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Diamondbacks Game Preview #116: 8/16 @ Giants

Where are the D-backs young pitchers? Merrill Kelly doesn’t count. :)

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Daulton Varsho - RF Joc Pederson - LF
Emmanuel Rivera - 3B Wilmer Flores - DH
Josh Rojas - 2B Brandon Belt - 1B
Christian Walker - 1B Evan Longoria - 3B
Jake McCarthy - LF Mike Yastrzemski - CF
Alek Thomas - CF Thairo Estrada - 2B
Carson Kelly - C Brandon Crawford - SS
Seth Beer - DH Joey Bart - C
Geraldo Perdomo - SS LaMonte Wade - RF
Merrill Kelly - RHP Jakob Junis - RHP

As Makakilo mentioned earlier today, Zac Gallen has become one of the best young pitchers in the league. His 2.7 bWAR so far ranks him fifth in the National League among those in their age 26 season or younger. Though the stunning performance of Sandy Alcantara, at 6.7 bWAR, perhaps explains why the Marlins were willing to trade Gallen away. Alcantara is on pace for 9.4 bWAR: if he gets there, he would be trailing only the Phillies’ Aaron Nola (9.7 in 2018) and Royals’ Zack Greinke (10.4 in 2009), among production by young pitchers since the eighties. The question is, where is the Diamondbacks’ equivalent to Alcantara going to come from?

Over the past decade, i.e. beginning in 2013, there have been 116 cases where a starting pitcher aged 26 or younger has put up more than three bWAR. Only one of those have been by an Arizona Diamondback: Robbie Ray’s 4.7 bWAR in 2013. Patrick Corbin just missed out in 2013, with 3.0 bWAR, and Zac Gallen should get there this year. But it’s still been close to a pitching desert in the... um, desert. Compare the same number across the rest of the teams in the NL West. The Rockies have had nine; the Dodgers eight; and the Giants six. The Padres are the only team to have struggled, with their best young pitcher being Chris Paddack’s 2.9 bWAR in 2019.

What’s notable is none of the three D-backs mentioned were drafted here. Ray, Corbin and Gallen were all dealt for by Arizona. Indeed if you look at purely the D-backs list since 2013, you have to go all the way down to #9 to find a starting pitcher drafted as a Diamondback: Wade Miley’s relatively paltry 1.4 bWAR - again, all the way back in 2013. We’ll see what the future brings. Tommy Henry may be the first of a wave of pitching prospects, with other names like Blake Walston, Brandon Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson all ranked in our top 10 and expected to arrive this year or next. If the team is to get back above .500, and eventually into playoff contention again, good young starting pitching is going to be one key.