The Arizona Diamondbacks were very busy at the 2020 MLB Trade Deadline, trading four separate players to four separate teams. With 16% of the roster different in just a matter of hours, let’s take a look at how the team might look moving forward. The four players finding new teams includes Robbie Ray, Andrew Chafin, Starling Marte, and Archie Bradley. These moves not serve as a salary dump, but also getting rid of players with limited control.
Starting Rotation: Madison Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver, Caleb Smith, Taylor Clarke
Bumgarner is likely coming off the IL from a back problem in the next week or so, the team will not need a 5th starter until September 5th, which was speculated on air as a possible return date. Bumgarner saw a major drop in velocity after the restart and in his most recent start served up six tape measure home runs to a San Diego lineup that can slug with the best of them. Zac Gallen has been the one consistent starter in the rotation, getting better with each passing start and setting the Major League record for most consecutive starts with 3 ER or less to open a career with 22. Gallen is looking like a #2 at worst with a nonzero chance of developing into an ace if his curveball and cutter continue to improve.
Weaver still has the stuff to make it as a starter, although has had issues avoiding the middle of the strike zone this year. His FB gets good spin and whiffs at the top of the zone while his change-up punishes hitters for sitting on fastball. His cutter and curveball are below-average and unlikely to improve much since Weaver isn’t particularly skilled at spinning the ball. Taylor Clarke is a guy I see more as a swing-man/6th starter or middle inning bridge from starter to back-end. He has enough functional stuff to stick as a starter when you need about 10 starts a year from him due to injuries. His pitches have gained more movement in 2020, backed up by Statcast data, and as a result has seen better results across the board.
Caleb Smith is an intriguing case, not too dissimilar from Robbie Ray. Smith’s 4-seam fastball averaged 91.6 MPH with a 2425 RPM spin rate in 2019. The spin rate is in the 84th percentile while the velocity is in the 30th. With the plus spin rate, he can be effective when elevating but he has to pick and choose his spots because the velocity isn’t impressive. That brings up his secondary pitches, as he primarily uses a slider and a change-up. Both pitches saw positive results in 2019, yielding a .292 and .319 xwOBA to opposing hitters. The slider is his best secondary offering, perhaps one he should utilize more because he’s not going to consistently blow hitters away with 91 MPH even with the high spin rate. He’s also mixed in a few curveballs from time to time, which he can use to surprise hitters early in counts to steal strikes. I believe he’ll be more successful by mixing up his pitches more and being less predictable to hitters.
Merrill Kelly isn’t a guarantee to return to form in 2021, as he’ll be recovering from a blood clot issue and a nerve impingement in his right shoulder. Those two things may be related to each other, but recovering from blood clots is not a smooth road back. If healthy, he’s the team’s 3rd/4th best SP that can reliably provide innings over each season.
Bullpen: Stefan Crichton, Travis Bergen, Junior Guerra, Hector Rondon, Alex Young, Taylor Widener, Yoan Lopez, Kevin Ginkel, Riley Smith
The team added Mejia and Bergen today, although the former will likely be optioned because he pitched in High A last year and COVID forced him to pitch in the majors. Bergen is a replacement level reliever so he should fit in with the rest of the pen. Crichton and Guerra are the only two that have good bottom-line results on the season to date, with the rest of the pen struggling mightily. Lovullo will be able to choose his spots and experiment with how pitchers pitch in certain roles for next year. However, I expect not much from this group of players.
With the team acquiring a lefty in the rotation to replace Ray and Bumgarner likely coming off the IL, I decided that Alex Young would be moved to the pen to add more versatility to that group.
Starting Lineup: Kole Calhoun RF, Ketel Marte 2B, Christian Walker 1B, David Peralta LF, Eduardo Escobar 3B, Nick Ahmed SS, Andy Young DH, Carson Kelly/Stephen Vogt C, Daulton Varsho CF
With the team giving up on 2020 and trimming payroll next year, which Jack will provide more details on, it’s time to see the young players get playing time. Daulton Varsho and Andy Young should be getting in as many starts as possible now that there’s nothing blocking them from everyday ABs (if Jon Jay gets more starts than Varsho in the OF, fire Lovullo). The rest of the lineup will look the same save for everyone moving up a spot and putting in Young at the DH position. Varsho is the team’s best CF on the roster today by default, so that’s where he’ll need to be to get ABs.
Bench: Josh VanMeter INF, Tim Locastro OF, Jon Jay OF, Jake Lamb INF
I listed Vogt in the starting lineup since the catcher position is a platoon right now. VanMeter is a utility guy with a light stick but experience at 7 different positions last year. Locastro is a spark plug off the bench who can play all three OF positions semi-competently, but not great, with good OBP skills vs. LHP. Jay is there to provide some of the outfielders a day off or get a start at the DH against a tough RHP, otherwise he doesn’t provide a lot of value to the team as a slap-hitter. Lamb was once a solid hitter who hasn’t found his footing in 3 years and watched two better players take jobs he once held. There really isn’t anyone in the minors threatening his bench job, as Kevin Cron can’t hit anything right now and the team is in no hurry to bring up Josh Rojas or Wyatt Mathisen to get ABs.