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SnakePit Round Table: Spring has sprung

Baseball is back! Well, a rough approximation thereof...

Spring gets going - also in Saxony-Anhalt Photo by Christian Modla/picture alliance via Getty Images

Highlight one issue for the D-backs going into spring training.

Jack: Fielding a non competitive roster, falling behind the other teams in the National League spending big on free agents.

James: I’m mostly in the same boat as Jack here. The current 40-man roster still does not have the personnel to field a team that belongs on a MLB field. Unfortunately, unless they are willing to expand payroll significantly, I don’t see any sort of solution to the issue.

Wesley: I think to some extent I agree with Jack and James here, but I think perhaps that’s too pessimistic of a take. I don’t think this team is competitive, but I think the real issue is that no one has ANY idea what the true talent level of this team is, including the Front Office. Viewed through that lens, it becomes much more obvious why the team has only signed a few bullpen arms. That’s the one area we KNOW is god awful, but aside from that, it’s a crapshoot.

Dano: Only one? Hmmmm, that makes this a harder question. Heh. Seriously, though, I honestly don’t have any expectations going into this spring training. All sorts of teams are adding all sorts of high-priced talent, and we’ve signed….Ian Kennedy and Mark Melancon? It looks to me like we’re going into 2022 like a down-on-its-heels Broadway show that has suddenly opened up all the roles to an open audition process. Our first two games were played with lineups featuring nobody but a handful of pitchers who are even on the 40-man roster. I think Wesley nails it, honestly….it looks like nobody in management has any idea what we’ve got at this point, and so they’re trying to sort it out by throwing all the pasta at any available wall and hoping something sticks. Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but there you are.

Steven: Deciding the future direction of this team. It seems like they want to appear to be contending with building the bullpen up with guys like Melancon and Kennedy, which, fine. The bullpen was bad last year, I get it. But are we going to see young guys sit the bench in favor of older vets to push up their trade value in prep for a sell-off at midseason? I hope whatever they decide, they commit, regardless of early season outcome.

ISH95: Lack of willingness to spend at even a league average number. Yes yes, I know the Rays are perennial contenders despite paying their players in broken shoelaces and already chewed gum, but the fact of the matter is, to play the game like that you need everything to go right. The Rays are very, very good at doing everything they can to make sure that things do go right, but frankly, counting on that kind of luck is a fool’s errand.

Michael: The slow death spiral of a franchise as a result of lack of direction from ownership and the front office. It seems that the team is neither willing to spend the money necessary to field a more competitive roster or improve the player development at the MLB level nor embark on a rebuild. Instead what’s happened is a hemorrhaging of talent with no suitable players to replace them, although we’ll see if Hazen can stick around long enough to be able to see the players he selected and developed to have some sort of impact at the MLB level.

For the main on the field issue, the lack of an obvious solution at 3B other than just throwing young guys in the deep end of the pool and hope they don’t drown. It seems like the team could be looking at deploying Josh Rojas or a Josh VanMeter/Drew Ellis platoon down there. All three players have their warts, although Rojas is the only one of the three that had a decent enough bat. I guess we can see if Rojas has the chops to play the position or if Ellis can hit at the MLB level, which in itself has value to the decisions the team will need to make next year.

Justin: I guess my lateness means there really isn’t much left to be said but I agree with fielding a non competitive roster. I like ISHs comment.

Makakilo: Who will play third base for the diamondbacks? Is this seasons’ third baseman on the current roster, and if so who is it? Is he a free agent, or will he be acquired in a trade? I’m optimistic and have an open mind. I spilled some ink on the possibilities in the following AZ Snake Pit articles:

What prospects are you particularly looking forward to watching?

Jack: Of course Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas. I hope to see these two get some PA’s against MLB pitchers before they are optioned out to minor league camp.

James: I’m intrigued to see just about any of the potential pitching prospects, from Martin and JBB, to Nelson, Henry, Cecconi, Kelly, Pfaadt, and others. This organization needs to start finding starting pitching from within.

