Ten spring training games are now in the books for the Diamondbacks, with the team having won three, lost six and ended one in a tie. We are still deep in the weeds of almost laughably small sample sizes. No Arizona hitter has even reached twenty plate appearances so far, and similarly, the most active pitcher for the Diamondbacks has still faced fewer than twenty-five batters. We still have yet to see Zac Gallen on Madison Bumgarner. Even these limited numbers need to be taken with caveats. For instance, pitchers may be working on a specific offering in an outing, making it easier for hitters to work out what’s coming. This can negatively affect results, in ways that won’t show up in the box-score.
But with that all said, let’s take a look at three players who have look impressive in this very early going, and three about whom there may be cause for concern among fans.
Drey Jameson. There were four pitchers generally seen as having a shot at the fifth spot. So far, two have impressed and two have struggled. Alongside Jameson’s four scoreless innings of one-hit ball, Brandon Pfaadt (5 IP, 2 H, 6 SO) has also looked very good, while Tommy Henry and Ryne Nelson have both been knocked around. For service-time and general experience reasons, Pfaadt seems more likely ticketed for a late-season call-up, which currently leaves Jameson best placed to get the spot, and build on the four impressive starts he had at the end of last season.
Luis Frias. The number of bullpen spots available is potentially going to be quite limited, but power arm Frias might have pitched his way into contention for one of them. His problem has always been throwing strikes. Over his 20.1 major-league innings in 2021-22, Frias walked 22 batters, an untenable rate. But of the nine hitters faced so far, Luis has walked none and struck out five. That’s the epitome of small sample size, but if that is sustained, he could be a very nice power option for the back of our relief corps. Miguel Castro has also impressed, retiring all nine batters faced, four of them by the strikeout.
Pavin Smith. There are some people who think Smith has no chance of making it onto the Opening Day roster, but an early 1.072 OPS has done his chances no harm at all. He is 6-for-14 so far, with a home-run. The only knock might be a lack of walks (as in, none), but with two strikeouts, that hasn’t been much of an issue either. Meanwhile the player most often mentioned as a competitor for the same roster spot, Kyle Lewis, has not yet been seen in Cactus League action this spring, due to apparent knee issues. For now, Smith appears to be ahead of the pack, though did appear to tweak his back in today’s contest.
Evan Longoria. The player was signed to provide veteran presence and a better platoon partner at third-base for Josh Rojas than Emmanuel Rivera, but so far, the latter has not shown up. Longoria is currently 0-for-10 in spring, with a concerning seven strikeouts. Now, this could just be hitters being behind pitchers as things get under way. But with Longoria now being 37, the idea of him falling off a cliff in terms of performance is not beyond the realms of possibility. Meanwhile, Rivera is 4-for-12 with a home-run and a double, giving him a 1.024 OPS, so has done little wrong so far.
Mark Melancon. If there was a pitcher who wanted to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders for Arizona, it was probably Melancon, who was recently anointed the worst closer in franchise history [recency bias likely applies...] Allowing six hits in an inning of work - with one of the outs being recorded on the basepaths - is not what anyone wanted to see. Of course, it’s still only one inning. But fans’ patience was basically non-existent with Mark after last year’s trauma-inducing performances, and this outing provoked a healthy helping of “Told you so.” Five scoreless innings from Melancon would get the ERA down to a respectable 4.50. Let’s see if he can deliver that.
Ryne Nelson. As good as Jameson has been, Nelson’s results have been disappointing. He still hasn’t got through the second inning, being lifted with zero and two outs respectively. Along the 2.2 innings, he has allowed eight hits and four walks, with only a pair of strikeouts. The seven earned runs allowed are a sharp contrast to the major-league form shown on his debut last September, when he gave up only three ER on nine hits across 18.1 innings of work. Is it just winter rust? Or have major-league hitters figured him out? As mentioned, numbers are far from everything in spring. Yet it feels already perilously late for Nelson’s roster chances.