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SnakePit Round Table: Into the second half

MLB: All Star-Red Carpet Show Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you are interested in taking part in a round table alongside the regular writers, like this week’s guest ChuckJohnson56, just answer one or more of the questions in the comments. I’ll select one respondee, and send them the questions so they can join in next weekend!

Pick a player who’ll break out in the second half

Michael: There aren’t any real good choices, but I’m hoping to see Alek Thomas pick it up in the second half. His quality of contact hasn’t been great and he’s having to adjust to seeing real breaking pitches for the first time since 2020. I would consider him more as a breakout candidate for next season, but I would like to see the progression of the type of at-bats he has.

Spencer: I’ll go with Perdomo. He’s been slowly developing before our eyes at the plate. He’s not likely to ever hit 300 with even 15 home runs, but I’d like to see him be able to sustain a 270 average in August and September. If he can do that, he’ll set himself up to grow into more power in 2023 and beyond. I’ll take that from a defense first guy.

DBacksEurope: I’ll take a pitcher. Either Martin or Henry.

Makakilo: At the start of the season, David Peralta was my choice for a breakout season. So far, his 109 OPS+ is his best since 2018, and his OPS+ is fourth highest on the team (behind Marte, Walker, and Rojas). His breakout performance is good but less than spectacular.

For the second half, Zac Gallen would have been my choice. However, he pitched so well in his first start of the second half that it could be seen as unfair to pick him. He pitched 7 innings while allowing 2 hits and zero earned runs. He struck out 7 and walked none.

Jack: Can I cheat and say Ketel Marte? He’s been on fire and had a big game last night (Friday) He has by far and away the highest OPS projection for the rest of season and has the track record to do it. He’s putting away all disappointment we had at the plate. If we are talking about just rookies and 2nd year players, the heart wants to pick Alek Thomas, but his Groundball Rate seems like that’s who he is, and therefore it limits his ceiling a bit. I’m going to go ahead and cast my lot with Spencer and say Perdomo. His xStats are all better than his results. The x STATS aren’t great mind you, but they’re improving too. Here is chart for D-backs hitters with minimum 100 Balls in play, sorted by “unluckiest”

Wesley: I’m going to do the opposite and say that no one will, they’ll all be terrible, and no one will breakout.

For a serious answer, I’ll go with the younger starting pitchers improving as a group under Strom’s tutelage, and Perdomo’s bat to come alive.

Steven: Carson Kelly. He looks strong and healthy, with his “oblique injury” in the rear view mirror and a month-long reset to get him back to square one. The returns are really positive, with an .832 OPS since coming back in June, top 10 among catchers. The defense has been as expected, and the pitchers have responded as well, with the top 3 (Kelly, Gallen, and Bumgarner) all under 4.14. Kelly finishing strong solves a very important question about the catching position going forward.

Dano: I’m going with Geraldo Perdomo and Jake McCarthy, Perdomo for the reasons that Spencer gives; namely, even though he’s not knocking the cover off the ball, his ABs have been getting better and better, he sees so many pitches, he’s putting up patient ABs, I do believe that the hits will start falling in. Likewise McCarthy, he was already starting to look really comfortable at the plate before he got sent back down to Reno, and since he’s been back, he has looked to me like he’s picking up where he left off. Good ABs, seeing the ball well, hits beginning to fall in more frequently, and his defensive chops and speed on the basepaths are already solid.

Chuck: I just want to see the kids keep progressing. It would be nice if Perdomo and/or Thomas can steal a ROY vote or two.

Looks likely to be Corbin Martin replacing Dallas Keuchel. What are your expectations?

Michael: I believe he should do better than a 9.64 ERA in 4 starts. He has decent enough stuff although the fastball went from plus velo (95-97) to average (92-95) although the breaking balls are MLB quality. At this point I consider it to be Martin’s last real chance to stick as a starter and if he flops in this audition to start converting him to a full-time reliever. I believe he has the stuff to give hitters fits one time through the order although it would be foolish to assume it’s a clean transition when he’s started almost all his life. I predict Martin will pitch to an ERA+ (or ERA-) around 100 with a 25% K rate and a 10% BB rate in 10 starts (~52 IP) for the D-backs.

Spencer: Firstly, he deserves 3-4 starts no matter what, health permitting. I’d like to see him get into the 6th once and through 5 twice. I don’t care about his strikeout numbers in 2022. I just want to see him given the chance to write his own story and deal with the consequences of his pitching. My expectation is that he shows enough to be a front runner for a rotation spot next spring.

