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Predicting the D-backs' 2020 Opening Day roster

@SteveGilbertMLB
November 5, 2019

PHOENIX -- There’s lots of time between now and Opening Day, so it’s far too early to accurately predict what the D-backs' Opening Day roster might look like. But here you’ll find some information that will help you make your own projections. Beginning next year, teams will carry 26 players

PHOENIX -- There’s lots of time between now and Opening Day, so it’s far too early to accurately predict what the D-backs' Opening Day roster might look like. But here you’ll find some information that will help you make your own projections.

Beginning next year, teams will carry 26 players (a maximum of 13 pitchers) on their active roster throughout the season. The D-backs have yet to decide whether they will carry 12 or 13 pitchers, and they could switch back and forth between a pitcher and a position player depending on how many days off they have in a given week.

With all that in mind, here’s an early look at what they’ll be considering.

Catcher

Locks: Carson Kelly

Possibilities: Daulton Varsho, Caleb Joseph, veteran free agent/trade

Kelly did enough in his first season to go into Spring Training 2019 as the Opening Day starter. The D-backs abandoned their three-catcher rotation after the first two months of the season in order to give Kelly the majority of the playing time, and will likely look to bring in a veteran to back him up. Varsho is one of their top prospects, and although he could see time in the big leagues in 2020, it would seem a stretch to have it be as a backup on Opening Day. Joseph is arbitration-eligible and could be nontendered. It would not be a surprise to see veteran Alex Avila, who was with the D-backs the past two seasons before becoming a free agent, return. He is a respected member of the clubhouse who still plays well behind the plate, wants to return and has served as a valuable mentor to Kelly.

First Base

Locks: Christian Walker

Possibilities: Kevin Cron, Jake Lamb

Walker exceeded expectations in his first full season in the big leagues, both offensively and defensively. The question is who will back him up. Cron mashed in the Minor Leagues and showed that power in his brief time in the big leagues, but he didn’t get much of a chance to play. Lamb could be a factor if the team decides to tender him a contract.

Second Base

Locks: None

Possibilities: Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Josh Rojas, Andy Young, trade/free agent

The D-backs non-tendered Wilmer Flores because they have yet to decide whether Marte will be primarily a center fielder or a second baseman. The answer depends on whether they are able to acquire either in a trade or on the free-agent market. Escobar is a possibility, as are the two younger players, Rojas and Young.

Shortstop

Locks: Nick Ahmed

Possibilities: Ildemaro Vargas

Ahmed had another stellar season with the glove and continues to get better each year with the bat as well. He is a leader both on and off the field, and the team would like to sign him to an extension before he reaches free agency following the 2020 season. Vargas is a versatile backup who can play second, short and third and provides a quality at-bat off the bench.

Third Base

Locks: Eduardo Escobar

Possibilities: Jake Lamb

Escobar is going to start somewhere, the question is whether it will be at second or third, although it seems more likely to be third. If Lamb comes back, he once again could see playing time at both first and third base, with Escobar shifting over to second. Josh Rojas and Andy Young have also played the position in the Minor Leagues.

Outfield

Locks: Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Tim Locastro

Possibilities: Steven Souza Jr., free agent/trade

Marte will play center unless the D-backs can find a center fielder on the open market. It’s possible they could get involved in trying to sign Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, a 31-year-old center fielder. General manager Mike Hazen has acknowledged that both the trade and free-agent markets are thin in center. Peralta should be fully recovered from the right shoulder injury that nagged him for much of last year, and Locastro proved to be valuable off the bench. He has a knack for getting on via the hit-by-pitch, and his speed makes him a threat on the bases. He brings a lot of energy, and can play all three outfield positions. The big question is whether the D-backs non-tender Souza, who missed all of last season and a good portion of the 2018 campaign due to injuries.

Starting Pitchers

Locks: Robbie Ray, Mike Leake, Luke Weaver, Taijuan Walker, Zac Gallen

Possibilities: Merrill Kelly, Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, Jon Duplantier, trade/free agent

The D-backs taxed their pitching depth last year, and as a result, they have a lot of options for 2020. Weaver and Walker have to prove that they are healthy, and the club might look to deal Ray, who is a year away from free agency. Kelly, Young and Clarke all pitched well at times, and Duplantier’s season can probably be chalked up to the fact that he was yanked from the rotation to the bullpen and back in varying stints in the big leagues. Even with the D-backs' depth, it would not be a surprise if they acquire a starter via trade or free agency, though that’s not at the top of their shopping list given all the options they have.

Relievers

Locks: Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, Matt Andriese, Yoan López

Possibilities: Kevin Ginkel, Stefan Crichton, Jimmie Sherfy, free agent/trade, starters who don’t make the rotation

The bullpen is one area to which Hazen always adds whenever he can, and he will look via free agency and trade to pick up some late-inning options. This could also be a landing spot for some of the pitchers who do not make the rotation. Clarke and Young both pitched out of the bullpen at times last year. Bradley probably goes into Spring Training as the closer given his performance over the last few months of the season. Ginkel pitched in high-leverage situations in 2019 and certainly will head into Spring Training with a leg up on a bullpen role.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.