he be able to handle a starters workload again ?
  • Will the Diamondbacks DFA or trade Leake, and end up being the third team paying him NOT to pitch for them? (St. Louis and Seattle already paying most of the money owed to him)
  • Will Merrill Kelly continue to implode and pitch his way into a bullpen role ?

It would seem minimum one, possibly two, and maybe even three of these five rotation spots will be open heading into spring training. All of the above consideration prompted me to seek out the input of our excellent staff here at AZ Snakepit. What follows is a crowd sourced ranking chart, attempting to quantify the depth in the organization beyond the five mentioned above. I’m trying to handicap who we are most likely to see get starts in 2020. I asked the writers to rate accordingly:

1 = Compete for Rotation spot in Spring Training

2 = Won’t get rotation spot in ST, but likely call up during year, and could get starts

3 = Unlikely to get starts in 2020

4= No shot at 2020 Starts

There is of course some nuance that may not have been easily captured by the simple ranking. Some guys will get called up during the season to relieve, but not start. But I believe this method allows for splitting the pitchers up into tiers of likelihood.

Please remember this is not a prospect ranking. There are pitchers in the lower minors that will rank higher on prospect lists, but they are too far away to be even a twinkle in Torey Lovullo’s eye for 2020.

The writers that participated were Wesley, Michael, Steven, Turambar, Sean, Makakilo, James, Jack, and special guest Makattack71, who is one of the more dialed in site members we have.

Tier 1:

Considering the uncertainty that exists in the projected 2020 MLB rotation, it would be nice if Tier 1 were populated by a top tier prospect or two knocking on the door. While there was a pretty clear consensus among the writers on who is in this tier, there are a lot of question marks too.

Taijuan Walker is still only throwing off flat ground at varying distances, and has not thrown a bullpen. He has missed all of 2019. He does have an option next year, so if he is not looking ready to join the rotation at the start of 2020, he could begin the year in AAA.

Alex Young has filled in admirably for the most part, but there are questions whether or not his stuff will play long term.

Jon Duplantier is relegated to the Reno bullpen at the moment, and it’s been a lost season in terms of his development as a starter. Even if he is transitioned back to being a starter in 2020, how many starts and innings can he give, having thrown less than 70 innings Majors/Minors combined this year ?

Tier 2:

Taylor Widener was considered by some to be a challenger to Duplantier as the team’s best pitching prospect heading into 2019. But he’s had a season from hell in the PCL. His strikeout stuff was there, but over 12 hits and 2 HR per 9 IP did in his ERA and run prevention. Even for that wild run environment, thats ridiculously hittable. One can only imagine what this has done to his confidence.

Taylor Clarke has gotten a shot in the majors this year, but his stuff has not played well, allowing too many homers. Still, he throws harder than many expected perhaps, and when his slider is working, he can get outs. He is in this tier mostly because he’s already been up, and because he might be a bullpen candidate too.

Emilio Vargas and Josh Green both had good seasons in AA this year. Either one could put themselves in a position for starts sometime in 2020 with good performance in AAA Reno, where they will most likely start the season. They are both candidates to be called up to relieve at some point as well.

J.B. Bukauskas came over from Houston in the Zack Greinke trade. He is still struggling mightily with his command, but having been targeted by the organization, he’ll likely get a shot at some point in 2020, although it could also be as a reliever.

Tier 3:

Perhaps a bit of a surprise to see Bo Takahashi and Joel Payamps in this tier, as both were called up already this year. But this ranking reflects the belief of some of the writers that they are also more likely to be bullpen options than rotation options at any point in 2020.

Corbin Martin, also from the Greinke trade, had Tommy John Surgery in July, and is not likely to see MLB action before September 1 of next year. But if his recovery goes to plan, the team will probably want to see him get in some innings before the year is over.

Riley Smith, Matt Peacock, and Kevin McCanna all performed well this year, but would be long shots for rotation starts in 2020. Never say never though, as continued strong performance at the next level could result in a surprise or two. Who predicted Alex Young to get starts in 2019?

Tier 4:

Ok, here I’ll say never. It’s extremely doubtful any of the players on this list see a start in 2020. Still, they are names that might pop up at some point.

Detailed listing of all organizational pitchers

If you want more info on any of the pitchers listed here, see that link, and click on player’s name, and check out his bio info at top of page and more detailed stat profile.

Also, simply go to Fangraphs.com and type the pitcher’s name in the search box and find the pitcher that way to get more info.

Summary:

The DBacks system is not without starting pitching talent. There are some good arms on these lists. But this writer is left thinking Mike Hazen will make moves to bolster the rotation for 2020. Considering his aversion to fielding non-competitive teams, this exercise also makes it feel less likely Robbie Ray will be traded during the off season to me. (Many will not agree with that assessment however)

So lets end with a poll:

Poll

How confident are you in 2020 rotation

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Extremely confident
    (10 votes)
  • 34%
    Somewhat confident
    (83 votes)
  • 49%
    Somewhat doubtful
    (120 votes)
  • 12%
    Zero confidence
    (31 votes)
244 votes total Vote Now