A Closer Look: Arizona Diamondbacks

After an 85-win season and key additions on both sides (Starling Marte and Madison Bumgarner), the Diamondbacks are hoping to work their way into the playoffs. They likely be fighting for a wildcard spot thanks to the Dodgers being in their division, but there’s a lot of talent on this club and they should remain strong throughout 2020.

OTHER TEAMS:

3 QUESTIONS

What does Zac Gallen’s first full season look like?

Apparently Gallen is battling Merrill Kelly and Alex Young to secure the fifth starter’s role heading into the season despite his scintillating debut last year. In fairness, Kelly and Young were pretty solid last year so I guess they deserve a shot to compete for the spot, but everyone seems to have Gallen as the leader in the clubhouse.

A pop-up prospect last year, Gallen came into 2019 with a backend starter future, but then tore apart Triple-A (34% K, 5% BB, 1.77 ERA, 0.71 WHIP in 91.3 IP) and kept it going in the majors with both the Marlins and Diamondbacks. His walk rate jumped a good bit in the majors (11%) but proved remarkably difficult to square up (.211 AVG, 29% K) and missed plenty of bats (13% SwStr%). He enters 2020 with a lot of expectations, starting with the assumption that he’ll win that fifth starter’s role.

His 128 average draft position underscores those expectations and I share in the excitement for Gallen, slotting him as a Top 50 starter. His four-pitch mix has three velocity levels and gives him pitches to attack both lefties and righties. There’s a path for the walk rate to improve as his zone rate was essentially average while his first-pitch strike was well above. I’m putting him down for a 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 26-29% K rate in 185 innings.

Can Jake Lamb return to prominence?

We’re now three years removed from Lamb’s 30 HR season of 2017, which followed up a 29-HR campaign in 2016 so it’s getting harder to believe he’ll recapture that level again. He has 12 combined HR over the last two seasons in 464 PA and perhaps most worrisome is that he’s lost his mojo against righties. He still has a career .814 OPS against them, but just a .654 mark over the last two seasons. Of course, he’s been battling injuries throughout that time, too, so we still don’t really know what a fully healthy Lamb can do at this stage of his career.

He doesn’t have a full-time role after Christian Walker’s emergence last year has him locked in at first base while Eduardo Escobar has a handle on third base, especially with Ketel Marte moving back into second base after the acquisition of Starling Marte. Further working against Lamb is that Walker was better against righties, so the obvious platoon isn’t even there right now. Lamb will get some reps, but it could be hard for him to find a rhythm with sporadic playing time. I’m keeping on my watchlist for now, but unless time opens up for him, it’ll be hard for him to get back to 2016-17 levels.

Is there more to Carson Kelly’s game?

The 25-year old catcher had a solid 2019 with a .245/.348/.478 line and 18 HR in 365 PA, but he had a devastating platoon split with an OPS 420 points better against lefties at 1.128in 104 PA. His BABIPs were remarkably disparate at .214 against righties and .424 against lefties so some smoothing out of both of those could tighten the platoon split. He did have a .202 ISO and 12 HR against righties, so it wasn’t all bad.

The arrival of Stephen Vogt could cut into Kelly’s time against righties and thus drain his counting numbers a bit if he doesn’t improve which will put a lot of burden on his performance against lefties. His price isn’t exorbitant at pick 200 and the 10th catcher off the board, but I think I’m letting him go at that price and focusing on some of those going later like Jorge Alfaro, Tom Murphy, Danny Jansen, and even the venerable Buster Posey. I like that Kelly’s pop came through and his walk rate is great, but until we see something against righties, his upside is limited.

THE RISER

Luke Weaver

Without injury, Weaver wouldn’t have made this section as he was pacing toward a massive breakout year. It was cut short to just 64.3 innings so even with his 2.94 ERA/1.07 WHIP combo, I still feel OK putting him in the riser category because even if the ratios go up a bit but he does it over 150+ innings, that’s a huge value boost. While he missed essentially four months, he was brought back for a quick 2-inning start in late-September which gives me confidence about his health going into 2020.

The 26-year old righty amped his cutter usage and it become a viable third option behind his excellent fastball/changeup combo and helped fuel a strikeout surge (27%). His swinging strike rate doesn’t fully support that kind of strikeout boost, but I think a 24-25% rate is possible while his ratios will drive the fantasy value. I’d tab him for a mid-3.00s ERA and low-1.20s WHIP over 140-160 innings this year.