Wesley: As Jack said, Carroll and Thomas are two players I am excited to see, along with the pitchers that James suggested.

I am actually kinda excited to see what Seth Beer can do with the DH spot, although I doubt he’ll be given a real chance. Geraldo Perdomo is an exciting player, so I’m excited to see if those changes stick this season, and see if he can be successful.

Dano: Carroll is the main one for me, and perhaps Corbin Martin, who I got weirdly invested in when he got called up last year. Given how most of our prospects performed last year when pressed into early service due to all the regular season injuries, though, I’m feeling very gun-shy about getting too invested in just about anyone.

Steven: Alek Thomas and Geraldo Perdomo. Perdomo has the glove, and his late season performance was a huge confidence boost after his mixed performance early on in replacement for Ahmed. Thomas leads a group of highly touted youngsters, they’ve gotten a lot of publicity from prospect rankers/reviewers and we’ll see if they live up to the hype.

ISH95: Perdomo for me. I’m curious to see what the Heir Apparent to Ahmed can do. But I try not to get too wrapped up in it. Last prospects I really got excited for are currently in LA: One with the Angels, the other with the Commissioner’s Exempt List.

Michael: I’m going to go with a couple arms that could be sniffing an MLB opportunity later this year in Tommy Henry and Ryne Nelson. Already liked what I saw from Henry in the spring opener vs. Colorado and Nelson had a nice first outing as well. I’m curious to see how the arms the team has drafted and developed the past three years will turn out, which also includes Drey Jameson, Brandon Pfaadt, Bryce Jarvis (Saturday’s clunker notwithstanding), and Slade Cecconi if they get some run this Spring.

Justin: Thomas, Perdomo, Carroll. See if Martin can stay healthy.

Makakilo: The excellent Diamondbacks farm system includes many interesting prospects. I will briefly mention only a small handful.

Geraldo Perdomo. Although he may have graduated from being a prospect, he was a top-100 prospect in a Keith Law list. His September performance was amazing. Watching him will inform my opinion on whether he should play shortstop this season. If so, would he platoon with Nick Ahmed, or would Nick Ahmed move to third base? Fascinating questions.

Luis Frias. I am very excited to see him pitch. An excerpt from this AZ Snake Pit article follows. He has three pitches.

  • This season, Baseball Savant showed his average 4-seam fastball velocity was 96.5 mph. MLB.com wrote that it touched 99 mph. It was a plus pitch.
  • He has a spike curveball with “huge vertical depth and hard, 12-to-6 downer action” per MLB.com. Baseball Savant showed its average velocity was 84.4 mph. It was a plus pitch.
  • He has a split changeup. It “bottoms out as it nears the plate” per MLB.com. Baseball Savant showed its’ average velocity was 90 mph.

This AZ Snake Pit article described his 7 inning no hit shutout game in AA.

On the other hand, Michael McDermott wrote about his concern that Frias had a below average spin in this AZ Snake Pit article.

”A very hardworking year, he progressed through 3 levels and continued to make strides. Hard throwing pitcher who is learning and growing. There’s a ton of strikeouts, it’s a high octane fastball and he’s been working on secondary stuff.” — Torey Lovullo

Jose Herrera. He was drafted as a top International prospect. In AAA he threw out 10 of 44 base stealers and in AA he threw out 15 of 32 base stealers. As a AAA batter he had a good eye (32 BB/42 SO), and a power bat (6HR in 180 PAs). To see how he fits in with the other Diamondbacks catchers, see this AZ Snake Pit article. Note that catcher Grayson Greiner was acquired after the article was written.

Players Drafted in the First Round. I very much look forward to seeing first round picks play. On the pitching side, there are 4 first-round draftees in the minors (Blake Walston, Drey Jameson, Slade Cecconi, and Bryce Jarvis) and 4 first-round draftees in the Majors (Ian Kennedy, JB Bukauskas, Luke Weaver, and Madison Bumgarner). Recently, first rounder Zack Burdi was released.