DBacksEurope: gut feeling, he’ll pitch to a lower 4 ERA. I have no stats to explain why.

Makakilo: First, let me eat crow because I thought Brent Strom would fix Dallas Keuchel. I was mistaken.

Hopefully, Corbin Martin will be a different story. In 2019, he started 5 games for the Astros with a 5.59 ERA. In 2021, he started a game against the Dodgers. Torey Lovullo said, “I could not be more pleased with what we saw from him today.” In 2022, he pitched in relief 14.1 innings with zero home runs allowed.

My criteria for Martin’s success as a starter are an ERA of 5 or less, and at least 10 starts with a game score of at least 50.

Jack: My hopes are higher than my expectations.

Wesley: My expectations are that Martin will be terrible. At this point with this team, I figure if I just expect the worst, I’ll be disappointed less. Martin has been good in Reno as of late, so I’m trying not to just lower my expectations as much as possible.

Steven: I really don’t understand the Keuchel hate. It literally cost less than $100k to see if Strom could turn it around. Strom has earned the trust over the years to have player input, especially when it costs hardly nothing to do so. In the end, the results speak for themselves. A 9.64 ERA and the D-backs were 1-3 when he started. His lone good performance (7IP, 3ER) was against a really bad Rockies team. The opportunity cost in letting him on the roster is what, 4 starts for a young guy?

That said, I’m hoping Hazen and Co. don’t stop with just Corbin Martin. This season is all but lost, so let’s see what these young guys can do against better hitting. Get what you can for Bumgarner and Davies, and call up Martin/Henry and let these guys get valuable experience against the best competition in the league. The key is letting them take their lumps and giving them a consistent schedule. Of course, both of those guys are coming up on last year’s IP levels (Martin specifically, he only threw 43IP last season after another forearm injury) so some level of caution is needed. Maybe that just means we’ll see Ryne Nelson or Drey Jameson?

Dano: I’m not entirely sure what specific “Keuchel hate” Steven is referencing, but I agree with him that it wasn’t a bad gamble. Dude was a former Cy Young Award winner, we got him stupid cheap, for that price I didn’t mind us giving him a handful of starts to see if his reunion with Strom might fix him. Turns out it didn’t pan out, so we folded the hand and moved on with minimal cost. I’ll never complain about that.

As for Martin, I’m actually really excited to see him get another shot. Last year, it felt like I recapped a lot of the games in which he appeared, including, if I’m not mistaken, that start against FTD. Kid had a lot of heart, and he seemed to have some good stuff, but he definitely wasn’t ready for the bigs and the team had no patience with giving him enough time in the Majors to let him start to get comfortable and figure it out in his own way. Again, I find myself agreeing with Spencer. Give him enough time to let him find his legs up here and start to figure it out. I feel like the kid deserves it.

That said, how it turns out, I have no idea at this point, so I expect nothing. I’ll have a better sense after I watch him in a couple of starts.

Chuck: What they need to do is call up a kid and give him the ball every five days til the end of the season and stop with this Reno Rollercoaster. Whether it be Martin, Henry, Jameson it doesn’t matter but they’ve committed to position players yet can’t seem to get out of their own when it comes to pitching.

Any last thoughts, summing up the 2022 MLB draft?

Michael: Is it too early to invest in a Druw Jones jersey? Aside from him, I like the team took a chance on a high-octane arm like Landon Sims in a year where that type of talent has dropped due to Tommy John surgeries. Sims will either start or close games in a D-backs uniform. Melendez is interesting, if not the similar scouting report coming out of college as Paul Goldschmidt. Time will tell if Melendez can develop similarly at 1B, but I will remain hopeful that the makeup is enough to push him beyond just a 1.5-tool masher.

Looking at the rest of their class, meh! Savino is interesting if he can get his high school velo back (93-95 MPH on the fastball). If his fastball is sitting around 91-92, his ceiling is comparable to Kyle Nelson. Nelson is a solid reliever who has given the D-backs some solid innings in a middle inning, medium leverage work but not the type of pitcher who moves the needle in either direction. I don’t have much of an opinion on the rest of their class but how Jones, Sims, Melendez, and Savino end up will decide how this draft goes.

Spencer: I was very happy on night one. As the novelty of draft day has worn off, I’ve tempered a bit on Sims and Melendez. Personally I’d still have rather taken a higher upside arm at 34 (like Prielipp or Tidwell), but assuming all three end up in the bullpen, I can’t really fault the team for wanting a relief ace. And Melendez just worries me. He seems like a one shot pony right now. But man I like dreaming on that one shot.

