One box down, 2.5 more to go! The eighth team of the Pop-Tarts Series is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
How’s It Going?
The D-Backs are having a steady season at 40-42. While the below-.500 record may not seem like anything special, consider the mess that was the Arizona Diamondbacks in seasons past. This year presents a minor improvement from last-place fodder into at least a .480 team, which is a 78-84 record. Not flashy, but not a bad start for a team that has had a rough go in the last couple of seasons.
Arizona’s offense boasts some surprisingly good players that are having very good seasons. The D-Backs’ key player is first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt is in his 5th season and has always had a flair for the dramatic. Goldy is now batting an unreal .348 to go with a mind-boggling .466 OBP and a similarly godlike .622 SLG. If you didn’t believe that Goldschmidt was the best first baseman in the league before this season, you better believe now. I have long believed that Goldy was a better player than Miguel Cabrera; this year is even more justification after beating him in all major categories for 2 straight years now. Aside from Goldschmidt, the D-Backs have some other offensive punch from some little-known names. Case in point? A.J. Pollock. Pollock has been an above-average center fielder both offensively and defensively for 2 seasons now, and is one of baseball’s most underrated stars. David Peralta is an unheralded corner outfielder with some pop, as demonstrated by his .804 OPS, and Cuban import Yasmany Tomas is a stud at right field or third base. Don’t forget about the reclamation catching tandem of Wellington Castillo and Jarrod Saltalamacchia either. Both were thought to be toast, but have revived their careers in Arizona, especially Castillo. After these players, though, the offense bottoms out steeply. Now most teams these days have 3-4 studs in the lineup and then some dropoff, but few teams suffer from such a precipitous drop as Arizona. The D-Backs go from plus-.800 OPS players in Goldschmidt, Pollock, Peralta, and Tomas to schlubs who cannot even obtain a .700 OPS! The middle infield is a disaster, where young players Nick Ahmed at shortstop and Chris Owings at second base have failed to meet expectations. Jake Lamb has potential at third base, but is often injured and could be blocked if Tomas stays at third base. The bench is truly horrifying. Ender Inciarte, Cliff Pennington, Aaron Hill, and Jordan Pachecho are subpar across the board, and this lack of solid platoon options is what sinks the D-Backs in 2015. The stars are legit, but the lack of a supporting cast is extreme. Goldschmidt and Pollock alone are good enough to save the D-Backs’ grade.
This is where Arizona gets ugly. The pitching staff in Arizona is broken beyond repair. The rotation is a jumble of untapped potential and depth issues aside from the recently healthy Patrick Corbin and maybe strong sophomore Chase Anderson. Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Hellickson, and Allen Webster have struggled in the MLB for years now, and the 5th starter’s spot has been fought over all year with no one truly standing out. Things are so bad that Josh Collmenter, the D-Backs’ Opening Day Starter, had to be sent to the bullpen! Speaking of the bullpen, it is better than the rotation but is still missing some pieces. Submariner Brad Ziegler is stingy as a closer, Daniel Hudson and David Hernandez are ok relief options, and ex-Met Olly Perez is a valuable lefty specialist. The remaining pieces are all young kids or veteran retreads. The D-Backs had some solid young pitchers in the system in Archie Bradley and Touki Toussaint, but Bradley got injured off a comebacker while Toussaint was mindlessly traded away to Atlanta along with the contract of Bronson Arroyo just to save a few bucks. This management is asinine. The fact that the D-Backs elected to trade a top prospect away to the Braves merely to unload $10 million is straight-up maddening while the organization has NO PROBLEM spending $1.5 billion on a TV deal. Words can’t even describe just how stupid this series of events is. Ironically, the D-Backs may have cost themselves viewers on the TV when they traded away Toussaint. The D-Backs need to develop pitchers like Bradley and Robbie Ray into plus starters while acquiring some depth in free agency. Until then, the D-Backs’ pitching corps. is barely above a failure.
The Diamondbacks have some potential in their star pieces and young guns. However, the issue with the organization is in its poor development of these players with the exception of Goldschmidt; not even Arizona could screw up his maturation. If Arizona can refrain from making stupid trades and actually hold on to their prospect core, then they may have themselves a winner in 5 years or so. But right now, the Diamondbacks are a laughingstock of an organization, and a shell of their former, World Series-winning selves.