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D-backs' projected 2021 Opening Day roster

@SteveGilbertMLB
November 6, 2020

With a disappointing season behind them, the D-backs are looking to 2021 with optimism, believing that the core of their team can make them a postseason contender. The D-backs have plenty of work to do this winter to shore up their offense and remake their bullpen. They will do that

With a disappointing season behind them, the D-backs are looking to 2021 with optimism, believing that the core of their team can make them a postseason contender.

The D-backs have plenty of work to do this winter to shore up their offense and remake their bullpen. They will do that while navigating an offseason that is unpredictable, given the impact of COVID-19 on not just last season but also potentially 2021.

MLB Free Agent and Hot Stove Tracker

It’s way too early to know even who will be on the D-backs roster when Spring Training starts, but it’s a fun exercise to try to predict who could be on the field for the D-backs come Opening Day.

We’ll do periodic updates during the offseason, but for now here’s our best estimate:

Catcher (3): Carson Kelly, Stephen Vogt, Daulton Varsho
Kelly had an uneven year in 2020, but the D-backs are chalking that up to the strange nature of the season and the small sample size. Vogt’s contract option vested with his playing time, and he figures to again be the backup. Varsho is a catcher by trade, but he could make the roster as either the primary backup or starter in center field -- depending on what the team does with Ketel Marte -- as well as some starts behind the plate.

First base (1): Christian Walker
Walker followed up his breakout 2019 season with another solid year at the plate and in the field. The D-backs have several options for backups at this position, including Vogt, Josh VanMeter and Varsho.

Second base (1): Player acquired via trade or free agency
Ketel Marte played second base in 2020, but with last year’s starting center fielder, Starling Marte, no longer with the team, Ketel Marte is likely to see more time in center. It’s possible the D-backs could add a center fielder through a trade or free agency and keep Ketel Marte at second, but for now we’ll say they add a second baseman.

Third base (1): Eduardo Escobar
There’s no getting around the fact Escobar had a rough 2020, struggling both at the plate and in the field. The team, though, is banking on him returning to form.

Shortstop (1): Nick Ahmed
After winning back-to-back National League Gold Glove Awards, Ahmed took a step backward defensively in 2020. He is a leader in the clubhouse and an iron man in the field, so look for him to once again rack up a ton of games played.

Outfield (4): Kole Calhoun, Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Tim Locastro
Barring a trade, the outfield corners are set with Peralta in left and Calhoun in right. The question is what the D-backs do in center. Marte was outstanding defensively there in 2019, but there is some concern that playing out there takes a toll on him physically. Again, it’s possible the team acquires a center fielder in the offseason and shifts Marte to second base or gives Varsho the bulk of the starts out there if they feel he can handle it defensively. Locastro, meanwhile, is instant energy off the bench. His speed is a weapon: He has yet to be caught in 26 stolen-base attempts in the big leagues.

Utility (2): Josh Rojas, Josh VanMeter
Rojas impressed the D-backs with his defensive ability in the infield last year. He can play second base, third base and shortstop, plus the outfield corner positions. VanMeter, acquired at the Trade Deadline from the Reds, can play second, third, first and the outfield corners. That kind of versatility on the bench could be especially important if there is no designated hitter in the NL next season. The team also has Wyatt Mathisen and Andy Young on the 40-man roster. Both can play multiple positions.

Starting pitchers (5): Madison Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver, Caleb Smith
Gallen was the D-backs’ best pitcher last season, followed by Kelly, who should be completely recovered from thoracic outlet surgery by Spring Training. Bumgarner pitched well in his final two starts of the year after a rough beginning. The D-backs believe his off year had more to do with the fact the veteran was thrown off his routine by the COVID-19 shutdown, and they expect he will rebound in 2021. That’s also what Weaver will need to do. He was outstanding in ’19 before getting injured but never seemed to be able to get on a roll in ’20. For now, we’ll put Smith in the fifth spot, but there are a slew of candidates for that spot, including Corbin Martin, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's No. 6 prospect. Taylor Clarke, Alex Young, Riley Smith and Jon Duplantier could be candidates or find spots in the bullpen.

Relievers (8): Stefan Crichton, Taylor Widener, Yoan López, Kevin Ginkel, Junior Guerra, three new acquisitions
The organization has made it clear the bullpen is going to get a serious makeover in the offseason. The D-backs will be in the market for a closer, so we list three open spots that could be filled through trades or free agency. Crichton pitched well and even moved into the closer’s role for a time. Widener came up as a starter but pitched well in the bullpen (minus some command issues) and might end up pitching in leverage situations. López and Ginkel will need good springs to make the team. It will be interesting to see what happens with Guerra. The team declined a club option for next year, but he remains under club contractual control as a player eligible for salary arbitration. The D-backs could bring him back under that system or non-tender him and take their chances that there will be similar relievers available in the free-agent market at a lower cost.

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