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Looking at the Diamondbacks 2021 bullpen

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Room for improvement, shall we say.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

At the beginning of the off-season, the bullpen was seen as the biggest area of concern by fans, getting close to an absolute majority of the votes (49%). It is the only area that has seen significant movement, with the recent signing of Joakim Soria. But that certainly doesn’t appear to have answered all the questions about Arizona’s relief corps, with multiple departures from last year’s contingent, whose workload will need to be distributed elsewhere. Let’s look at where the team stands, as spring training looms ever closer.

2020 bullpen

Despite the severely shortened season, the team still used 20 relievers last year (not including Carson Kelly’s mop-up appearance). Below are details for each man: the numbers for each are their relief ERA, number of appearances and innings pitched. Those shown in bold are no longer with the team, so they’re the ones who will need to be replaced. The list is in descending order of appearances.

  • Stefan Crichton - 2.42, 26, 26.0
  • Junior Guerra - 3.04, 25, 23.2
  • Hector Rondon - 7.65, 23, 20.0
  • Yoan López - 5.95, 20, 19.2
  • Kevin Ginkel - 6.75, 19, 16.0
  • Taylor Widener - 4.50, 12, 20.0
  • Keury Mella - 1.80, 11, 10.0
  • Andrew Chafin - 8.10, 11, 6.2
  • Archie Bradley - 4.22, 10, 10.2
  • Alex Young - 4.20, 8, 15.0
  • Taylor Clarke - 3.54, 7, 20.1
  • Travis Bergen - 4.05, 7, 6.2
  • Riley Smith - 1.47, 6, 18.1
  • Joe Mantiply - 15.43, 4, 2.1
  • Matt Grace - 54.00, 3, 1.0
  • Joel Payamps - 3.00, 2, 3.0
  • Artie Lewicki - 5.40, 2, 3.1
  • Caleb Smith - 0.00, 1, 2.0
  • Jeremy Beasley - 0.00, 1, 0.1
  • Silvino Bracho - 18.00, 1, 1.0

All told, the D-backs bullpen had a 4.60 ERA. though ended up with a winning record, going 15-10. That ERA was actually very close to league average, which was 4.58, and ranked ninth, By bWAR above average, the team came in eighth in the National League, at -0.9. By fWAR, they were a bit lower, coming in 11th at -0.1, mostly because their FIP was worse than their ERA, at 4.83.

2021 candidates

Of the players who will currently be returning, Stefan Crichton feels like the only one who is absolutely guaranteed a spot. “I don’t think all that many [bullpen spots have been claimed] honestly,” said Mike Hazen recently. Kevin Ginkel and Yoan Lopez perhaps need to show their 2020 numbers were an aberration, though both men had concerningly high FIPs, at 5.82 and 5.58 respectively. Riley Smith and Keury Mella certainly impressed last year, though again, in both cases, their FIP was considerably higher (also above five in Smith’s case), so sustainability is an issue. The two Taylors, Widener and Clarke may end up battling it out with Alex Young for the long-relief role.

Soria is definitely going to be a key part of the situation, though at this point, Hazen has not committed to him being the everyday closer. That probably deserves future consideration in a separate article. But right now, if I was to put the relievers in a depth chart, here’s where I would rank the 12 returnees plus Soria, in terms of their likelihood of being in the Arizona bullpen on Opening Day, come April 1st.

  1. Joakim Soria
  2. Stefan Crichton
  3. Kevin Ginkel
  4. Yoan Lopez
  5. Riley Smith
  6. Taylor Clarke
  7. Keury Mella
  8. Caleb Smith
  9. Alex Young
  10. Taylor Widener
  11. Travis Bergen
  12. Jeremy Beasley
  13. Joe Mantiply

One issue is a lack of left-handed options: only Young, Travis Bergen and Joe Mantiply are southpaws. It does seem quite possible that the team will also add another bullpen arm. Hazen said, “If we find something that’s going to help us then, you know, we’ll go to ownership and make the case to see if it’s something that fits,” and with the slow off-season, there are still no shortage of potential candidates. Here are some of the left-handers still on the market: Justin Wilson, Mike Montgomery, Tony Cingrani, Fernando Abad and Jose Alvarez. Though part of me wants to see the team re-sign Oliver Perez, the only guy from the MLB class of 2002 still to be pitching in the majors.

There will certainly be opportunities. The eight departing pitchers combined for 77 of the team’s 200 relief appearances, covering 69.1 of the 227.0 innings pitched. So that’s about 30% of the frames which are now vacant. I have to say, I’m not generally impressed by the depth on view, and we may well see some of the non-roster signings step up. Names like Sam Moll, Tyler Gilbert and Chris Devenski are among these who could be in contention for roles, at least initially in lower-leverage situations.