This article is by guest author Arushi Nety
The Arizona Diamondbacks had one of the best “sleeper” seasons last year, finishing 85-77, good for 2nd place in the NL West. Finishing only 4 games out from the NL Wild Card, they improved their farm system tremendously in the first-year player draft, and by taking advantage of the trade deadline and 2019 offseason, the Diamondbacks set themselves up for the best possible future without compromising their current MLB roster.
- Ketel Marte: 2019 was absolutely a breakout year for Marte, hitting .329 with 32 home runs he made his first appearance as an All-Star. Besides the unexpected power surge (hitting 32 home runs after just 22 in the past four seasons combined), he started in the outfield and sported above-average defensive stats. All those stellar stats culminated in a 4th place MVP finish, behind Bellinger, Yelich, and Rendon. While his power might not return next year, given his track record with the long ball, at only 26 years old, expect Marte to continue to be that solid bat that delivers for Arizona.
- Eduardo Escobar: Escobar, without a doubt, is one of the most underrated players in the game. 35 home runs, 118 RBIs with a .270 average should definitely get you talked about more especially considering his power production was higher than Marte. Like Marte, Escobar can play multiple positions, second and third, having an above-average defensive year at both positions. Even without him, the Twins had the highest home run total as a team last season, but I still think they probably regret sending Escobar away.
Before the 2019 season, the Diamondbacks, in a HUGE move, sent Paul Goldschmidt, a franchise legend, to the Cardinals for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, infield prospect Andy Young and a competitive balance pick. Kelly, at age 25, had a respectable offensive season for a catcher, hitting .245 with 18 home runs and 47 RBIs. Despite the low RBI total, his OPS+ was 112, slightly above-average. Defensively, he’s slightly above-average as well, with a 0.6 dWAR. Next, thus far the most valuable player out of this trade was Luke Weaver, who went 4-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 64.1 innings. His 152 ERA+ (where 100 is average) is insane, albeit in a small sample size. Weaver provides much depth to this already strong rotation. We should wait for another year or so to declare this Goldschmidt trade a victory, but I think it’s safe to say that this trade panned out for the D-Backs.
The Diamondbacks were extremely busy at the trade deadline, trading away yet another star in Zack Greinke to the Astros for Seth Beer (1B/OF), J.B. Bukauskas (RHP), Corbin Martin (RHP) and Josh Rojas (INF). Beer is an incredible power bat who had 26 HRs with 103 RBIs and an OPS above .900 in AA and A- last season. Bukauskas and Martin are also really solid arms expected to arrive in Arizona in the next two years or so. While we still don’t know if this trade is a win for the D-Backs, it made complete sense for them to let him go, as Greinke was not going to be part of their future and took up a lot of money. Another major trade for the D-Backs was the acquisition of Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisholm. Gallen, much like Weaver, was an outstanding pitcher, posting a 2.81 ERA in 80 innings last season. Needless to say, the 2019 trade deadline was an absolute success for the D-Backs, as they spruced up their farm system and added a solid MLB ready pitcher.
The added salary flexibility attained when they traded Greinke was put to good use, signing division rival pitcher Madison Bumgarner to a 5 year 80 million dollar deal. Though Bumgarner has been in the majors for a while, he is still only 30 years old and now provides the D-Backs with a true ace. Though his 2019 3.90 ERA with the Giants was the highest in his past 10 seasons expect that ERA to rise even more, as Chase Field is a much more hitter-friendly park than Oracle Park. The D-Backs rotation now is Bumgarner-Ray-Leake-Weaver-Gallen-Kelly, which is probably the strongest and deepest rotation in the entire league. They also signed Kole Calhoun to a 2-year deal; Calhoun is an incredibly strong fielder with a 5.1 UZR. Somehow, even his power numbers got better, as he hit 33 home runs and a wRC+ of 108 (above average) in 2019. Even after all of this, the D-Backs decided to strengthen their outfield this January by bringing in another Marte. Starling Marte slashed .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Last year with the Pirates, his defensive numbers were quite abysmal, with a -5.7 defensive WAR. However, his offensive ability combined with his speed make him an incredibly valuable asset to the Diamondbacks as they set out to contend for a playoff spot. Additionally, considering that they got him for two young unproven prospects, it’s an absolute steal. Now, the D-Backs outfield of Peralta, Marte, Marte and Calhoun is a defensive powerhouse and an offensively productive machine.
If their MLB talent isn’t enough, the Diamondbacks also have some great talent in the farm system:
- Alek Thomas: Given a 55 grade by MLB Pipeline, an incredibly productive left-handed bat that will probably come up by 2022 with good speed.
- Kristian Robinson: Only 19 years old and has the highest ceiling out of any Arizona prospect with an OBP over .400.
- Daulton Varsho: Catcher who hit 18 HR and 58 RBIs, slashed .301/.378/.520 to give him an OPS of .899, good speed with 21 steals and a much-improved defender. Hopefully, he can contribute this year.
Even in this year’s draft, they added Bryce Jarvis, a RHP out of Duke University, who had a career ERA of 2.81 over 150 innings including a no-hitter against Cornell this past February.
All in all, there’s so much to be excited about if you’re a Diamondbacks fan – these next couple years will be so much fun to watch.