Think of this, if you like, as an “If Opening Day were today” kind of exercise. It’s probably something we’ll revisit on a number of occasions as we go through the winter, but here’s my best guess at what the team’s 26-man roster would look like on Opening Day. I’ve limited myself to the players currently on the 40-man roster. Going by past experience, there will probably be one or more non-roster invitees (usually bullpen arms or bench bats) who make it out of spring training. However, again going by past experience, it feels like most of them don’t tend to stick around for very long... Anyway, here’s my current thoughts. Feel free to disagree vehemently in the comments.
- Carson Kelly
- Ali Sánchez
This is an area potentially likely to see change over the rest of the winter. The team has already been linked to pursuing options like Sean Murphy, but it’s also possible they stick with Kelly. The team does not seem willing to consider Daulton Varsho as more than an emergency catcher, but even that does give more flexibility in terms of pinch-hitting for your catcher. Arizona claimed Sanchez earlier in December, which suggests they like him, so gives him the nod over Jose Herrera.
Makakilo: My choice for a catcher acquisition was Danny Jansen per this AZ Snake Pit article. As of this writing, he remains a trade possibility.
Spencer: I am a well-known Carson believer. For 2023. If he has another unfortunate year, I’m all for cutting bait and aiming bigger. That said, I do think the perfect situation would be getting him either an established backup who can work full time if injury strikes (my preference WAS Austin Hedges, but he’s gone), or make a big move for the next “future of the position.” Ideally I prefer the likes of Gabby Moreno (TOR), but Franscico Alvarez (NYM) isn’t an awful option either. Both are ready for the MLB but could benefit from not having to play everyday right away. If the team really believes Kelly is a starter through 2024, I’d turn my attention to Anaheim and Pittsburg who both have plenty of quality options in their own right, just a tad farther away from the MLB.
ISH95: My gut tells me this ultimately won’t see any change. At the beginning of the off season, Hazen brought it up as a possibility, but it seemed more of an after thought. I think the availability of Murphy temporarily changed that, but now he’s is off the board, after setting a hefty cost for catching. After that, I think unless someone unexpected becomes an option, they won’t do anything here, other than maybe add a backup like Spencer suggested. I’ll throw it out there that it will be a pre-arb option looking towards the future (Montero backing up Snyder type situation) Esther than a veteran.
- 1B Christian Walker
- 2B Ketel Marte
- SS Nick Ahmed
- 3B Josh Rojas
- DH Kyle Lewis
Walker at first is about the only one I’m prepared write in ink at this point. Marte’s defense at second was a genuine issue this year, so he may end up splitting time with Lewis at DH. Speaking of whom, the plethora of outfield options pretty much leave designated hitter as his only option. Ahmed needs to prove his health, first and foremost, but given the amount he’s being paid in 2023, the position is his to lose. 3B is another area potentially going to see a new arrival before Opening Day, but Rojas was serviceable there. A platoon with Emmanuel Rivera seems the most likely option for now.
Makakilo: This AZ Snake Pit article explains my view that at third base platooning Josh Rojas and Emmanuel Rivera will be good offensively and defensively. Instead of an acquisition at third base, there are other positions with greater need.
My view is that shortstop should be a platoon of Nick Ahmed and Geraldo Perdomo (at least at the start of the season). Hopefully Blaze Alexander and/or Jordan Lawler will be ready for promotion sometime after the All-Star break.
Spencer: It’s unfortunate we will need to rely on Marte so heavily at second this year. And I’m not sure how long Lewis survives on the roster if we keep all the outfield options. But all told, I’m A-OK with this crew on Opening Day 2023. There is some upside in Marte’s regression, Ahmed’s health and Lewis’ bat.
There’s always the chance that Ahmed plays well enough to become trade bait at the deadline and Marte the same next Winter, assuming both Lawlar and Perdomo can elevate their games to solidify SS/2B.
ISH95: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Perdomo ends up being the starting shortstop on opening day. I have zero faith in Ahmed’s health at this point, and Perdomo has gotten his feet wet. I’d also point out that Perdomo, in a season where he was thrown to the wolves, put up the same amount of WAR as Ahmed did in 2021. I think a strong Spring Training gives him the job on opening day.
The rest of it I am willing to write in ink. I do think it’s likely that Marte may end up at DH primarily later in the season, but the team isn’t going to make that decision before games are played. You don’t trade for Lewis unless he is going to be your opening day DH, imo. Rojas might get bumped from the starting third base role, but that’s the only change I’m seeing here as a possibility.
- LF: Jake McCarthy
- CF: Alek Thomas
- RF: Daulton Varsho
Yeah, I’m not certain enough to put Corbin Carroll on the Opening Day roster yet. While there have been changes to the CBA to work against service-time manipulation, it’s not guaranteed. A bonus year of peak Carroll is still worth more than a few weeks of Rookie Carroll this April. But there’s also a genuine argument that his final development is better served by regular starts in Reno, rather than fighting for playing time in the majors. Of course, this could all change if the team were to trade one of their outfielders.
Makakilo: Corbin Carroll should play left field (LF) instead of Jake McCarthy. Four reasons follow:
- Last season Carroll hit better than McCarthy (OPS+ 133 vs 118, HR/PA .035 vs .023) .
- Last season Carroll was a better defender in LF than McCarthy (+3 DRS vs negative 1 DRS, 4 OAA vs 0 OAA).
- As an everyday outfielder his development experience would be better quality than what would happen in Reno. The Diamondbacks’ improved process includes the idea that significant development continues in the Majors.
- Before he reaches arbitration, Corbin Carroll has a significant chance to finish in the top-3 for rookie-of-the-year. If he starts the season in the Majors, that finish would earn the Diamondbacks an additional draft pick.
