Following an NLCS birth in a year where they were expected to be near the bottom of the MLB, the Diamondbacks have made it clear that they aren’t satisfied.
A surprise season can only happen with outlier years from certain players, and the Diamondbacks sold high on a couple of those career years.
There is much turnaround on the diamond for the team in 2022, including 6 of 8 position players. The D-Backs will deploy a new starter at Catcher (Ricardo Rodriguez), First Base (Cj Cron), Second Base (Isan Diaz), Shortstop (Ozzie Albies), Third Base (Juan Alvarez), & Right Field (Jeff Taylor). Some of these are new faces to the team (Rodriguez, Albies, Alvarez, Taylor) & some of these (Cron, Diaz) are players playing their natural positions after being forced to play out of position to cater to others needs a year ago.
One of the major reasons for such a drastic turnaround is the near-league-worst defense that the D-Backs trotted out in route to an NLCS appearance.
The combined Zone Rating of the players replaced by the Backs in 2021 was a whopping -37.23 across the 6 positions. The players brought in at those respective positions had a combined Zone Rating output last year of 17.5. A staggering difference of 54.73 in arguably the most important defensive metric available.
With that kind of turnover in the fielding ability, you would imagine that the team would be bound to be sacrificing much of the offensive firepower that led them to be 2nd in the NL in runs scored last year, right? Wrong!
The D-Backs new projected starting lineup boasts a 2021 combined OPS of 840.1 vs the previous years teams combined number of 834.5.
Simply put, the Diamondbacks wont find their issues stemming from lack of ability in the field or at the plate.
Which begs the question, if they project to be improved at the plate and improved in the field, then how is the pitching going to be compared to last year? & the answer to that question is… well, we don’t know yet.
The rotation for the club is said to be expanded to a 6-man roatation in 2022 despite moving out SP Bernardo Garcia & the returning SP Max Fried. Arguably the teams best relief pitcher a year ago, Alex Durham, will be slotted into the new 6th rotation spot and trade acquisition Raul Moran will move into Garcia’s previous role near the top of the rotation. With no true ace last year, just a myriad of relatively reliable arms, the team has decided to turn to Pancho Escobar who won 2 closeout games in the 2021 playoffs as our first true Ace under current management.
Can a rotation of Pancho Escobar, Raul Moran, Benjamin Eckels, Jhoan Duran, Touki Toussaint, & Alex Durham good enough for 5+ innings a night? We’ll see. They’ve been put into a position to succeed with an elite catcher in Ricardo Rodriguez and what projects to be a stellar defense behind them, not to mention the points that should be on the board to take a bit of that pressure off of their back.
Working in the margins is what a team with the lowest budget in baseball has to do, but the Diamondbacks seem confident in their ability to compete. Aware that their success last year was flukey in the postseason, but not expecting lightning to strike twice by chance. Instead they’ve built a lightning rod of a squad and will try to force it to strike a bit of life into the Arizona baseball scene.