Are the Arizona Diamondbacks personnel-ready for spring training?

PHOENIX – With about one month until pitchers and catchers report to the Arizona Diamondbacks training facility at Salt River, the work of putting together the 2023 team may not be finished.

Then again, is general manager Mike Hazen, field manager Torey Lovullo and other decision-makers, satisfied with what is currently in place? After an increase of 22 victories from 2021 to the 2022 seasons, the Diamondbacks now find themselves in a precarious situation.

Clearly, they want to be poised to climb up the National League west division ladder. At the same time, is the personnel in place equal to challenge for such an achievement?

In 2021, the Diamondbacks hit rock bottom and slowly began to ascent. Two years ago, the club went 52-111 but improved to 74-88 and an increase of 22 victories in the win column the following season. For the Diamondbacks to challenge for any post-season reality, the win mark should accelerate to around 90 victories. That’s an improvement of close to 20 games and could drop Arizona into an interesting September.

In 2022, the six wild card teams amassed victories from 87 by the Phillies to 101 by the Mets. A reasonable number would be around 90 as the Mariners win 90, the Jays 92 and the Padres 89. The other wild card teams were the Rays, who qualified for the post-season with 86 victories and the Jays with 92 victories.

The bottom line here, have the Diamondbacks improved to a reasonable, competitive level?

On the surface, the club has improved, at least on paper. One barometer for success, despite relatively equal talent on all teams, is to have around 75 percent of players produce “career years” during the same season. If several players achieve as a collective unit, success could likely follow.

For Arizona, the most pressing, off-season needs were a solid right-handed bat and a bullpen overhaul.

In adding right-handed hitters outfielders Lourdes Gurriel and Kyle Lewis, infielder Evan Longoria and catcher Gabriel Moreno, Hazen addressed a significant need. The addition of power righthander Carlos Vargas to the bullpen and the promise from Brent Storm, the pitching coach, that a changed and improved Mark Melancon, the Diamondbacks closer, will emerge, also addressed immediate concerns.

Rather than let promising pitching prospects like Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson and Drey Jamison fail individually or collectively, Hazen decided to bring back veteran righthander Zach Davies.

“It’s not to hold those guys back from being on our team,” Hazen said during an off-season Zoom session with reporters. “We want those guys on our team. We also want starting pitching that is going to carry us.”

That would mean the club is pretty much stuck with lefty Madison Bumgarner, whose once domination of hitters has declined in recent seasons. It was no secret Hazen shopped Bumgardner around the off-season and Arizona received little interest.

It’s likely Bumgarner will start the season in the rotation with Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen and Davies. The fifth starter could come from Nelson, Jamison, Henry, Brandon Pfaadt and Blake Watson, the latter two represent the Diamondbacks’ number 4 and 5 on the MLB prospects list.

Coming into spring training, other issues occupy Hazen.

First, the health of Ketel Marte. Penciled in at second base, the veteran infielder suffered a number of injuries in recent season and that forced Lovullo to use Marte as DH. Also, the health of shortstop Nick Amhed is directly on Hazen’s radar screen.

Appearing in only 17 games, Ahmed missed most of the 2022 season with a right shoulder injury, and an injury that plagued Ahmed for the past several seasons. While seen in the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field clubhouse at the end of the last season, Ahmed assured reporters, at that time, he will be ready for the 2023 season.

As well, Hazen would like to get more offensive production centerfielder Alek Thomas, who flashed elite defensive skills during last season.

While Hazen and Lovullo shy away from personnel decisions during spring training, the next two months of preparation should foreshadow if, indeed, the Diamondbacks have improved to a level of serious post-season contender.

Elsewhere … pitchers and catchers report to Salt River on Feb. 15 and position players on Feb. 20 … pitcher Merrill Kelly will break up spring training and join team USA on March 6. For the 2023 World Baseball Classic, competition begins on March 11 in Chase Field (and three other sites) and USA will, in Pool C, face Canada, Colombia, Mexico and a winner from a to-be-determined qualifying team. The winner and runner-up in each pool advance to the title round at Marlins Park in Miami on March 17 and 18.

Related Articles

Back to top button