I prefer that McCarthy be traded (assuming the return player meets an immediate need). Otherwise, he should replace Pavin Smith on the bench.
Spencer: If we choose to trade one, I think it’ll be McCarthy. But I’ll assume we don’t for now and need to have someone in Reno. I think that will be Thomas. There is draft compensation for having Carroll on the Opening Day Roster, not necessarily in the lineup, so some weird roster shenanigans are possible (borderline likely if no trade happens). Plus, Corbin Carroll’s name will get more butts in seats than Alek Thomas or Jake McCarthy’s…
ISH95: This one all bets are off. If there is another trade this off-season, it’s going to be one of these three. And I think there is going to be a trade this off-season. If I had to guess, Varsho will be the one who’s out, and replaced on the roster by either a RH outfielder, which would shake this up, or some combination of pitching and catching.
Jim: I just want to add what Jack recently wrote: “Hazen also reminded us that all of the outfielders have options. In this scenario then I show Alek Thomas spending time in the minor leagues again. As of right now it looks like when Thomas is not on the roster, the outfield will align with Corbin Carroll in left field, Daulton Varsho in center, and Jake McCarthy in right. When Thomas is on the roster, he will play centerfield, with Varsho shifting to right field and McCarthy getting DH at bats.”
- Emmanuel Rivera
- Geraldo Perdomo
- Pavin Smith
All fairly self-explanatory. Smith is likely on the thinnest ice, and I can see a scenario where Carroll gets the roster spot, and we see a four-way rotation for three spots in the outfield.
Spencer: Assuming we don’t trade a big name outfielder, I think there’s a chance Smith is removed in favor of one of them, but he does theoretically serve the dual purpose of backing Walker up, so…IDK? Seems like the best situation may be having Rivera spell Walker at first in a pinch (assuming our infielders learn to throw to first better).
ISH95: Smith shouldn’t be on there. He has too much to work on. That said, I don’t see any obvious options to replace him with either.
- Zac Gallen
- Merrill Kelly
- Madison Bumgarner
- Ryne Nelson
- Drey Jameson
Brandon Pfaadt is another contender for a rotation spot. Depth can come from other prospects like Blake Walston and Slade Cecconi. But I do have concerns about the lack of major-league experience in these starting pitchers. It’s a lot of faith to put into the rookies. That’s partly why I don’t see the team cutting bait on MadBum until late this season, if at all.
Makakilo: You are right that depth is important. Last season, there were 7 pitchers with at least 7 games started. In past seasons, wise Snakepitters have advocated that the Diamondbacks should plan on at least 7 starters during the season.
Spencer: I’m bullish on letting the magical debuts against San Diego run its full course, so I’d have Pfaadt in either the 5th spot just to see what happens with that. Plus, he’s likely to be on 2 of the necessary “Top 100” lists to qualify for the draft compensation pick for ROY, giving some backup to Carroll (think Strider to Harris this year and the likelihood of Rodriguez to Henderson in Baltimore in 2023). In this event, I would prioritize Jameson and Pfaadt over Nelson. Simply to give his arm a little more rest in Reno (although I’m a firm believer his 2022 “injury” was just a way to rest him after a massive workload for the year as a whole).
This would leave us a couple quality backups for injuries in Tommy Henry and Ryne Nelson. Let them start in Reno and come up when necessary. By the end of 2023, I expect at least MadBum (maybe Kelly) will no longer be in Arizona, opening roles for them or other debutants. Bullpen assignments will need to be decided before Opening Day 2024 for a few of the options as well.
ISH95: Hopefully Bumgarner will be launched into the sun and replaced with a veteran option who will provide actual value instead of just being old. I’m not holding my breath though. If not, he needs to be the number five starter. The other two spots are going to make for an interesting ST battle, though, and I’m looking forward to it.
- Miguel Castro
- Kevin Ginkel
- Joe Mantiply
- Scott McGough
- Mark Melancon
- Kyle Nelson
- Cole Sulser
- Taylor Widener
While the above names are listed in alphabetical order, the top six seem most likely to be there on Opening Day. Nelson would provide another left-handed option alongside Mantiply. The last two could be swapped out, but Widener offers length out of the pen, and Sulser has more experience than most of the alternatives. Further changes seem likely, either with new arrivals, or a non-roster invitee making the team in spring.
Makakilo: A Perspective of the Diamondbacks’ Rebuilt Bullpen, which will likely be posted Tuesday, provides my view on the rebuilt bullpen, including some minor league acquisitions who are competing for a bullpen position, such as Ryan Hendrix, Carlos Vargas, Austin Brice, and Sam Clay. At the time of writing, I’m not sure whether Corbin Martin will be in the bullpen instead of Taylor Widener (or maybe both start the season in Reno). Others competing include Luis Frias, Justin Martinez, JB Bukauskas, Edwin Uceta and Tyler Holton. Spring training should be very interesting.
Spencer: Relievers… Ugh. This final list will have as much to do with option years as it does talent in 2023. I don’t know who will make the Opening Day 2023 version of the bullpen, but by the end of the year, I sincerely hope we’ve replaced Widener and Sulser with better arms. Ideally Melancon will pitch well enough to be traded too. That would open a lot of doors for younger, higher upside guys to take over. I’m willing to pencil Tommy Henry in for a long relief role, and probably one of Nelson/Jameson as well for a higher leverage role. I reserve the right to be completely wrong, since bullpens are a crapshoot, especially in Arizona and with Hazen designing them…
ISH95: Trying to figure this one out is the path to madness, so nope. I wish Hazen the best of luck in figuring it out though!