Why I'm Optimistic About The 2023 Season

don_naked, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Hello everyone! I’m sure I’m just like many of you in that I cannot wait for the season to start. I was born and raised here in AZ, and I’ve seen every high and low this team has experienced. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about a season. I really want to put my excitement into words (plus, I think my wife can only take so much Corbin Carroll infatuation).

To start, we’re going to see a massive wave of prospects this year (Carroll, Moreno, Jameson, Nelson, Pfaadt, and possibly Lawlar). They’ll join another wave from the past couple of years (McCarthy, Thomas, Rojas, Perdomo, and the recently departed Varsho). I’m an avid prospect follower at heart; the young and athletic players are the most exciting and interesting to watch, in my opinion. I am hoping to watch these guys come up to fill the holes on the roster to form the next great Diamondbacks core.

And speaking of prospects, I want to take a moment to discuss their top two- Corbin Carroll and Gabriel Moreno. Carroll’s talent is immense. I still feel like people are underrating him because of his size. I’ll quote something from an Eric Longenhagen chat in September

JT: Carroll is 5’7 150 and has an 85 mph avg exit velo rn. People really think this guy is a future superstar?

Eric A Longenhagen: His forearms are thicker than my neck, he had a 90 mph avg exit velo as a college-age player at Triple-A all year, 116 max, hard hit rate of 47%, tryhard baseball rat with 80 speed… yeah dude

I don’t particularly care about how short he is. Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, etc. have shown you don’t need to be 6’3" to have plus or better power. And speaking of Altuve and Betts, Carroll’s average exit velocity is better than Altuve and roughly tied with Betts. A max exit velocity of 116 MPH is better than both of them and, if the max exit velo was exactly 116, would have been 16th in the majors in 2022. I’ll remind you he played most of the year as a 21 year old. That’s incredible. Combine this with him having a high floor with the speed, defense, and raw power, and I am absolutely ecstatic to watch him roam center field for at least the next six years (and please, for the love of God, sign him long term asap).

I think Gabriel Moreno is going to be a stud. When’s the last time the team had a stable catcher? Miguel Montero? He’s been gone since the end of 2014, and the last time he was a good hitter was in 2012. Catchers hit for a combined 89 wRC+. By all accounts, he’s at least a plus hitter with average at best power. The defense, framing, and arm strength all rate as plus according to scouts. With his great defense, even if he ends up being an average hitter, he'll still be an above average catcher. I'm super excited to watch someone who will bring stability to a position the team has struggled with for a decade or so.

As for the pitching, I am so excited to watch all the young arms, but mostly Ryne Nelson. We're talking about a small sample size here, but after watching him for those three starts, I'm hooked. To start, that fastball is insane. It averaged 94.8 MPH, which is above average velocity. What separates it from other fastballs is the vertical movement it gets. It drops four inches less, or 22%, than a typical fastball. If he had enough innings to qualify, that 22% would be second among starters. It also has less horizontal break than a typical fastball. There's a reason he threw it like 70% of the time last year- it's really freaking good. According to Baseball Savant, it was worth 5 runs in just 18.1 innings. For comparison's sake, Zac Gallen also has a well above average fastball, and it was worth 17 runs in 184 innings. I'm not saying that Nelson's fastball is better, I'm just saying that they're both really good and much better than what the eye test says. Combine Nelson's fastball with an above average slider and change plus the ability to throw strikes at at least a solid rate, and I really think he has at least number 2 starter talent.

I'm really eager to watch Jameson and Pfaadt, too. Jameson's velocity, slider, athleticism, and swagger make for an incredibly fun package. I'm not as high on him as I am on Nelson, mostly because the command isn't as good. But I think he can be at least a mid rotation starter. And I'm also eager to see Pfaadt come up and rack up the strikeouts. By all accounts, everything with him seems to be at least above average, but nothing is exceptional. He reminds me a lot of Joe Musgrove. Both dudes have at least mid rotation upside.

Enough about the prospects, though. I'm also eager to see how the players currently on the roster play, too.

