Are The Diamondbacks Ready To Turn The Corner?

It has been a long, long road back towards respectability following losing game-5 of the 2014 NLDS for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  A complete tear-down ensued, across five losing seasons — including two 94-loss campaigns and two 100+ loss seasons that resulted in #1 overall draft picks.  But now, at long last, several of those draft picks and trade acquisitions are finally ready to make an impact in The Show.    

Catcher:   Matt Hanson and Jose Aleman get one more season to carve out a niche in the major leagues before 2019 first rounder Adley Rutschman or 2017 sixth rounder Tom Jackson begin knocking on the door.  Hanson regressed in 2019 following a strong rookie call-up; if he can recapture his mojo at the plate (he was sharp during spring training), the D-backs will be in good shape.

Infielders:   2018 #1 overall pick 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr is expected to join 2017 #1 overall pick and 2019 RoY runner-up SS Jeremy Scott in the lineup by midseason after recovering from injury (he is out until the end of April).  2B Juan Morin is also on pace for a call-up sooner rather than later following a solid camp.  LF/1B Rich Dixon and 3B/1B Joey Gallo anchor the corners; Dixon, Gallo and Scott are all getting mentioned in early MVP banter.  Levi Michael, Chris Owings, Daniel Santana, and Bobby Stone fill out the depth chart (for now).

Outfielders:   RF Carroll Curtis is the new kid in town (following an off-season trade from Tampa Bay).  He joins Dixon, Gold Glove CF Daz Cameron and LF/SP Shohei Otani as the D-backs begin to come of age across the entire roster.  Otani’s rookie season was cut short by injury, but team-watchers expect him to resume his role in both the outfield and the starting rotation on Opening Day. OF Arturo Velazquez was on fire during spring training, giving the D-backs another option off the bench.

Starting Pitching:   Veteran off-season acquisition Jarrod Parker joins incumbents Otani, Scott Clark, Andrew Morales, and Emilio Salazar in the rotation on Opening Day.  After two solid seasons in the bigs (including a no-hitter), Bill Hauck is odd-man out, for now anyway, but is still expected to play a role in the future.  Highly-regarded prospect Jeffrey Stone is expected to arrive from Reno in early summer, but might be asked to move to the bullpen.  2015 second-rounder Carl Deer is also waiting in the wings if needed. The big question: does the rotation finally have enough depth and experience to help the D-backs take the next step?    

Bullpen:   The D-backs once again pin their hopes on 2019 All Star closer Tyler Green and a rotating cast of spare parts to hold things together out of the bullpen.  Fourteen relievers worked out in spring camp, along with some rookies looking to make a name for themselves.  The coaching staff hopes that someone(s) play themselves into a role sooner rather than later.    

Outlook: Arizona installed a new humidor system for storing the baseballs prior to home games, and by all reports the ball will fly this season. The only question is whether it flies more for the home team than the opponents — the D-backs had a worse record at home than on the road last year.  If the young offense comes of age and the starting pitching holds its own, Arizona expects to finally break .500 for the first time since 2014.  While various league-prognosticators are forecasting some outrageous outcomes (100 wins?? 200 stolen bases??), enough improvement to finally break .500 seems do-able for this year’s team.  And if not this season, then by 2021 several more highly regarded prospects are expected to be knocking at the door, including C Rutschman, OF Cole Brannen, P/IF George Butler, and P Malcolm Williams.  But the window to compete for the post season is open at last … for now, at least: Dixon, Green and Otani have three years left until free agency looms, Clark has four years.

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