As for the rest of the draft, eh? Hopefully the weirdness covid presented in this scouting era will bear fruit with a later guy, but I doubt it right now. Seems like day 2 was filled with organizational filler picks and day three was “let’s call names we kinda liked but have big questions.”

DBacksEurope: The first round pick makes or breaks your draft, the rest of the rounds a surprising player might eventually pop up. Diamondbacks did great with picking Druw Jones so in that sense we have had two consecutive slam dunks with Lawlar last year and this year with Jones.

Jack: Doesn’t look like they’re going to get much done with the high school kids drafted at the back end of the draft. But still waiting to see how the signings all work out. Too early for last thoughts.

Wesley: I agree with Jack, it is way to early to have any real “last” thoughts on the draft. That said, I absolutely love that we got Dru Jones. Considering he set the record for signing bonuses for a high-schooler in the post-slot era, that’s obviously for good reason. Hopefully Dru will be an even better player than his father, and he will overshadow his father’s career. I actually really like Melendez’ offensive skillset, and I think he has the work ethic and makeup to hopefully overcome any liabilities on defense. As Michael noted, he reminds me of Paul Goldschmidt actually, but Melendez seems to be much more highly regarded as a prospect coming out of college. So definitely an interesting prospect to follow. As far as any of the pitchers go, TINSTAPP. There is no such thing as a pitching prospect, and I don’t put much stock in the odds of ANY of these pitchers making it to big leagues, let alone reaching their full potential for an extended period of time in the major with the Diamondbacks. It’s 100% a crapshoot My gut say Sims will likely end up as a high leverage reliever, but I’d obviously like to see the team develop him as a starting pitcher. If they don’t it’s a bit of a waste. Nate Savino I would give better odds of staying healthy and sticking as a starter compared Sims, just because he’s left handed and hadn’t had Tommy John surgery recently.

Makakilo: Two thoughts:

The first four picks were awesome picks:

  • Pick #2. Druw Jones is arguably the best in this season’s draft and his upside could be 3-4 WAR per season.
  • Pick #43. Ivan Melendez won the Golden Spikes - awarded to one best amateur baseball player each season.
  • Pick #34. Landon Sims. Could have been a high first round draft pick except for Tommy John surgery. Could be starter or reliever.
  • Pick # 82 Nat Savino. Could have been a first round draft pick. His upside could be mid-rotation starter on the Diamondbacks.

There was balance between picking position players and pitchers. Their first 7 picks alternated between position player and pitcher, Of their top 20 picks, 11 were position players and 9 were pitchers.

Steven: Once Druw Jones fell into their laps at #2, everyone else was icing on the cake. He’s the most talked about prospect the D-backs have had since Justin Upton. Let’s just hope the team supports him throughout this journey.

Dano: Draft picks, even really high draft picks, are lottery tickets at the end of the day. [shrugs]

Chuck: Time will tell obviously but on paper their first four picks could all be impactful and Rodriguez could be the sleeper of the whole draft.

What did you think of the All-Star Game?

Michael: The game presentation has been better in previous years with the players mic’d up and actually interacting with the broadcasters in the booth. At the same time, I believe outside of the ASG and HR Derby that the event itself is a joke. Ken Rosenthal had 80 MLB players selected, which is more than 10% of the overall player base. There are too many guys getting in already, plus you add the commissioner making legacy additions with Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols getting in. That really annoyed me because players should get in on their own merits instead of Manfred ruining another part of the game.

DBacksEurope: I didn’t see it. Don’t think I missed anything.

Makakilo: I did not see it.

Wesley: Neither did I.

Jack: It was OK. Best part was mic’d up pitcher/catcher, and of course seeing Mantiply throw a 9 pitch inning,

Steven: MLB needs more mic’d up moments, it’s a tremendous opportunity to see these guys grounded. Most of these guys are real funny, we’ve seen that with David a few times this season already. Just look at other sports, the NBA and NFL give tremendous inside looks at their clubs, I don’t see that much in the MLB.

Dano: I was drinking free Scottsdale Blonde at a hotel bar in Paradise Valley after a day of mandatory training for the upcoming start of the school year. I imbibed a lot, and had some lovely conversations with some genuinely good and smart people. The training was mildly stupid, but overall it was a very good day.

Oh.

You’re asking about the baseball.

Chuck: Was dealing with a family emergency so didn’t see it but this is how I envisioned it if things were different. Turned the game on, saw those sorry, pathetic money grabbing excuse for uniforms, heard all the mic’d up conversations talking over each other and turned it right off. So I still wouldn’t have watched.

