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SnakePit Round Table: We go Carroll-ing

A new prospect, pennant races and the closer’s spot are among the topics.

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

If you are interested in taking part in a round table alongside the regular writers, like Heath Klein this week, 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!

Rate Torey’s option being exercised on our Great/Good/Meh/Bad/Terrible scale, and explain yourself.

ISH95: I think it’s great. As I’ve said elsewhere, there isn’t a better choice out there at this point than Lovullo, so why make a change? He’s had one playoff season, one 2020, one terrible season, and two solid season, then this season that is looking to be a huge step up from last year. I don’t really get what else you would want from a manager in this day and age.

DBacksEurope: Call me crazy for calling it “meh” but I am aware that there isn’t anything better out there. I think it was James who commented correctly that better options are not willing to manage this team. Besides, I predicted that Torey would continue if he would achieve 70 victories and, knocking wood save disaster, they are on pace to get there easily, so he definitely deserves it. And he functions well as Hazen’s puppet, not everyone is willing to do that, just read Maddon’s reactions about his time with the Angels.

Justin: I am going with “meh” as well, for reasons previously stated by DBE.

Makakilo: Great!

Torey Lovullo changed the coaching. This is the first season with the new Diamondbacks hitting and pitching coaches. They implemented a new system so the minors and majors use the same vocabulary and methods so that when players are promoted to the Majors, they have more success and sustained success. The new coaching is working well. The concept of built innings is powerful per this AZ Snake Pit article. As talented players from a great farm system ranked 4th best in the Majors (per this AZ Snake Pit article) are called up to the Majors, I’m seeing awesome success.

This season’s results are better than many fans expected. As manager Torey Lovullo was at the center of this season’s comeback. Four points:

  • The Diamondbacks are on solid pace to reach 72 wins, a 20 win improvement on last season. With 63 wins as of Saturday morning, they need 9 more wins. After the Brewers, 9 series remain. Therefore 1 win per series would reach 72 wins!
  • On 3 September, the latest simulations at 538.com show the Diamondbacks winning between 76 and 86 wins.
  • On the morning of 3 September, the Diamondbacks were in third place in the NL West, a half-game ahead of the Giants. Reaching third place was unthinkable earlier in the season!
  • Torey Lovullo often talked about the importance of defense. Nearly every season the Diamondbacks had great defense. This season, after a slow start, they achieved their norm of great defense. The Diamondbacks defense steadily improved during the season! The Diamondbacks ranking in overall defensive DRS (for the season) increased from 20th at All-Star break, to 14th on 24 July, to 11th on 12 August, to 9 th on 2 September. I love that trend!

Torey Lovullo’s strengths build on the new coaching. Although managers are responsible for many tasks, Torey Lovullo’s wheelhouse is developing working relationships (by a combination of authentic caring, strong values, wisdom, and being a quality person) with players to achieve their best efforts, especially for younger players.

This season, players who made a debut in the Majors included Alec Thomas, Thomas Henry, Jose Herrera, Tyler Holton, Cooper Hummel, Buddy Kennedy, Corbin Carroll, and Stone Garrett. Ryne Nelson is expected to make his debut on Monday.

All these players are younger than the average in the majors.

  • Alek Thomas, age 22, played excellent defense in center field (6 Outs Above Average and 5 Defensive Runs Saved) and his batting is nearly league average (promising for a debut in the Majors at age 22).
  • Corbin Carroll, age 22, was ranked best prospect in baseball by Keith Law at mid-season, currently ranked second-best prospect in baseball by MLB pipeline and third-best in baseball by FanGraphs with an impressive 60 FV. He is a fast runner (FV 70/70 per FanGraphs) who added much excitement in his first 3 games in the Majors.
  • Buddy Kennedy, age 23 played second base in June and July and is now in AAA. His swing was ranked highly.
  • Tommy Henry, age 24, started 6 games in August. His 63.6 game score in his second start was excellent! This season Diamondbacks’ pitchers had reached that score in only 23 games, including his start. In the first five innings of his third start he allowed zero earned runs and only 2 hits.
  • Ryne Nelson, age 24. He is a starting pitcher who pitches fastballs up in the zone. In 2020 he did a major overhaul of his pitching method.
  • Stone Garrett, age 26, is a right handed outfielder. In his first 32 PAs in the Majors, his OPS rose from .900 in AAA to 1.138, while his homers per PA stayed about the same (.063). Very impressive!
  • Tyler Holton, age 26, pitched 9 innings of relief with an ERA+ of 143. An interesting statistic is his release point is closer to the plate than 80% of pitchers in the Majors per Baseball Savant.
  • Jose Herrera, age 25, played catcher in 46 games through 9 August, when he was optioned to AAA. His 0.7 throwing runs leads the Diamondbacks per Baseball Prospectus.
  • Cooper Hummel, age 27, mainly played left field until August, when he played 40 innings as catcher. His 28.9 feet per second sprint speed is at the 89th percentile in the Majors per Baseball Savant.

