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SnakePit Round Table: Gentlemen, start your engines!

And we’re ready for the off!

British Race Photo by F. J. Hughes/Fox Photos/Getty Images

How much does the loss of Carson Kelly hurt?

Spencer: A LOT. Like a lot, a lot. For all the ‘Pit likes to complain about him, he’s a good catcher. Certainly a far better option than any of Herrera/Sanchez/Higgins that will be backing Moreno up now. Also, we’re asking Moreno to do more than he ever has now, so we can only hope his mind and body are strong enough to handle that.

ISH95: Well it definitely isn’t good news, that’s for sure. We traded one of the best players in the organization for Moreno for a reason, namely, there were no good catching options in the system. It was Kelly and then a bunch of NRI’s essentially. Well, we’re back to the same situation again, now with a rookie (essentially) catcher and now no Dalton Varsho. This is why you make that trade, if you’re Hazen. It just sucks that the thought process was proven right before a single game was played.

Dano: It’s not great–we need a viable backup catcher, after all–but I honestly don’t see it being the end of the world or anything. Seems like there was lots of talk last year (some of which I myself may have engaged in, with enthusiasm and gusto) about how Carson Kelly really didn’t have a long-term future as a starting catcher, at least not for us. So his injury forces the issue for Moreno, who is currently supposed to be the catcher of the future for us. As with the youth movement many of us were advocating last year, it seems like this just speeds things along–clears a veteran placeholder out of the way so we can see what Moreno can do when the position is his every day. Doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world, though of course we’ll see what we’ve got in him pretty darn quick now, for good or ill.

Ben: If I had to put a number on it between 1-10 (where 1 is completely brushed off and 10 is full-on alarm klaxons), I’ll give it a 5.5. While I would count myself as a skeptic of Carson Kelly’s, he was still a solid defensive catcher who started to turn it around at the plate towards the end of the year. That being said, a lot of this year was still going to be a test to see if Moreno was ready - physically, emotionally, psychologically - to take over in the next year or two. I think he benefits from the fact that the spotlight will shine very hard on others (Carroll especially) while he can continue to grow. Overall, it lowers the floor of the team’s potential, but not demonstrably so in my opinion.

James: Well, given that I had Kelly down for ~100 starts behind the plate, I’d say it’s a pretty big deal. I know there are quite a few Arizona fans who are fed up with Carson Kelly. I suspect much of that has to do with how much the Diamondbacks forked over to get him. I still think that he has mostly pulled his weight and actually been one fine catcher - when healthy. That last part is the key. He just cannot seem to stay out of the way of other people sending him to the IL. Now, the team that had zero depth at catcher has lost their starting catcher and is going to be relying on pseudo-rookie Gabriel Moreno to be the everyday catcher. Hopefully, nothing happens to him, as the team has no viable third catcher options right now. I’m all for giving the youth movement a go, but this isn’t how I wanted to get there, especially since I truly believe Kelly has something left to offer.

Wesley: It hurts, but this definitely an opportunity for Moreno to step up and fill the void, while also making that trade look even more intelligent in hindsight. As James said, Kelly was penciled in for about ⅔ of the starts, so it hurts the team not being able to count on him. It’s also an opportunity for Jose Herrera, who’s largely been written off at this point. His poor spring so far doesn’t inspire confidence though.

Makakilo: Carson Kelly has always bounced back from injuries. However, healing a broken arm could take most of the season. That could be a big loss for two reasons:

  • Gabriel Moreno will lose the chance to gradually increase to the primary catcher workload.
  • Losing Kelly’s experience at catcher could degrade the Diamondbacks pitchers’ performance.

For this season, I projected Carson Kelly with 29% of the catcher PAs. Perhaps he could be back by the end of the season and reach 10% of the PAs. Perhaps from a loss of PAs viewpoint his injury will have less impact than it seemed at first. A comparison of catcher OBP follows:

  • Carson Kelly, .325 OBP per ZiPS projection, .414 OBP in spring training thru 22 March
  • Jose Herrera, .309 OBP per ZiPS projection, .107 OBP in spring training thru 22 March
  • Gabriel Moreno, .320 OBP per ZiPS projection, .500 OBP in spring training thru 22 March

DBacksEurope: In general it hurts the Diamondbacks but it’s not like they were going to enter the playoffs with him. His bat hasn’t been impressive at all or in other words: it sucked, so if it is about catcher first, well, perhaps they should look at veterans that are going to walk out of their minor league contract. And, I don’t know how long he’ll be out (maybe I missed it) but last year he was already out for quite some time, so, yeah, Kelly is out and we probably need to look at alternatives sooner than later. Besides: in soccer injuries or that-player-we-could-not-sign proved to be opportunities for future stars to be. Why are people so precarious with Moreno stepping in? Let the kid play!