Geraldo Perdomo said he plans on adding strength over the offseason. He really needs to hit the ball harder, because right now, what he's doing won't cut it. I really hope he has achieved this goal, because if not, he's just keeping the seat warm until Lawlar comes up (which, if it’s midseason, I’m going to be so stoked).

Ketel Marte was to go into the offseason to increase his flexibility and keep the hamstrings healthy. With all the injuries he's had over the years, I'm not really optimistic that he can stay off the injured list. That being said, he still hits the ball incredibly hard, and his batted ball data still looks promising. I think that his 2021 season is closer to his true talent level, when healthy. I really hope he finds more consistency at the plate to be the anchor of the offense because he’s so dynamic as a hitter.

I’m eager to watch all the speed on the roster. Carroll and Jake McCarthy have legit 80 speed. Alek Thomas’ speed is a bit below that. Josh Rojas has average speed, but he’s an excellent baserunner and base stealer. I really want to see the team wreak havoc on the bases and annoy pitchers all year.

And speaking of Rojas, I know he doesn’t hit the ball exceptionally hard, but he’s really good at getting on base and taking pitches. He actually led the team in pitches per plate appearances. He’s my pick for leadoff hitter this year (although I get people wanting Carroll to lead off, but I think with his power potential, he should be in a run producing spot in the lineup like second or third. I also think there’s a non-zero shot he strikes out at a below average rate).

I’m eager to see all the veterans the team has acquired help lengthen the lineup while the young guys develop into stars. I really like what Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. brings to the lineup, and if his power comes back, he’ll be a huge run producing bat. I’m eager to see if Christian Walker can continue his breakout from last year. Lewis isn’t exactly a veteran, but he’s not especially young anymore, either. I have no idea how healthy his legs are, and I don’t know how many innings he can play, but I really want to see what his bat can do over 400 or more plate appearances.

I’m also super excited to finally see some velocity in the rotation and pen. Not that any of them are flamethrowers, but Gallen, Nelson, Jameson, and Pfaadt all average at least 93 MPH. Personally, I've seen enough of the soft tossing starters like MadBum, Zach Davies, Humberto Castellanos, Caleb Smith, Tyler Gilbert, etc. that we've been cursed with lately. I know that MadBum and Davies are still around, but the team's depth has pitchers who throw harder than the depth of recent years. It's not fun watching batters tee off of 90 MPH fastballs.

The should rack up many more strikeouts than in year's past just based on the velocity added (Scott McGough and Miguel Castro). They'll pair nicely with Kevin Ginkel, who looked incredible in his last month or so of the year. Eventually we'll see flamethrowers like Justin Martinez and Carlos Vargas. Corbin Martin has been a disappointment in the rotation, but hopefully he can succeed as a one or two inning reliever.

I think the opening day lineup should look something like the lineup I have below.

  1. Rojas, 3B
  2. Carroll, CF
  3. Marte, 2B
  4. Walker, 1B
  5. Gurriel, Jr., LF
  6. McCarthy, RF
  7. Lewis, DH
  8. Moreno, C
  9. Ahmed or Perdomo, SS

Everyone in the lineup is at least interesting, and I think all except two spots (Lewis and whoever mans SS) are virtual locks to produce 2 or more wins this year. When's the last time we could say that? At least 2020, no? The lineup should be so much more competitive than it has in year's past, and I think they'll have at least two hitters post star-caliber offensive seasons (Carroll and Marte are my picks. Walker, Gurriel, and Moreno may have a shot, too).

There is a ton of variance in possible outcomes for many players, but the high end possibilities are tantalizing. To be honest, a lot of this excitement probably stems from the fact that the team has been so bad for several years. This is the first time in quite a while I can see the outline of a possible 90+ win team (not this year, but possibly starting in 2024) and not the possible .500-at-best-team we’ve seen for the past few years. To be honest, if this was a team that was in the playoffs every year, perhaps I wouldn’t be as excited. The team’s been so bad over the past few years that I suppose I can thank Ken Kendrick for the optimism I feel right now. It’s an odd feeling.

Anyway, I just wanted to rant about how excited I am for the upcoming season. Thanks for reading, and I'm eager to hear everyone's thoughts below.