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2023 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews: #18, Joe Mantiply

Rollin’ stone.

Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
  • Rating: 5.59
Joe Mantiply’s ratings.
  • 2023 stats: 35 G, 39.0 IP, 4.62 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 3.11 SO/BB, 95 ERA+
  • Date of birth: March 1, 1991 (32 years old)
  • 2023 earnings: $617,880 (via Spotrac)
  • 2024 status: 1st year Arb. eligible, 2 options remaining.

Introduction

One thing is to rise to the top and a whole different thing is to stay at the top. That sounds like quite a cliché, but it is a hard thing to achieve, especially for a baseball player whose name isn’t Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Justin Verlander, etc. etc.

Not to compare Joe Mantiply with those super star baseball players, of course, but Joe Mantiply had a quick and meteoric rise to the upper echelons of Diamondbacks baseball last season, being the Snakes’ sole representative at the All Star game. It was very much deserved, although Mantiply’s selection also sparked debate about the quality of the Diamondbacks team in general. Mantiply, though, had pitched very well. He was a force to be reckoned with, a great lefty option out of the bullpen, showing great control throughout the season although he dwindled a bit off in the second part of the 2022 season. A great season was recognised on this website: Joe Mantiply ended at #8 in our Diamondbacks reviews of 2022.

The question for Mantiply for 2023 thus was: could he step up his game and become something more than just a steady reliever? A set-up guy? Perhaps a closer? Could he become some kind of a Brad Ziegler, pitching in the highest-leverage situations?

2023 review

It definitely wasn’t the 2023 season we had envisaged for Joe Mantiply.

The news surrounding Mantiply was the most unexpected. The club’s lone All-Star last season, Mantiply had been nursing a shoulder issue for the past four days or so, Lovullo said. Tests came back clean, Lovullo said, adding that the club believes it is possible Mantiply will be able to return as soon as he is eligible to come off the 15-day injured list. “Very minimal concern,” Lovullo said. “I don’t know the official diagnosis, but there’s nothing in there that would be alarming.” - Nick Piecoro on Joe Mantiply hitting the IL, AZ Central on March 30, 2023

Maybe it was a surprise, but Joe Mantiply certainly didn’t have a Spring Training out of the books. Sure, stats you get from the season’s warm-up are never to be taken that seriously, but you can hardly say that a 8.53 ERA in 6.1 innings gives food for happy thoughts.

Mantiply thus opened the season on the IL and after two rehab appearances in Amarillo he was added to the active roster mid April. He debuted in St. Louis, where he inherited two baserunners from Kevin Ginkel with 1 out and a 7-3 lead. He got out of that one and added two additional outs to it in the 7th inning but gave up a homerun in between before being pulled for Scott McGough. He pitched rather well again after that, although BABIP favoured him in those first 8 appearances of 2023 (.211), but a 73% strike percentage with 8 strikeouts and absolutely no walks were strong numbers and his ERA (2.35) and FIP (2.86) were both excellent.

But then Mantiply suffered another injury, this time it was his hamstring. So, once again, the lefty hit the IL during the season and this time it took longer for him to return into action. Mantiply made a couple of rehab appearances before he was activated again ahead of a game against the Phillies on June 13 where he was requested to do some bulk relief after Zach Davies had given up 6 runs in 3 innings and Jose Ruiz had allowed another run in 2 innings. Mantiply did what he was supposed to do those first two innings and allowed just 1 additional run in, but was then asked to step onto the mound for a third time in the game and things went sour quickly: Turner, Castellanos, Realmuto all saw Mantiply for the second time and with more effort and less efficiency, the slugging Phillies added three more runs to their total. He righted his back after that outing and had two effective appearances against the Guardians and Brewers, before he gave up 4 runs against the Nationals and Giants. His ERA was now at a devilish 5.74 and the Diamondbacks decided that Mantiply was better off working in an environment with a bit less pressure and optioned him to AAA for the first time in his career. Instead, Kevin Ginkel (!) and Justin Martinez were called up (Merrill Kelly had hit the IL as well).

Mantiply was unlucky in Reno and hit hard: giving up 11 runs in 11.1 innings is even a bad stat in the PCL. Soon he was out of Nevada, because Andrew Chafin was traded to the Brewers before he could make too big a mess and the Diamondbacks thought they had nothing to lose in giving the pitcher another shot as the lefty in the bullpen.

Mantiply wouldn’t leave the team no more in 2023 and made 22 appearances during the months of August and September for the team in the regular season. It certainly wasn’t pretty from time to time as evidenced by an ugly appearance in Denver where he failed to get a batter out and was tagged with 3 runs and the loss. If you erase that performance Mantiply had pretty much an okay though very unspectacular season, but something to build on.

Still, you’d say it was a disappointing season for Mantiply. He is the highest entry in these Diamondbacks player reviews with a rating below 6, so we can definitely confirm the disappointment, but it also reflects somewhat the doubt there was about him repeating the numbers that earned him the All Star nod in 2022. Paired with the two injuries that might have hindered his performance, Mantiply was able to account for just 1 hold, which is pretty underwhelming for a pitcher who came from such a great 2022 season.

Mantiply appeared in 9 games during the post-season. He was deprived of any high-leverage pitching although he ended up with two wins. He had a bad appearance against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLCS in which he gave up 3 runs, but it was the blow-out loss so no one really cared. At least I did not.

Obviously most of us will remember Mantiply especially because of starting two bullpen games that showed the weakness of the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff during the post-season, as the team didn’t have more than 3 real starters in the NLCS and World Series. Only the game where he gave up 3 runs (in relief) was of negative WPA, so all in all he did just fine during the post-season but I think Ish resumed our feelings quite well with the following quote in the Eduardo Rodriguez article:

“My favorite part of this move is that in a seven game series, game four will no longer be started by Joe Mantiply.” - Imstillhungry95 on the AZSnakepit.com, December 6 2023

Mantiply lost velocity on his pitches, which could be due to the injuries he suffered, but it actually was good news for his breaking and off-speed pitching: batters had huge problems knocking those in for hits. The problem was the sinker. It has never been his plus pitch, but in 2023 it averaged below 90 mph and batters knocked it away regularly, so there you have the stuff to work on, beside the waning command from time to time.

2024 outlook

Unless Mike Hazen all of a sudden shows up with a new left-handed reliever, the Diamondbacks will probably continue with the current lefties on the 40-man roster and Joe Mantiply will be one of them.

Main left-handed pitchers are Joe Mantiply, Andrew Saalfrank and Kyle Nelson, while Tommy Henry could also be added to the lefty mix if he falls out of the rotation. On the depth chart we also have Blake Walston.

After a down season Mantiply is now relegated to middle-relief. Of all left-handed pitchers, Andrew Saalfrank probably has the edge because of his positive end-of-season appearances.

Even if Mantiply somehow falls out of the big league bullpen for whatever reason, he still has two options remaining and, unlike Wrexham, Mantiply doesn’t need to work terribly hard for promotion since left-handed pitching might be quite volatile during the season as none of the guys on the 40-man roster is a slam dunk entry for the major league bullpen. Expect Mantiply to hang around for the 2024 season.