Posted on March 2, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
After making the playoffs as a wild-card team last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks are hoping to take another step forward in 2018. However, replicating their 93-win season from last year will be difficult in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. Will the Diamondbacks continue to rise up the pecking order in the National League or will they suffer a drop off from last season?
The Diamondbacks had one of the best rotations in baseball last year, and they’ll return the same five pitchers who started at least 25 games last year. Zack Greinke, of course, is the leader of the staff, especially after winning 17 games and posting a 3.20 ERA last year. However, at age 34 and with the rough campaign he had in 2016, it’s possible Greinke’s performance starts to drop off in 2018.
The good news for the Diamondbacks is that the rest of their starters are all very much in their prime. Lefty Robbie Ray actually outperformed Greinke last season, posting a 2.89 ERA. Both Zack Godley and Tijuan Walker pitched to ERAs under 4 in 2017 as well. Finally, there’s Patrick Corbin, who was significantly better the second half of last season and could be ready to return to the form he had in 2013 before he had Tommy John surgery. If those five starters can stay healthy, the Diamondbacks should once again have one of the top rotations in the National League.
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The Arizona bullpen was also one of the best in the National League last year despite not having an elite closer. The closer’s job is still up in the air, but the Diamondbacks have some good options. Archie Bradley was outstanding pitching out of the bullpen last year, posting a 1.73 ERA, and he could be Arizona’s best relief pitcher. The Diamondbacks also acquired Brad Boxberger over the offseason. He should at least be a competent setup man but also has experience as a closer. Japanese pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano is also hoping to compete for the closer’s job in his first taste of the big leagues.
Bullpen depth could be an issue for the Diamondbacks, but Arizona does have some good arms outside of Bradley and Boxberger. Andrew Chafin is coming off his best season and provides a good option from the left side. The likes of Braden Shipley and Jimmie Sherfy could also give the Diamondbacks a couple promising young pitchers who have a chance to be useful coming out of the bullpen.
Being able to score runs has rarely been a problem for the Diamondbacks in recent years, and that’s not likely to change in 2018. Paul Goldschmidt is still a perennial all-star and potential MVP candidate in the middle of the lineup. While the Diamondbacks weren’t able to hang onto J.D. Martinez, they did trade for Steven Souza to add pop to the middle of their order. The likes of Jake Lamb, David Peralta, and A.J. Pollock also provide plenty of depth up and down the lineup.
Of course, to get Souza, the Diamondbacks had to part with Brandon Drury. However, with Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings, and Daniel Descalso, Arizona should have plenty of depth in the middle infield. The likes of Jarrod Dyson and Yasmany Tomas also give the Diamondbacks outfield depth just in case they’re hit by injuries like in past years. Finally, the addition of Alex Avila should help make up for the production the Diamondbacks received last year from Chris Iannetta, who was a surprising contributor.
Arizona’s 2018 team is strikingly smiler to the 2017 team that went 93-69. The Diamondbacks have a tinge of uncertainty in their bullpen, but they have five above-average starting pitchers and a potent lineup. Even in a tough division, expect them to finish 90-72. It may not be enough to catch the Dodgers in the NL West, but it will put the Diamondbacks in a position to earn a wild-card spot for a second straight year.