Arizona Diamondbacks 2018 Season Preview
It’s funny to think that a team that finished tied for the 5th-most wins in Major League Baseball in 2017 would somehow be something of an afterthought heading into the 2018 season.
Was it a fluke
But with all eyes in the National League fixed on the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs as the favorites to win the pennant, everyone seems to forget the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks won 93 games last year, and finished with the second-highest run differential in the National League. But then again, most people want the Diamondbacks to prove last season wasn’t a fluke, considering it was their first winning season since 2011. They won’t be sneaking up on anyone anymore, so given that, how will they fare this season?
Some questions of note
That question looms even larger, considering team ownership wanted to ensure the team remains somewhat frugal. That’s why Arizona let J.D. Martinez, their major acquisition at the 2017 trade deadline, leave town this past offseason. Instead of trying to replace Martinez’ power (including his 29 home runs in 62 games), the Diamondbacks will take more of a “moneyball” approach to replacing Martinez’ production with new acquisitions like Jarrod Dyson (formerly of the Seattle Mariners) and Steven Souza Jr. (acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays).
From a pitching perspective, Arizona has a couple of key players that will likely define their success this season in large part. Pitcher Robbie Ray had a monster year in 2017, earning him an All-Star selection and putting him in the conversation for the National League Cy Young. His 2.89 ERA in 28 starts was absolutely brilliant, although many people believe that performance was more of a season-long anomaly versus something you can expect from him moving forward.
Then again, it’s not all on Ray’s shoulders, considering the team still has Zack Greinke, who was the team’s ace last season, for all intents and purposes; Greinke went 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA himself last year. He was ranked among the top 10 starting pitchers in the big leagues last season with an OBP of .272, while walking only 45 of the 801 batters he faced.
Archie Bradley connection
Another pitcher to keep an eye on this year is Archie Bradley, who successfully moved from a rotation prospect to the bullpen. While he only had one save on his his stat line last year, many people believe he could be an excellent closer for the Diamondbacks. In 20 different games last year, he recorded more than three outs in a game, making him an interesting fit at that key spot.
Of course, given the fact that much of the rest of the bullpen especially outside of setup man Brad Boxberger has a lot of question marks, Arizona has to debate whether they can afford to move Bradley out of the setup crew.
Arizona General Manager Mike Hazen finds himself in the position of having to build on the newfound lofty expectations for the team, perhaps at the risk of shorting the team’s overall rebuilding plan. Arizona isn’t quite ready to dethrone the Dodgers as of yet even if fans don’t want to hear that but the team can’t sell fans on the long-term process anymore, considering they’ve already tasted short-term success.