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Towards a 2023 Diamondbacks Opening Day roster v3.0

A week from today, spring training will have ended, and the meaningful games about to begin...

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Up until the past week, spring training had been very smooth sailing for the Diamondbacks. The back of the bullpen and the end of the bench were sorting themselves out slowly, and the competition for the fifth starter’s job was proceeding as planned. But over the past few days, the team has lost relievers Mark Melancon and Corbin Martin, plus yesterday catcher Carson Kelly, to significant injuries. So, let’s review how these situations now shake up the likely Opening Day roster, as we head into the final stretch of the pre-season. Below is my best guess, with changes since we last looked. a little over a month ago. Players who have been dropped are struck through, new additions are in bold.

Catchers

  • Carson Kelly
  • Gabriel Moreno
  • Jose Herrera

Kelly has a broken ulna in his right forearm after being hit by a pitch. The scope of the injury, and his projected return time are not known at the time of writing, but a broken throwing arm for a catcher is something you never want to hear. The most obvious candidate for a replacement is Herrera, as the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. But he is 1-for-26 this spring. it is possible Kelly could go on the 60-day IL, which would open up a 40-man slot. This could then be used for one of the non-roster invitees this spring. Ali Sánchez, claimed off waivers from the Pirates in December, before being DFA’d to make room for Moreno, might be the most likely candidate there.

Infield starters

  • 1B Christian Walker
  • 2B Ketel Marte
  • SS Nick Ahmed
  • 3B Josh Rojas
  • DH: Evan Longoria

Probably no changes in this department. Longoria has not looked good this spring: 2-for-18 with nine strikeouts and an OPS of .428. But the body of work is still going to get him the nod over Emmanuel Rivera, whose OPS of .650 is merely okay, and likely not good enough to force the issue. It has been good to see Nick Ahmed (OPS .797) making good contact so far, and proving his shoulder is healthy. Marte was on duty with the Dominican team in the WBC, though their stay ended up the same length as Team GB. He went 2-for-8 there, which will slightly detract from the .725 OPS he has posted in the Cactus League.

Outfield starters

  • LF: Corbin Carroll
  • CF: Alek Thomas
  • RF: Lourdes Gurriel Jr

Thomas has solidified his roster spot with a good spring - albeit more so for the Diamondbacks than on Team Mexico. Over six spring games, he was 6-for-19 with eight RBI and an .890 OPS. In the WBC, he was 4-for-20 with a .473 OPS, but did show some nice defense. It likely helps his position that the most likely replacement for Thomas, Jake McCarthy, has has a truly terrible spring, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Gurriell (.962 OPS) and Carroll (1.100) have done absolutely nothing to show they won’t be on the Opening Day roster, and regular starters.

Non-catcher bench

  • Geraldo Perdomo
  • Pavin Smith
  • Jake McCarthy
  • Kyle Lewis

I note the team has played Lewis at spots other than designated hitter, giving him a chance to show whether he can handle the field. There has been no questions at the plate, where he has been tearing the cover off the ball. He is 10-for-20 with five extra-base hits and a 1.533 OPS, the best on the team among those with more than a handful of plate appearances. In sharp contrast, McCarthy has been terrible: 5-for-29 with no extra-base hits and a .466 OPS. He does have as many walks as K’s (4). But it does feel that Smith (.826 OPS) and Lewis could end up sharing the 4th outfielder duties, while Smith backs up Walker at first, and Lewis splits DH time with Longoria. Everyone has options though, so who knows?

Starting pitchers

  1. Zac Gallen
  2. Merrill Kelly
  3. Zach Davies
  4. Madison BumgarnerRyne Nelson
  5. Drey Jameson

It’ll be interesting to see how the actual order shakes out. As Nik mentioned the other day, Gallen starting on Opening Day could mean him missing the second Dodgers series, pitching against San Diego instead. But there’s an off-day after the Padres series, so Zac could still work the last LA game on normal rest. The fifth spot is now down to Nelson vs. Drey Jameson, with Tommy Henry and Brandon Pfaadt being sent out of camp, even though the latter has clearly had the best spring. Neither Jameson nor Nelson have good spring ERAs (7.45 and 8.38 respectively), but Drey has a better K:BB (12:3 vs. 10:6), in the same number of spring innings. Let’s give it to him, but it’s almost a 50/50 shot.

Relievers

  • Miguel Castro
  • Andrew Chafin
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Luis Frias
  • Kevin Ginkel
  • Joe Mantiply
  • Scott McGough
  • Mark Melancon
  • Corbin Martin
  • Kyle Nelson

With it looking likely that both Melancon and Martin will start the season on the 60-day IL, that opens up spots for a couple of the non-roster invitees to break through. That said, Frias is perhaps most likely of those already on the 40-man roster to benefit from the openings, and has struck out 11 batters in 7.1 spring innings. Among the NRI’s, Familia’s experience will stand him in good stead, and he has allowed one run in 6.0 IP. Cole Sulzer has also looked very impressive, with 6.1 scoreless frames, on three hits and three walks with six strikeouts. That trio are likely ahead of the pack. Familia’s likely contract situation (opt-outs) may give him an edge, as does Frias’s raw power fitting the new bullpen philosophy.

This does leave the team without an obvious long reliever, but Torey Lovullo does not seem too concerned. He seems to be looking instead to shuttle relievers back and forth from the minor leagues if they need fresh arms. ”I don’t think that is a top priority for us right now. We want multiples [innings], but pure length, I mean four or five innings stretched out, I don’t think that’s a need for us right now... I think there are a lot of options and moving parts with players that can be moved around quickly.” There are certainly a number of players who could be swapped out if needed. Eight arms will also be helpful.