On the position player side the Diamondbacks have two first-round draftees in the Majors (Seth Beer and Pavin Smith) and 5 in the minors (Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Jordan Lawler, Jake Hagar, and Matt Davidson).

Non-prospect J. B. Wendelken. Although he is not a prospect because he pitched in the Majors since 2016, and although he may seem average with his ERA+ of 100, my gut feel is that he has great potential to improve his performance, especially with new pitching coach Brent Strom. My gut feel started with a table in this AZ Snake Pit article scheduled to post Tuesday.

Wesley: Makakilo makes a very persuasive argument for the players he mentioned. We have so many young players to get excited about, it’s easy to forget guys like Frias.

Justin: I definitely agree, Wes. How he listed the players names it looks like they are participating in the round table lol.

Pick a non-roster invitee who’ll make the Opening Day squad.

Jack: Dan Straily probably has the best chance, and he looked sharp in early camp workouts. I’ve been out of town and didn’t get to see him pitch today. EDIT: Just checked the box score. Never mind.

James: I have to go with Straily or Devenski. Both have pretty open paths to finding a home in the bullpen if they are healthy. This team isn’t going to bite the bullet and ride with a bullpen full of developing arms.

Wesley: No idea at this point.

Dano: Again with Wesley on this. Who the hell knows?

Steven: It’s too early to tell. I’ll go Matt Davidson for nostalgia purposes.

ISH95: Me. JK I don’t know. Matt Davidson would be cool

MIchael: Going in a different direction and choosing Kevin Ginkel as a middle relief arm in the pen. Looking at his Statcast measurements from Friday’s game, the stuff is way up and with 2019 command could be an interesting piece. The injury to J.B.B. will open up a clearer path for him to make the roster.

Justin: No to Ginkel, when we signed Straily I kind of assumed he would have a spot and it would be his to lose. I think maybe they are thinking of a Merrill Kelly 2.0

Makakilo: Compared to the acquisitions of Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy, the acquisition of Dan Straily was an insightful outlier. To learn why, read this AZ Snake Pit article scheduled to post Tuesday.

To see how he improved in the KBO, see this AZ Snake Pit article.

My view is Dan Straily will be on the opening day roster! My view did NOT change just because he allowed 7 earned runs in his first spring training game.

His postgame comments told me that his pitching needs adjustment. His mind set was throw in the strike zone, which Brent Strom said he did a little too well. As a result he gave up a lot of first pitch hits. The other problem was his fastball needed to be better located.

I need to be clear that the best approach for the Diamondbacks is to have several types of pitchers, and to retain each pitcher’s unique characteristics. This AZ Snake Pit article outlines four pitchers who are role models for developing pitchers.

What problems will abbreviated spring training cause?

Jack: I wrote on February 4th that the truncated spring training was likely to exacerbate the already increasing injury trends. Hopefully that won’t be the case, we’ll see.

James: See 2021.

Wesley: More injuries, more poor performances from pitchers, given the lack of extra time they’re usually given.

Dano: Yeah, injuries. Strength and conditioning seem to be a challenge for us in the best of years, and hurrying the process of getting players ready for a 162-game season doesn’t seem like a recipe for improving on that.

Steven: The fans again lose because of the stunted Spring Training. I feel bad for the local businesses that are missing out on the increased traffic from out of town guests.

ISH95: Depth, specifically the bullpen, is going to be tested early. Starters won’t be able to go as late into games as soon as they would normally, putting more innings on the weakest part of the team. How they handle through the month of April is probably going to have a direct correlation to how much activity is in the GDT’s come August.

