2015 Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 74-88 (4th in NL West, 25th in MLB)

Manager: Chip Hale (1st season – no prior experience)

Top Three Players: 1B Paul Goldschmidt (5.1), OF A.J. Pollock (2.0), RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1.3)

Bounce-back Player: OF A.J. Pollock

Since the All-Star break of the 2013 season, Pollock has been a different player:

2013 second half –

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
2nd Half 55 37 192 170 25 50 5 3 2 14 6 19 27 .294 .368 .394 .763 67 .340
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2015.

2014 – (including .273/.326/.386 in 95 plate appearances after returning from his broken hand)

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2014 26 ARI 75 287 265 41 80 19 6 7 24 14 19 46 .302 .353 .498 .851 134 132
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2015.

As you can see, Pollock has made some changes to his game to make him an interesting offensive piece, possessing enough pop to be useful, enough speed to be an asset, and the defensive skills to challenge Juan Lagares and Billy Hamilton for the NL Gold Glove in center. Entering his age-27 season, Pollock is now in his prime and he is likely to see additional growth, especially with the offseason to regain strength in his right hand, which was fractured by a pitch and cost him 79 games in 2014. You could say that this won’t be a bounce-back, it will be more of a continuation of the breakout that was occurring. With healthy stars around him, Pollock will be a big piece in an improved offense for the Diamondbacks.

Can Lamb win the 3B job?  Courtesy: foxsports.com
Can Lamb win the 3B job?
Courtesy: foxsports.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: 3B Jake Lamb

People are going to be jumping all over Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas due to his power potential, but he only played “some” third base in Cuba and has already shown some brick hands in drills this spring. Lamb has posted a .959 OPS over five minor league seasons, and, while he struck out 37 times in 133 plate appearance (27.8 percent) in his late-season call-up, Lamb showed some ability to drive the ball by ripping nine of his 29 hits for extra bases. He’s just 24, and, though Tomas has the big contract and high expectations, Lamb shouldn’t be written off. Tomas would be an excellent offensive option in left over the David Peralta/Ender Inciarte/Cody Ross option, and Lamb’s left-handed bat would fit nicely in the mix of Yasmany Tomas, Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo, and A.J. Pollock – all right-handed hitters in the top and middle of the order.

Offseason Overview:  The Diamondbacks were a very busy organization, changing managers after a whole shift in the front office that led to Tony LaRussa taking over Baseball Operations. While the Diamondbacks may not be as “gritty” as they were the last couple of seasons, that’s probably a good thing, as that wasn’t working for their end-of-year win totals. With a friendly home ballpark and enough offensive talent to make non-Clayton Kershaw-types to quiver in their spikes, the Diamondbacks head into rebuilding mode, having invested heavily in Yasmany Tomas and dealing Wade Miley to the Red Sox for a couple of very promising, major-league-ready arms in RHP Rubby De La Rosa and RHP Allen Webster. They dealt light-hitting Didi Gregorius (who lost his shortstop job to Chris Owings) to the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter, and pried away LHP Robbie Ray from Detroit (who was acquired from Washington last season for Doug Fister), while acquiring RHP Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays for a couple of Low-A prospects.

 

The Verdict: The Diamondbacks were busy and they needed to be. They finished at .500 in both 2012 and 2013, then headed in the wrong direction by losing 98 games in 2014. They suffered through many injuries to their offense and ineffectiveness from their pitching. They needed to scrap it and try again, and they did so while acquiring talent that is ready to help them on Opening Day. Hellickson knows how to pitch and a move to the NL will only increase his ability to get back to the pitcher that he was in 2011 and 2012 (yes, I know the FIP was ugly, so it may have been the averages getting back to reality). RDLR has tremendous stuff, and adding him to the trio of Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, and Aaron Blair, the Diamondbacks future rotation looks quite potent – and that’s not even with Touki Toussaint in the mix yet. The offense will likely sputter at times due to the weakest links, but they have a dynamic player in Paul Goldschmidt who can keep things going on the worst of days. This team could easily see a 20 game turnaround in 2015, but that would only leave them with 84 wins, which wouldn’t get it done in the NL West this season. The Diamondbacks made some smart moves, but they had so far to go that it will take a couple of more seasons.

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