Predict Arizona’s record over the 70 second-half games.

Michael: I predict the team will go 28-42, finishing with my preseason prediction of 68 wins. The final month of the season is going to be absolutely brutal with the team playing a lot of intra divisional games against teams like the Padres, Dodgers, and Giants. The team’s performance against the two SoCal teams has been dreadful the past three seasons and this provides them a chance to either turn it around or never correct course. Based on what I’ve heard about Lovullo, a 68 win season likely means Lovullo gets let go in favor of Jeff Bannister for a season although Kendrick may elect to clean house from the top with Hazen going as well.

Spencer: I’m going to keep my optimistic ways and suggest we go 35-35 the rest of the way. The strength of schedule argument is very real, but so are the obvious flaws in teams like San Francisco (age), Milwaukee (offense), Philadelphia (offense/bullpen) and Cleveland (underperforming stars) among others. We need a lot to go right, but it could and until it doesn’t, imma believe. Post trade deadline I think the youth could surprise us, especially via pitching.

DBacksEurope: enough wins to get to my preseason prediction of 70. That is a huge improvement over last year so I am not sure why everyone is so salty with Lovullo. He has a bad team.

Makakilo: My preseason prediction of 80 wins was too optimistic.

In the first 46 games, their win-loss record was 23-23. Their record in 1-run games was 9-7.

In the second 46 games, their win-loss record was 17-29. Their record in 1-run games was 4-10.

In the last 70 games, my predicted win loss record is 32-38. Factors in my prediction were the strong schedule, possible trades at the trade deadline, and their record in 1-run games.

Jack: As of Saturday morning they are 41-52. Fangraphs currently has them going 31-38 the rest of the way to finish 72-90, In their pre season playoff odds report FG projected 69-93. They think Arizona has improved.

What they do or don’t do at the trade deadline might negatively impact the rest of season win total. If they “sell” one might expect them to lose more games. But we have the 2019 post trade deadline results as an example to counter that kind of conventional wisdom.

That said, I believe they’ll end up around my pre season win projection of 68. If they go 27-42 the rest of the way they end up 68-94. I’ll stick with that. The September/October brutal schedule looms large.

Wesley: My preseason ‘optimism’ of expecting them be roughly .500 was apparently completely misplaced, so I am going to be overly dramatic and predict that they’ll go 10-60 or worse the rest of the year, and they’ll actually be worse than last year by at least one game. I may have accidentally cursed this team (and the Angels) to frustrating mediocrity in the winter of 2011, and I refuse to elaborate further.

Steven: I predicted 65 pre-season, which would give them a 24-45 record in the 2nd half. I’m not that bearish, so I’ll give them a flat 70 wins, making them 29-40 over the last half of the year. I’m going with that due to a couple trades, namely David Peralta, Christian Walker, Ian Kennedy, Zach Davies, and a surprise Madison Bumgarner trade causing a wave of young talent to flood the team.

Dano: 33-37. No particular reason or expert rationale; just eyeballed the remaining schedule, gauged the teams and how we seem to have played them thus far this year (those we have seen), and made a rough guess on the outcome of each series.

Chuck: My preseason prediction was less than 65. If they move some guys at the deadline like Walker, MadBum, Peralta it’s likely they fall short of that number. If they wait til the offseason to purge the roster then they could surpass that total. What really needs to happen is Kendrick finally pulling the plug on the Mike and Torey Comedy Show. This team won’t make the postseason with either of those two around, the longer they wait to pull the plug the longer it’s going to be before anyone takes the team seriously.

If you had a chance to rename the letter “w” from “Double you” to something else, what would it be?

Michael: Double V

Spencer: The “Oop” so in the Midwest we could all just send each other texts of w when we need to “ooop just gonna squeeze by ya there.”

DBacksEurope: I think you guys should go with “Wee”, you’d have Vee, Wee and that combination sounds good.

Makakilo: Great minds think alike (I wrote the following prior to reading DBacksEurope’s Wee)

Wheee so that reciting the alphabet at the end would be:

Uuu, veee, wheee, ex, why, zeee

Wesley: Makakilo and DBE’s suggestion makes sense, but only if it is called a “Wed” to go with the British “Zed”.

Dano: In honor of the apparent decline of intellect and rational thought as culturally appreciated and commonly practiced qualities in this great nation just now, I’m gonna go with “uhhhhh.” I think it works with the poetic rhythm of the end of the alphabet that others have rightfully noted. Also I very much approve of Wesley’s modification of DBE’s and Mak’s excellent suggestions.

Chuck: Dub.