Steven: In the grand scheme of things, it just advances Moreno’s timeline - which is a good thing. He’s ready to take over everyday at-bats and start to build rapport with young pitchers and coaches. On top of that, Carson Kelly has been really bad. Since May of 2021, he’s one of the worst catchers in baseball with a bottom 5 wRC+ out of the ~30 qualified catchers and a sample size of over 600 at-bats (74 wRC+). We see glimpses of him hitting well for a month or so but then his production falls off a cliff.

Final roster decision thoughts?

Spencer: Lewis has earned his spot (may even be Hazen’s best move of the offseason). Bullpen is always going to be a bit of a crapshoot until proven otherwise, so I’ll go with Hendrix making his presence known. …I think McCarthy or Thomas deserves to start in Reno. They just don’t look as locked in as Smith and Lewis do. Doesn’t mean they won’t be up and mashing for most of the season, but right now, I don’t know how you justify rostering both.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand Smith optioned. Not surprised, but disappointed that McCarthy gets a spot having shown nothing this Spring. The beauty of a young roster is flexibility to play the best option available. Seems like we’re ignoring that.

ISH95: Long term, the Moreno trade needs to be Hazen’s best 2022 offseason move, otherwise we are in a deep hole Lewis is definitely making a strong case for the number two spot on that list, however, and has earned a roster spot beyond doubt. I figured Familia was going to be in the mix as well, and I wasn’t wrong… it was just for the A’s. Beyond that, I’ve thought the entire time that Jameson was probably the most likely to be the final starter, and I’ll stick with that. Though Jack and Michael definitely seem to be hinting at something other than that every time they reply to my tweets… lol

Update: my streak of failing to accurately predict roster spots continues as it is being reported that Nelson has won the 5th spot.

Dano: Jameson as 5th starter works for me, at least for now. We’ll see how he does. As for the rest–the OF, the bullpen, etc–I dunno. Bullpen will be what it will be, and who the hell knows. Per Spencer’s suggestion, I’d rather see McCarthy start the season in the bigs, but honestly I’d like him and Thomas both to be up here. <shrugs>

Ben: I’ll count myself as a bit surprised by the moves announced on Saturday with Kyle Nelson, Luis Frias, and Jeurys Familia all getting optioned or sent to minor league camp respectively. I was under the impression that the first two had shown enough that they could earn a chance at the bullpen to start the year, but based on Torey’s comments it seems likely that the bullpen will be in full flux for much of the beginning parts of the year. At the end of the day, it’ll be a shocker if the roster resembles much of what breaks camp by the end of the year let alone by the end of April or May.

James: Despite certain concerns that apply mostly off the field, I still think that Kyle Lewis has shown enough to be inserted as the primary DH to start the season. I would, however, have him on a short leash. Mike Hazen seems to have a thing for PAvin Smith, so I suspect he makes the roster, even though that feels an awful lot like kicking the can down the road instead of fielding the best possible team up front. Jameson seems to be headed for the fifth starter slot - something I am not opposed to but still have substantial concerns with. I’m not sure what Pfaadt could have done differently to finally be given his own MLB opportunity. Barring a Pfaadt injury though, I expect Pfaadt makes his MLB debut before the calendar switches to May. The bullpen is still a complete wreck and I am not sure it really matters who is selected for Opening Day. Of the eight bullpen arms that will be sitting out in the bullpen on April 1st, I fully expect that at least five of them will not make it to June before being kicked to the curb.

Wesley: Lewis absolutely played his way on to the roster. He’s had an astounding spring. I’m baffled by Jameson being ticketed to bullpen and Nelson winning the 5th starter spot. Seems like the reverse would work out better. I do agree with James about the bullpen and rotation still being in flux, and that we’re likely to see a VERY different bullpen by the end of May. Unless Madbum and Davies are have career years, I’d be surprised if they’re still in the rotation by the end of the year. I really don’t understand why Pfaadt is starting the year in Reno.