Heath Klein: I’m leaning towards “Good”; he still makes questionable decisions at times, but with better pieces he has been doing a better job of putting guys in positions to succeed (although, I will always question the logic any time Carson sits against LHP).

Spencer: I stuck with great. He’s shown me no real reasons to believe he’s deserving of anything less. When presented with issues he resolves them and uses the criticisms to get better (benching hot players being the most recent example). Get him an average or better bullpen, Hazen. Get him that and I wanna see what this team with his leadership can manifest.

Dano: I, too, am pretty happy with it. It genuinely seems to be that he manages the players he’s got as best he can, and he seems to get pretty good results. Like Spencer says, give him a better bullpen, and in general fewer kinda crappy free agents he presumably then has to use, and let’s see what he can do. I think it would be pretty damn good.

Corbin Carroll arrives. What are your expectations, hopes and fears?

ISH95: I hope he stays here for 20 years, leads us to five straight World Series, and is the second all time unanimous inductee to the HoF. I’m afraid that he’ll join the unmeasurably long list of highly heralded prospects who just don’t pan out. I expect that he is going to be a solid to above average player for 10-15 years, with several all star appearances and finishing in the top five for MVP a couple of times, either for us or the Atlanta Braves.

DBacksEurope: My fear for every player is an injury that hampers his development into an average player or even a star, like Marte and his hammies. I expect him to become at least an average player and I hope he is able to live up to the expectations and become an All Star. It would be terrific if he is able to perform like a 2015 Pollock consistently.

Justin: My hope is that he stays here many years and helps us win and signs a team friendly extension. My fear would be that he ends up a total bust and in 2025 we are saying. Why were we all so excited about this kid.

Makakilo: I expect Corbin Carroll to impress me with his speed and defensive plays. My hope is that he reaches the All-Star level within a couple years. My worst fear is that he gets injured and it delays his continued development.

Heath Klein: I’m expecting a player that’s at least average, but I must add that it’s very easy to see a reality in which he’s a consistently above average player on a rate basis. My biggest fear is missing extended time due to aggravating the shoulder (if they could hammer out a fair early extension to limit that risk to player and team, I’d be over the moon; I highly doubt it, though)

Spencer: My hope: he becomes the regular All Star the team builds an identity around (2+ decades in and the only real identity this team has is hating that away teams’ fans outnumber us at home…). My fear: his MiLB success was primarily from playing in hitter friendly parks and he never learns to adjust to MLB pitching.

Dano: Maybe it’s burnout from my years as a Diamondbacks fan, but all prospects are lottery tickets to me until they prove otherwise. I’d like to see him succeed, and get as close to whatever his talent ceiling is as he can. I hope he doesn’t stall in his first or second full year in the majors, lose the confidence of the front office, and get dealt to some other team that knows how to develop players and winds up with a good or at least solid player for years to come (cf. Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, countless more I can’t even call to mind right now).

Who, if anyone, will be the odd man out of the young outfielders?

ISH95: Probably Garrett. He just doesn’t have the pedigree of the others or the expectations behind him that the others do. But he also is exactly the kind of player that has a knack for sticking in the big leagues so we shall see.

DBacksEurope: Cooper Hummel is one, of course. Other than that the injury and being yet another left-handed hitter will probably squeeze Pavin Smith out as well. I am with ISH on Stone Garrett’s pedigree, but he is one of few right-handed hitters in the outfield. At the beginning of the season we traded for one, so I give him a good chance of sticking if he keeps performing somewhere around league average level (not in a way he is doing now, because those numbers will drop a lot). We also have Fletcher and Canzone knocking on the 2023 MLB door, although they are both lefties as well. It looks obvious a couple of our current guys will sooner or later end up in a trade package for a pitcher. Luplow could be one if tendered, McCarthy could be another although I would hate to see him go, I like his attitude, aggressiveness and the way he plays a lot.

Justin: Garrett

Makakilo: In September, it’s likely all the outfielders will get playing time because the DH, a double header on the 20th, only 3 off-days, and Luplow was optioned to the minors. DBE was correct about Cooper Hummel. In August, his playing time was at catcher instead of the outfield, and that is likely to continue. It’s too soon to speculate who will make next season’s roster.

