Diamondbacks 2019 Spring Training Preview
Well, let’s see … compared to most teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks made very few changes to their roster over the winter. A heaping helping of relievers will compete for a bullpen spot, including newcomers Ricardo Cortez and Matt Robison. Jose Aleman inherits a backup catcher slot. Alex Santana looks to make a name as a corner infielder. That’s about it for changes on the 40-man roster. Yawn.
Oh, yeah, except for one other addition …
Equal parts roster-changing phenom and complete unknown, Otani is slotted into both the starting pitching rotation as well as a semi-regular in left field. Incumbent LF Rich Dixon, a former All Star, will shift to 1B as needed to accommodate the move. “Whatever the team needs,” said Dixon. “We’re a better team with Shohei on the field and in the lineup, as well as on the mound.”
“The arrival of Shohei moves our timetable up by maybe a year, maybe more,” said GM Schlegel. “Expectations were already increasing after last season, by winning 22-games more than the year before, but now they’re higher still. We’ll see how everyone handles the pressure.”
Spring games will also be used to determine whether the D-Backs will utilize a 5-man or a 6-man starting rotation, as well as to audition several prospects for future roles. “We’ll have to see how Shohei recovers from his pitching turn to decide how often we can play him in the field,” said Schlegel. The team currently projects to have Ohtani in LF for two starts, on the mound (and in the batting lineup) for a third game, and to be used as a pinch hitter on the remaining days as he recovers from being on the mound. “The goal is to give him 400 at-bats and at least 25 starts on the mound. We’ll use a 6-man or 7-man rotation in the spring, since we have that many players that need the work, and see how it goes from there,” said Schlegel.
In addition to the Shohei Otani Experiment, here are the other spring storylines for the Diamondbacks.
2017 #1 overall pick SS Jeremy Scott gets a non-roster invite and is expected to nab the starter’s job by May 1st. “Jeremy may need to work on his defense for a few weeks in the minors,” said a smiling Schlegel.
An incredible 18 relievers are auditioning for less than half as many jobs, with precious few jobs secure at this point. “It’s good to have flexibility,” said GM Schlegel. “But the pressure is on for those who are out of minor league options.”
Otherwise, last year’s stellar crop of rookies are all expected to build upon their early successes. CF Daz Cameron, RF/3B Arturo Velazquez and C Matt Hanson are all projected to have starting jobs out of spring training. SP Bill Hauck and SP Andrew Morales are expected to join Ohtani in the rotation. 1B/3B Joey Gallo looks to solidify a bench role alongside incumbents 1B Bobby Stone and RF Brent Bowman.
As for the non-Shohei future, that is bright also. Arizona is expected to extend non-roster invites to top prospects CF Cole Brannen, 2B Juan Morin and 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (the latter of whom tore up the WDL) — all are expected to be pushing for a call-up by 2020 at the latest. The league’s top-rated minor league system also boasts several solid starting pitching arms, but they are not expected to be a factor until 2020 barring trade or injury: Steve Chapman, Carl Deer, Emilio Morales, and Jeffrey Stone might all see innings this spring, just to get a taste of The Show.