DBacksEurope: I’m gonna keep saying it: Pfaadt in AAA is bullshit.

Steven: Everything made sense, there’s some fringe moves that didn’t quite make sense, for example Jeurys Familia not getting a spot in the bullpen or Brandon Pfaadt not getting a longer look at the 5th starter spot after Nelson and Jameson kinda pooped the bed in the Spring.

Makakilo: Two roster choices surprised me.

  • Brandon Pfaadt did not make the opening day roster. Nevertheless, he showed he is ready, and will likely be called up during the season.
  • Ryan Hendrix (non-roster invitee) will likely make the opening day roster instead of either Jeurys Familia or Luis Frias. However, it’s good to have excellent bullpen depth in the minors. And there are additional talented depth pitchers in the minors.

Although it was not very surprising, Pavin Smith and Emmanuel Rivera will start the season in the minors. Again, they add excellent depth to the Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks farm was ranked 2nd by ESPN and ranked 4th by MLB pipeline and The Athletic. By the end of the season, a couple talented players could be ready for their first appearance on the active roster.

Who has stood out - good or bad - for you in spring training?

Spencer: I wish Longo and Gurriel had shown better. But they are vets, so I’m hoping they know what they are doing. I’m not opposed to dropping either early in the season if a younger guy pushes the issue. Pfaadt, Carroll and Moreno have me more excited about the future than I have been since Bradley, Shipley and Blair were being hyped up.

ISH95: Thank you Spencer for reminding us how quickly this could all fall apart! Lots of disappointed memories associated with those names. I’ll be honest, the thing that has stood out the most is how superficial my attention given to ST has been, with my focus almost entirely eaten up by the WBC. I know the statistics, but that’s about it.

Dano: Like ISH, I haven’t paid much attention to spring training, beyond the 5th starter battle. I was all over the WBC, though. So I don’t have a real good sense–seems like we have some promising bullpen additions, and Lewis looks good. Longoria and Gurriel have seemed to me, as viewed in my very peripheral vision, like they’re starting to wake up the past week or so after their long winter’s nap. We’ll see.

Spencer: Reading ISH95’s response to my answer, I realized I neglected the good. Lewis has been a huge bright spot. Moreno’s bat as well. And just the idea of having prospects fighting for a rotation spot instead of everyone else’s discarded “starters” is a highlight for me.

Just saw the news about Lewis, Smith, Nelson and Jameson. Not the biggest fan of limiting Jameson already, but ok.

Ben: I take a lot of ST stats with a heavy grain of salt, BUT I’ll say that I’ve been disappointed by the performances of both Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson. It would have been nice to see at least one of them really excel and demonstrate why they deserve a spot in the rotation/OD roster. I’ll also echo the good performance by Moreno so far which gives me a little comfort blanket without Kelly.

James: On the “good” side, I have liked the performance of Kyle Lewis when he has been in the lineup. The young man strikes balls with bad intent. I’ve also been pleased with Moreno’s bat, even more so now that Carson Kelly has gone down. Moreno is giving hope that the team is not completely screwed by Kelly going down. Davies, Bumgarner and the bullpen in general have all provided plenty of reasons for concern, but none of that was unexpected. I would have like to have seen a bit more life out of Longoria, but I’mn not too concerned there, especially since he’s the backup anyway.

Wesley: The performances of our rookies and younger players like Carroll and Moreno has made me very optimistic about this team. Kyle Lewis’s performance this spring has also been astounding. Perdomo’s spring inspires confidence as well. I’m concerned about the same things the others have mentioned, but Longoria’s lack of bat speed is a concern to me. He certainly could rebound, but I’d expect this to be his last season if he doesn’t have a good season. Madbum and Davies have performed exactly as expected. I’m very concerned about McCarthy’s anemic spring, and as I mentioned earlier, Jose Herrera’s even worse spring training.

DBacksEurope: I am with Wes on the positive side of things and on the negative side of things looking at Gallen. Just Spring Training but his ERA is disappointing. Hope he doesn’t turn in a low 4.00-ERA season. Davies sucks too, but we already knew that. Ridiculous signing. And Pfaadt in AAA is ridiculous too. Did I already mention that here or in previous round tables?