Michael: At a minimum, not being able to stretch out your starters will put a heavier workload on the bullpen, so there will be a premium on arms that can be moved to and from Reno. That may mean the team holds on to an extra starter to use as a long reliever or innings eater out of the pen while the starters stretch out from likely 80 pitches to being able to go 90-100 by their 3rd start of the season. At the same time you might see hitters look rusty for the first 2-3 weeks of the season as they are trying to make up for lost Spring Training reps. The first month of the regular season is going to look similar to a late March Spring Training game, so as ISH hints at above it will be about surviving and then hoping to make a run to build some confidence.

Justin: Pitching depth and Starters not being stretched out.

Makakilo: Spring training sets the tone for the season per Torey Lovullo. It’s when players experience what it takes to be a 2022 Diamondback. It’s an opportunity for players to develop their mental toughness, teamwork, and injury prevention habits. It’s an opportunity for players to learn from the new pitching and hitting coaches. For all these reasons, I’m unhappy about any shortening of spring training for the Diamondbacks.

Who has most to prove this pre-season?

Jack: The two Josh’s, Rojas and VanMeter need to show coaches they can handle third base defensively. Zac Gallen needs to prove he can stay healthy.

James: Out of position players, probably Josh Rojas. He had a solid 2021, but is still on the outside looking in when it comes to having a starting position. That is going to work against him when it comes to earning ABs. Recent comments suggest that the team still sees him as a utility player to bounce around. He needs to step up big if he is going to brush that off. Runner up: Seth Beer. He needs to show he is healthy and can still swing a stick. Of the pitchers, I am torn. Corbin Martin, who needs to show he still has a MLB-caliber arm after major surgery.Either Zac Gallen needs to show he can stay healthy and can pitch without the aid of tack or it is

Wesley: Rojas, VanMeter, and Beer have a lot to prove, but I am going to go with Jake McCarthy. He was never a top prospect, but with the changes he made last season, I am sure he wants to prove its legit. I suppose there are a lot of players with much to prove aside from that. Perdomo needs to prove that the real Geraldo Perdomo is the one that came up at the end of the year, and not the one at the beginning. Christian Walker, as mentioned by Steven, is another guy who has a ton to prove after a poor season. Makakilo mentions MadBum, and he’s right about that too. I think it’d be much easier to say who has the least to prove this season.

Dano: Rojas proved himself to me last year, for what that’s worth (which is, of course, nothing whatsoever). VanMeter, though, definitely, along with all the other youth-movement replacements we saw getting more playing time during the last garbage months of 2021. Most of them seemed to, at times, show flashes of something, but none of them wound up feeling like a good potential answer, much less a sure thing, by the time it was over.

Corbin Martin, on the pitching side, is definitely a question mark for me, as frankly are our newly obtained geezer free agents, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Melancon. Doubling down on back-of-the-bullpen dumpster diving is still, at the end of the day, diving in the dumpster.

Steven: The Christian Walker tender was widely seen as a surprise, and a poor Spring will only compound that decision with youngsters like Seth Beer and Pavin Smith ready for MLB competition. I agree with most on Martin, but I’ll also throw Bumgarner in the discussion. Another spring, another velocity worry.

ISH95: Torey Lovullo. I was a fan of bringing him back, but if he can’t get an improvement out of the team this season, his seat is going to be as hot as a stainless steel slide in the middle of summer.

Michael: These players could be in line for potential jobs with a good Spring

  • Christian Walker: If he can outhit Beer, I think he and Smith will split 1B/DH duties in some capacity. A bad Spring would result in him potentially getting released with only two weeks prorated salary as the severance package.
  • Seth Beer: In competition with Walker although he’d see a lot more time at DH than 1B in an everyday role.
  • Jake McCarthy: Can he hit MLB pitching? His late season stint did nothing to ease those concerns.
  • Kevin Ginkel: 2 spots wide open in the pen, can he get one of them?
  • Kyle Nelson: Although Mantiply and Smith are near-locks to make the roster, I think he has enough promise to be a matchup lefty thanks to a borderline plus cutter.

Could name more, but I’ll stick with 40-man guys for now.