Heath Klein: if we’re talking about being squeezed out of the short-term picture? I’d definitely say Stone (but he’s also one of the better candidates for DH appearances if they stubbornly hold onto playing Marte in the field; having all of his options would also contribute to that). If we’re talking about long-term? It’s probably outlandish, but I can see Varsho getting squeezed out once the team has the luxury to look at the “shape” of production (possibly earlier than anybody anticipates) between:

  • a.) having the least amount of team control
  • b.) the overemphasis on pulled balls
  • c.) the lack of communication when playing COF (although, I don’t blame him too much for taking charge the way he does on gap plays; he would be the best option in CF for the majority of teams in the league, this is unfortunately not one of said teams)

Spencer: I think the easy answer is Garrett; he’s always struck me as a story more than legit player for the team. But going into 2024 and beyond? When other guys could be pushing for playing time beneath them? Or when a glaring weakness (cough rotation cough bullpen cough) rears its head? I’m going to say Varsho. He needs to provide some stability with the bat to avoid becoming the first outfielder traded; his value is still high and McCarthy is looking very good in his own right.

Dano: Likely Garrett. I hope it’s not McCarthy, though I worry it might be. I love that kid.

Who should be our 2023 closer?

ISH95: Well if the past is any indicator is going to be Josh Hader. Beyond that, I have no idea. It just had better not be anyone currently in the bullpen.

DBacksEurope: Melancon will still be here in 2023 so I will say that he will be our closer come April. But if we wish to look for other internal options, then Joe Mantiply could be him, but Jim once wrote that you don’t want your best reliever to be the closer, so that reduces his odds. If we think our neighbour’s grass is greener than ours and Hazen sticks to his usual plan, there are a lot of interesting options in free agency this off-season: if we wish to go dumpster diving, we have Alex Colome, Carlos Estevez and Hunter Strickland. Looking at buy-low candidates we can see good ol’ Archie Bradley, but also Luke Jackson. The real big boys, led by Edwin Diaz, will obviously be out of reach for this team. But the Diamondbacks could sneak away with interesting guys like Taylor Rogers and Corey Knebel. Brad Hand could be another option. But like I said, I think Melancon will stay where he is, because I don’t see Hazen taking the risk of taking on big money in 2023 with him and MadBum around. I hope we try to get Archie Bradley back. He is still just 29 years old, coming off a disappointing season with an injury, and he was such a fun guy to have around. And he will make the bullpen better.

Justin: No idea. Melancon will still be here, though…

Makakilo: I’m concerned that, even with Brent Strom coaching, Melancon may not be the best choice to close in 2023. Nevertheless, I would not make a decision until spring training.

This season, Melancon’s pitching results declined. For an introduction, see this AZ Snake Pit article which was posted on 6 August. The following graph shows how OBP and wOBA worsened.

In August when Melancon pitched in the ninth, his OBP and wOBA were about the same as 2021, which was encouraging! Ninth inning results were not shown in the graph. As shown in the graph, looking at all innings in August his OBP and wOBA were worse than 2021.

What happened in August? The Diamondbacks changed to closer by committee. Part of the better results (for Melancon in August in the ninth inning) may have been due to picking the reliever with the best matchups to the other team’s batters that day. For a comparison of Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy, and other relievers in August, see this AZ Snake Pit article, which will likely post on Tuesday.

Heath Klein: I honestly don’t know who the Closer will be in ‘23, but I’m fairly confident that they’re not currently in the organization.

Spencer: I want this. I don’t believe this will happen. Closer will be MadBum, 7th and 8th high leverage positions will be JBB and Frias who also serve as backups when Bum is tired. Melancon should be a middle inning guy, Mantiply should have a short leash after his abysmal second half and both JM and MM should be cut immediately if they can’t hack it anymore.

Dano: There’s a guy I often see hanging out by the Circle K in the afternoon. Seems able-bodied, probably pushing forty. Might be looking for work. Fits the front office profile. I think his name is Bob.

What MLB races and stories will you be following over the final month?

ISH95: Call me crazy all you want, but the Diamondbacks are only five games below .500 at time of writing, and I think they have a chance. I’m very curious to see what happens. Other than that, Albert Pujols and The Quest For 700, Judge and his pursuit of Maris, and watching the Dodgers inevitably choke away one of the best regular seasons in MLB history… again.