Makakilo: Looking at the projected roster, based on ZiPS projections and spring training results, the team OBP will be good enough to compete. Looking at individual players, the following players stood out:

  • Ryan Hendrix, a non-roster invitee who will likely make the opening day roster.
  • Three players looked great in spring training: Kyle Lewis (.583 OBP), Gabriel Moreno (.500 OBP), and Corbin Carroll (.489 OBP). ( data through 22 March)
  • Geraldo Perdomo (.447 OBP) is only 23 years old and showed he is ready to play shortstop.

Steven: Kyle Lewis was incredible, and Carroll is a blur out there. We’re lucky we get to see that guy for 8 years. Perdomo didn’t look too bad either, it seems the offseason work he did is paying dividends. We saw it over Winter Leagues and it’s been sustained over ST. Same for Ahmed, nice to see him hit well in his first action in a long while.

Now the WBC is over, what did you reckon?

Spencer: Excellent! Make it bigger and easier to watch next time. Baseball is a niche sport in America, but globally it’s far bigger than MLB fans truly realize (myself included).

ISH95: Best month of baseball top to bottom I ever remember.

Dano: Agree with both Spencer and ISH. I loved it, had a ball watching it, and managed to watch an awful lot of it. More please, next time it comes around!

Ben: Yeah, maybe I’m just a glutton for baseball, but I thought it was excellent nearly throughout. There were games or moments where teams felt very mismatched, but that happens in plenty of international competition. I completely disregard the hand wringing that fans had over injuries - Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL running after a routine grounder for crying out loud! Unfortunately, the business side of baseball may creep in here too though since the insurance companies were not pleased with the coverage and that may affect players’ abilities to play. Regardless, the atmosphere was electric and it showcased some great talent across the board. It’s hard to find fault with that!

James: I could have done without some of Manfred’s “game improvements” making their way into the competition. It also would have been nice if the games were more readily viewable. Overall though, it was the WBC and that means it was amazing.

Wesley: You couldn’t write a better ending to the WBC than what we saw with Ohtani vs Trout. Japan’s performance in the WBC shows just how special the current crop of Japanese players is. Sasaki, Yamamoto, and Murakami looks like they’re some special players. Sasaki’s stuff is otherworldly, and it’s easy to see how he could pitch an inning short of two perfect games in a row.

I agree with James on both points. Not going to comment on the inclusion of some Manfred rules, but they really could have made watching it much more accessible.

Makakilo: As predicted, Emmanuel Rivera played very well. Although he will start the season in AAA, DBE’s article placed his WBC performance as the second-best of the Diamondbacks.

DBacksEurope: I was “invested” but hadn’t expected to see as much as I eventually did. It was exciting!

Steven: They have something here. Almost like the World Cup with soccer but fans have been incredible. I’ve even talked with co-workers about it, which is shocking.

The 2023 season is about to start. What are your hopes, fears and expectations?

Spencer: Hope - playoffs. Fear - youthful injuries hamper overall ceilings. Expectation - above 500 season, just missing the playoffs but ready to make a big splash next winter.

ISH95: Hope - Miracle run to the WS. Expectations - Wild Card spot with a shot at making it to the NLDS. Fear - See above about Bradley, Shipley, and Blair.

Dano: Hopes - that the youth movement continues to bear fruit, and our kiddos continue to finally graduate from the farm and perform respectably in the majors. Fears - that they won’t, and especially that our current crop of nearly-MLB-ready starting pitchers crap the bed and reveal that, ultimately, they’re not all that. Expectations - we perform respectably, improve on last year’s record and performance, and that aside from the continued uselessness of our overpaid and worn-out veterans(Marte, Ahmed, Mason the Rodeo Clown), we show some modicum of progress and end the season just on the far side of Mount .500.

James: My biggest hope is that the team stays mostly healthy, the youth continues to develop, and the team manages a finish over .500. My fear is that injuries and busts manifest and the team is basically the same as last year, but with depleted prospect hype. My expectation, especially given the Pfaadt treatment, is that the front office will do its best to slow-play the continued development of the pitching while still searching for answers at third and short. I expect that this will be yet another placeholder season, with the real goal being to more aggressively attempt to contend next year. I still expect they finish close to .500, but I also think health and some good fortune regarding Bumgarner, Davies, and the rest of the pitching will dictate just how difficult Mount .500 is to climb.