THE FALLER

Ketel Marte

Make no mistake, I like Marte, but unless the ball is the exact same as 2019, it’s hard not to see some kind of drop off coming here. He more than doubled his home run count in only 48 more plate appearances. I think the wildest thing about Marte is that his career high in stolen bases is just 11 despite possessing legit speed. It did drop a bit in 2019, though that was likely due to groin and hamstring injuries that cost him a game here and there.

I’m still holding out a small bit of hope for a 20+ SB season at some point. It’d ideally come in 2020 to counteract the potential power drop that I see coming for him. The projections all agree on the power drop, placing him between 21 and 24 homers. Even if that’s where he lands, he’s still looking at a strong season with a .280+ AVG, 80+ R/RBI, and 8-10 SB. He also has 2B and OF eligibility.

SPORER’S SAVVY SUGGESTION

Keep an eye on Nick Ahmed

Ahmed has a similar issue to Kelly in that he has a distinct platoon split favoring lefties and it makes him tough to roster in shallower leagues even after hitting 13 HR against righties last year. I can’t quite tell if he’s a late bloomer (he’ll be 30 this year) or just took advantage of the ball by popping 19 HR and getting 82 RBI, so I probably won’t draft in anything but deeper formats as a reserve, but I will be keeping a close eye on his potential development against righties. His defense guarantees the playing time so he’ll get the reps against righties to work through his shortcomings.

PROSPECT CONTRIBUTORS FOR 2020

Hitter: Andy Young

Young came over in the Paul Goldschmidt deal last year as an ancillary third piece, but his debut season in the organization suggests he could be more than that thanks to some nice pop. He hit 29 HR between Double- and Triple-A with a healthy .271/.368/.535 line. It’s worth noting that he was 25 years old so he’s quite close to a fully formed player. He plays 2B, 3B, and SS, but he isn’t particularly adept at any of them so his bat will drive the profile.

Kiley and Eric invoked the name of Wilmer Flores with Young which makes a lot of sense right down to the fact that the D’Backs had Flores last year! Flores has enjoyed stretches of fantasy viability throughout the last five seasons as a solid bat and while Young might not enjoy as long of a tenure being 26 years old already, he should make his debut this year and get a chance to show off that power.

Pitcher: Jon Duplantier

He bounced between Triple-A and MLB all season long with seven different call-ups! He mostly worked out of the bullpen in the majors and sputtered as a starter in the minors. There is now an open question about his role going forward, but he can be a major asset in the bullpen. If he became a full-time reliever, he’d likely pare down his four-pitch arsenal to the fastball and slider. Archie Bradley seems to have the closer’s role locked for now, but Duplantier could be the multi-inning fireman logging tons of strikeouts (29% K rate in minors) with quality ratios (2.41 ERA/1.15 WHIP in minors).

UP NEXT: Oakland Athletics

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Buhners Rocket Arm
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Buhners Rocket Arm

I’m not expecting as much of a drop in Marte’s power output as the projections are. He flashed some loud contact skills in 2018, and significantly increased his barreled ball % in 2019 to propel the power breakout. Take a look at where he shows up on the MAX Statcast leaderboards. This is not a case of a player hitting a bunch of “just enough” homers in a year when the ball was juiced.

Moranall
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Moranall

Came here just to say this. He was showing immense raw power from the right side as early as 2017. I mean, look at this 440 foot blast at Dodger Stadium in 2017:

https://www.mlb.com/bluejays/video/statcast-marte-s-440-ft-homer-c1583788183

109.2 MPH. And that was before happy fun ball. And he had the third-longest homer this year.

Marte’s maximum EV in 2019 was 116.3 MPH, the 12th highest in baseball and right behind Nelson Cruz, Mike Trout, and Bryce Harper.

Look, I understand Ketel is due for regression as it is extremely difficult to put up a 7 win season. But analysts need to stop attributing the ball as the source for Ketel’s breakout. It’s not. Ketel’s breakout happened because he learned how to use this raw power from the left side (prior to 2019, it was mostly right-handed power). A magical ball isn’t going to make Ketel hit the ball harder than anyone else; everyone will be affected the same. The reality is that Ketel has immense raw power, as he has demonstrated on numerous occasions.

Buhners Rocket Arm
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Buhners Rocket Arm

I anecdotally filed away that 2017 home run and used it to justify the many shares of Marte I had coming out of my drafts in 2019. I couldn’t find it or else I’d have posted it in my original comment.