DBacksEurope: I am interested in the Mets. It would be a huge accomplishment and a slap in the face to my argument that money isn’t all if they keep up pace and are able to get far in the playoffs. The AL East is an exciting division to follow with the Orioles all of a sudden appearing as a Wild Card contender and the Red Sox as the worst team. The Rays beat the Yankees 9-0 this weekend. Anything can happen in the AL East.

Justin: Pujols pursuit of 700, Judge becoming the first to hit 60+ sans asterisk since Maris, the Orioles (although I dont think they will sneak in, it would be a good story) Central division leading Cleveland is currently 1 game behind them in the loss column.

Makakilo: I will follow two races:

  • The race to 72 wins. The Diamondbacks need 9 more wins. They will play 9 more series.
  • The race between the Giants and Diamondbacks for third place in NL West. As of Saturday morning, the Diamondbacks were a half game ahead.

Heath Klein: Goldy’s outside shot at a Triple Crown is one of the main storylines I’m following outside of AZ, but E², Mad Max, and the Real Marte Parte getting a shot at deep October baseball gets me pretty hyped too (or maybe it’s just the trumpets?).

It goes without saying, but to what extent the DBacks can play spoilers is the primary storyline. It’s feels so long ago, but I’m fairly sure my preseason win prediction was 75, that was made without the knowledge of how large of a funeral pyre Bumgarner/Melancon would build for themselves.

Which is to say, that if this team wins at least 75 games (which is looking increasingly likely), it’s much more impressive and exciting than the garden-variety 75-win team. It would be nice to confirm that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train before ‘22 ends.

Spencer: As a D’Backs fan, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the 81st win to justify my highly optimistic early season estimate. But as a baseball fan, I’m rooting/following the Yankees collapse and Rays/Orioles seizing of the vacancy. I want both in the postseason (sorry Toronto but this means you likely miss again). And I’ll have an eye on the Mariners too. I want their steak to end and I think it will.

Dano: Goldy’s triple crown/MVP pursuit, definitely. Our progress through the rest of the season (I think my preseason prediction was 77-85, and we might yet get there). The crazy journey of the Seattle Mariners to what I hope is at least a wild card berth (I “predicted” them as the winners of the World Series in the preseason Round Table). Ramona and I also have a dear old friend who is a perennial Mets fan, so I’ll be rooting for them as long as they last in the postseason.

What is the worst movie you’ve watched from beginning to end?

ISH95: Well I’ve watched every Marvel and DC movie ever made and at least half of those qualify. The second Fantastic Beasts movie is another strong contender. Idk, overall I tend to just avoid bad movies lol

DBacksEurope: There are a lot, but after watching the 2021 version of “Dogtanian and the three Muskehounds” (what’s in a name, jeez…) last year with my kids in the cinema, I said out loud that it would be the last time we were going to pay to watch a (computer) animated movie in the theatre. Normally I just turn off the television or start doing something else, but being this the movie theatre I had no choice to watch, in Spanish, all of what that stupid dog achieves in no time.

Justin: Honestly, no idea. I dont go to movie theaters, nothing to do with COVID, I just never have liked to. So, usually I am watching something on Netflix or Prime, and if I start not liking something I just find something else to watch and forget about it.

Makakilo: The Silent Sea (watched on the internet). I watched to the end for two reasons:

  • To better understand South Korean Science Fiction.
  • With the hope that something interesting and unexpected would happen.

Heath Klein: I’m not a huge movie person, so I generally don’t sit through movies that I think are terrible; HOWEVER, I did sit all the way through “Kller Raccoons 2: Dark Christmas in the Dark” (can be rented on YouTube), because my buddy Ervin made it with a college buddy during the Pandemic.

It was a sequel to a s****y movie that they made just out of college. Nicest guy you’d ever meet and worst movie I’ve ever seen all the way through (it was intentionally bad so that’s kind of a compliment, I guess…)

Spencer: VelociPastor. It was/is on Prime. We’d just gotten back from the strangest wedding (it’s a story best heard in person - ask me next time we’re together), and we were DRUNK. The description: “After losing his parents, a priest travels to China, where he inherits a mysterious ability that allows him to turn into a dinosaur. At first horrified by this new power, a hooker convinces him to use it to fight crime. And ninjas.” Shout out to the Eragon adaptation from 15ish years ago - just rewatched a few weeks ago; still holds up as an awful movie!

Dano: Like many here, I’m not a huge movie person, and I don’t have much if any time or energy for hate-watching crap movies. But for some reason that must have seemed compelling at the time, my ex-wife and I one night watched Zardoz from start to finish. 1974, written and directed by John Boorman, starring Sean Connery. I recall bright maroon loincloths. Lots of bright maroon loincloths. For the love of God.