Wesley: To avoid disappointment, I always expect this team to be awful. I hope that we see all these young players stay healthy and reach their potential and break out. I think we’re in a similar position to the Orioles last year, and I think the Dbacks will surprise a lot of people on the national level who haven’t been paying attention. MadBum and Davies being in the rotation with guaranteed spots, despite not earning it and a high likelihood of being awful

Makakilo: Earning a wild card berth would be an unqualified success. 82 wins or more would exceed pre-season expectations. If the team bats well, with at least one young player in a breakout season, and perhaps winning rookie-of-the-year or winning the Cy Young award, that would be a great season. If the remade bullpen is well above average, that would be a worthy achievement. The list of possible positives is large.

My expectation is that the team will play better than last season, albeit their defense (DRS) and batting (hits per PA) improved in the second half of last season. My expectation is that the Diamondbacks will bat very well (OBP), so with that expectation my hope is that the rotation is at least average and the bullpen is greatly improved.

Although the team seems to have prioritized depth, my fear is that injuries in a specific position could exceed the depth in that position.

DBacksEurope: Hope: .500 ball. Fear: bullpen falters again and beside Kelly and Gallen the whole starting rotation isn’t able to pitch deep into games. We really haven’t done anything here beside turning over the reliever corps.

Steven: Hope - Competitive and fun baseball. I don’t care about playoffs with this team, they’ve got some glaring holes - namely in the rotation. I don’t believe in any of the veterans they have, Bumgarner is washed, Davies is bad, and I’m just waiting on Kelly to crash. I have a bad feeling if the team takes a step back Hazen and Co. will get the axe and he’s not the problem. When you have ownership that consistently won’t make it out of the bottom-10 in payroll your margins for error are so small.

Wesley: To be honest here, I do see a team that could have that miracle WS series run, or the much likelier Wild Card one and done playoff run. It’s just much easier to temper my expectations to avoid disappointment.

What’s a cover song that’s better than the original?

Spencer: The Magicians version of “Take on Me”

ISH95: “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie, as sung by Nirvana. I love Bowie. All time great rocker. Kurt Cobain’s haunting vocals and the acoustic backing of their version just blow it away, in my opinion.

Dano: Nick Cave’s version of “Mack the Knife.” No question in my mind. Though, as I type this, I find that, weirdly, The Bangles’ random cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “A Hazy Shade of Winter” perhaps deserves an honorable mention.

Ben: I will go with the Donnie Darko cover of Mad World over the original version personally, but maybe that’s because I’m more a child of the late 90s and early 00s than the 80s.


Honorable mention goes to:

Wesley: James beat me to listing all the songs I would have listed. So my not serious answer would be Ben Fold’s cover of Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg’s Bitches Ain’t Shit or Dynamite Hack’s cover of Easy-E’s Boys-n-tha-Hood. For a slightly more serious answer, Chet Fakers cover of Backstreet’s No Diggity.

Makakilo: Ray Charles’ version of I Can’t Stop Loving You.

DBacksEurope: Limp Bizkit’s version of “Faith” is so much better than George Michael’s. Especially at that Woodstock concert where they eventually started to burn the place.

Wesley: I hate to say it but you’re absolutely right about Limp Bizkit’s faith being better than the original. It is one pf the few songs of theirs that has aged well. I thought of a few more. Sinead O’Connor cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares to U.

Gary Jules cover of Tears for Fear’s Mad World. Love Dolly Parton, but Whitney Houston’s cover of I Will Always Love You blows the original out of the water thanks to Whitney’s vocal range. Lauryn Hill’s vocal performance on the Fugees cover of Killing Me Softly With His Song similarly outshines Roberta Flack’s original. Ditto to Joe Cocker’s cover of the Beatles With a Little Help From My Friends, though it’s not exactly that hard to out-sing Ringo Starr. *insert Captain America I can do this all day meme here*

DBacksEurope: A good one is “je vole” by Louane. Nobody knows that one, of course. But it is used in a Belgian movie called “The Family Bellier”. The song, originally a French chanson, is the climax of the movie, interpreted by the main character and much better than the original. Tear wrecker alarm and must see movie.