Makakilo: Madison Bumgarner. His salary is by far the highest of any Diamondback (roughly equal to the sum of the second, third and fourth highest paid Diamondbacks). Similar to Yoan Lopez (for whom the Diamondbacks paid a high price in signing bonus and penalties) the Diamondbacks are paying a high price to have Bumgarner on the team, so he has something to prove.

Despite that high salary, in his first two years as a Diamondback he performed similar to an average MLB pitcher. His 2021 ERA+ was 90. His 2021 average game score was 50.3, which was the fourth highest Diamondback.

A second reason he has something to prove is this season’s new pitching coach Brent Strom. My optimistic expectation is that with Brent Strom’s help Madison Bumgarner will be an above average starting pitcher! In that case he will be the pitcher that the Diamondbacks signed.

What is your most controversial baseball take?

Wesley: I like the DH. I don’t care about steroids or performance enhancing in sports. I actually think the sport would be much more interesting if there were no restrictions on supplements or performance enhancers..

Jack: Teeing up yet another take for Jim’s wayback machine , Zac Gallen’s true ceiling is a middle of the rotation starter. His underlying peripherals (career 3.91 FIP, 3.93 xFIP) have never indicated he’s a true #1 or #2, and his health issues are mounting, making it that much harder to meet or exceed expectations.

James: Baseball may have been better off to lose a majority, or even all, of the 2022 season to the lockout. Such a long absence of the sport would have hurt finances for a bit, but it may well have resulted in the two sides finally hammering out a new agreement that actually begins to address the real issues with the game, so that there can be something resembling labour peace for more than 72 hours. This newest agreement is, once again, simply kicking the can down the road.

Dano: I’m with James on this, though I would word it even more strongly. I wish the players had given management the finger for the entire year, run 2022 into the ground, and forced the owners to come to the table for real. I think I can understand why they didn’t and why the vast majority of the Players’ Association membership couldn’t, but like James suggests, no lasting structural good for the sport as a whole comes from what the players agreed to. No substantive structural change in terms of the core economic issues means that five years down the road we’re likely to be right back here again, but with those issues even more entrenched and intractable than they were over this winter.

Steven: Baseball is so out of touch with the younger generation that baseball will fall behind soccer and esports in popularity by 2030.

ISH95: I have a knack for making everything that comes out of my mouth controversial lol I think I’ll stick with my recent argument that baseball should get rid of extra innings and end in a tie.

Justin: Baseball should either end in a tie or have some way of ending the game that is not having a ghost runner. 18 inning marathons? No thanks. To me that is like the 4 OT games during the NHL’s dead puck era….

I agree that baseball is losing popularity, if it really even had it, with the younger generations.

Makakilo: Hmmm, I’m no stranger to thinking outside the box, which can be controversial. A summary of an idea that I wrote about follows:

Background Fact: In 2021 deadened baseballs were used in about half the games. In 2022 deadened baseballs will be used in all the games.

My view is that homers will decline. My controversial view is that batters will change the way they swing – they will swing for hard-hit line drives instead of swinging to elevate the ball. An important part of my view is whether infielders can prevent line drives from being hits. Although I don’t think they can, if they can then the better hitting approach is to elevate the ball over their heads. Another important part of my view is whether infielders are allowed to position themselves on the outfield grass when new shift rules are implemented.

The following AZ Snake Pit article is about line drives with a Diamondbacks perspective.

Wesley: That’s not a controversial take Steven. It’s very obvious that MLB is out of touch, and has no idea how to market their players. I’m surprised they’ve marketed Ohtani at all, even though he’s a generational talent. I think ISH95 and Justin may have the most controversial take. Ties are lame, and extra innings are absolutely a joy to me, even long drawn out 18 inning games.

Michael: Rob Manfred has done a great job for ownership in the 7 seasons he’s been commissioner despite the fact that fans and players hate his guts.

Justin: ISH be like….