Who Will Rise for the Arizona Diamondbacks?
The Diamondbacks stole the spotlight early this offseason when they raced out to sign Dodgers ace, Zack Greinke. They didn’t stop there and promptly dealt everything short of the farm (some may agree to disagree) to the Atlanta Braves to secure the rights to the right handed, Shelby Miller. Upgrading the rotation was the main priority for general manager Dave Stewart and chief baseball officer, Tony Larussa. After looking at the end result, it’s hard to argue that the Diamondbacks didn’t.
Now, it’s unrealistic to expect Zack Greinke to repeat his god-like performance from last season. In fact, only five players have finished two seasons with an ERA sub of 2.00 in the last 50 years. Those being Sandy Koufax, Louis Tiant, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Greinke’s former teammate, Clayton Kershaw. Koufax being the only pitcher who achieved the feat more than twice in a career (3 seasons total – 1963, 1964 and 1966). But adding him to the top of their rotation clearly improves their staff tenfold.
Expectations for Shelby Miller are almost just as high as Greinke’s. Despite his lackluster win/loss record from last year (6-17), Miller’s ERA settled at an impressive 3.02. He’s got the repertoire and the hardware (2013 Rookie of the Year and 2015 All-Star) to make a significant impact in the Diamondback’s rotation. You can argue all you want about Stewart and crew and how they overpaid for Miller. They did. But the Diamondbacks are built to win now and in their mind, having an established number two in your rotation is essential to building a championship club.
Patrick Corbin figures to take the third spot in the rotation this year. The left-handed 26 years old started 16 games last season with a 6-5 record and 3.60 ERA for the Diamondbacks. Both impressive stats, considering Corbin was coming off of Tommy John Surgery from the year before.
And the fourth spot was delegated to Ruby De La Rosa a few weeks ago, which leaves the Diamondbacks with one more opening to fill in their rotation. Who are their options?
The Favorite – Robbie Ray
Acquired from the Detroit Tigers in a deal that sent Didi Gregorius to the New York Yankees in 2014, Robbie Ray is the favorite to land the fifth rotation spot. His fastball can be deadly, topping out at 96 mph which he offsets with his slider and changeup. Last year he started 23 games for the Diamondbacks, going 5-12 with a 3.52 ERA, while walking 49 and striking out 119. He’s got the most experience out of the choices available and really started to come around towards the end of the season last year.
The Contender – Archie Bradley
Archie Bradley’s career hit an impromptu speed bump last season when he took a ball from Carlos Gonzalez’s bat straight to his face. Despite no lasting physical damage, the mental trauma was real. Although, it looks like he’s on his way to recapturing the magic that made him such a highly touted prospect (once ranked the 9th best prospect in MLB for 2013). If he can overcome his mental hurdles, Archie Bradley can be a real threat for the fifth spot for the Diamondbacks. His fastball (92-95 MPH) pairs well with his 12-6 knuckle curveball. Personally, I don’t see Archie winning the spot early on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes full advantage of someone else’s mid-season struggle or injury.
Don’t Count Them Out – Zack Godley & Tyler Wagner
Godley made some heads turns last year, during his rookie season, when he posted a 5-1 record with a 3.19 ERA through 6 starts in 9 games. However, the lack of experience will most likely prevent him and fellow right-hander Tyler Wagner from making the rotation. It will be up to these two to take full advantage of their spring starts in order to make sure manager Chip Hale takes notice. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Godley in the bullpen to start the season with Wagner as a possible mid-season call up.