Arizona Diamondbacks 2015 preview: Better days ahead
With good health, the Arizona Diamondbacks will be reasonably better than last year’s injury-plagued and pitching-challenged 64-98 squad which had just two players from the opening day lineup (departed catcher Miguel Montero and second baseman Aaron Hill) appear in more than 118 games.
Still, even if manager Chip Hale is able to pencil Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and $68 million Cuban haul Yasmany Tomas (seriously, do you think he’ll end the season at third?) in the batting order on a more frequent basis, the D-backs did little of consequence in improving the National League’s worst pitching staff. There is hope in the form of rookie Archie Bradley, but compared to the staffs of NL West playmates Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, Arizona’s starting rotation looks like a spork in a kitchen filled with sharp objects.
Fear not, Diamondbacks fans. Each day and each loss brings the Arizona sports scene one step closer to Cardinals training camp, all the while as memories of 2011’s 94-win team continues to fade away.
Tomas is supposed to provide a Jose Abreu-like impact into the lineup and has shown flashes of his potential after a poor start to spring training, but there still remains the possibility of his opening the season in the minors, which would weaken a lineup bereft of power beyond Goldschmidt and Trumbo. The team feels shortstop Chris Owings will emerge into a budding star capable of hitting 15 homers and swiping 20-plus bases. Left fielder David Peralta and center fielder A.J. Pollock can infuse more speed into the lineup provided can prove to Hale the words “discipline at the plate” can be seen rather than heard.
A healthy Goldschmidt is one of the 10-15 best players in the sport. The fractured hand that imploded his 2014 is better and despite a sluggish March, the pride of Texas State University is primed for another season of top-tier offensive numbers.
Do we have to talk about them? Can’t we talk about the weather? The iWatch? What happens to Boyd Crowder in the series finale of Justified?
(No? Oh … alright)
Josh Collmenter is the opening day starter. Let that sink into your upper recesses for a moment. Collmenter would be a solid fifth starter for a host of teams, yet in the AZ, he’s the de facto ace of the staff.
The Diamondbacks hold hope that live young arm Rubby De La Rosa and veteran Jeremy Hellickson can buttress the rotation until Bradley, the club’s top prospect, completes his early season apprenticeship in the bullpen and becomes the foundation of what the club hopes will be a much-altered staff by year’s end as righties Aaron Blair, Cuban signee Yoan Lopez and Braden Shipley are on the outer edge of The Show.
Closer Addison Reed will assure that Hale keeps the Rolaids close by. Reed had 32 saves, yet had a 4.25 ERA and allowed 11 homers in 59.1 innings. He has looked more confident this spring, which offers a modicum of hope. Veterans Brad Ziegler and Randall Delgado return, while David Hernandez will be back by the All-Star break after Tommy John surgery sidelined him last season.
Opening day lineup
David Peralta LF
A.J. Pollock CF
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Mark Trumbo RF
Aaron Hill 2B
Yasmany Tomas 3B (Jake Lamb if Tomas is sent down)
Chris Owings SS
Tuffy Gosewisch C
Blair, Lopez and Shipley will be up at some point this season, while Lamb, who hit 19 homers between triple-A and the majors, could either win a corner infield spot with the Diamondbacks or become the first man up if something happens to either Goldschmidt or Tomas. Peter O’Brien has power to spare, yet his lack of progress behind the plate has hampered his potential.
It will be another season of fighting the Rockies for the NL West cellar, but 2015 is beginning to look like the year the Diamondbacks can feel confident about brighter days ahead. The farm system is chock filled with young arms and enough offensive potential that will also see big league time. Right now, 90 losses is a firm projection, yet one the franchise will accept if their young talent emerges.