SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There were a lot of familiar faces missing when the D-backs opened Spring Training.
Gone are franchise mainstays Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin and Chris Owings -- not to mention veterans Daniel Descalso and Jeff Mathis.
That hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm, though.
“We’re going to be a good baseball team,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “There are some really good baseball players that are ready to step in and get the job done. We’re going to be a thick lineup that’s going to have the ability to score some runs.”
What's the goal?
The D-backs made the postseason in 2017 and they led the National League West at the beginning of every month in 2018 before a September swoon left them on the outside looking in. The club could have decided to undergo a full rebuild, but instead Arizona is going to do its best to compete while at the same time continuing to build the farm system.
If the D-backs are in contention at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, they may look to add a piece or two, but if they are out of the race, they will likely explore trading players who are a year away from free agency -- like outfielder David Peralta and left-hander Robbie Ray. They could also see if there are any takers for veteran Zack Greinke, who has three years left on his six-year, $206.5 million deal.
What's the plan?
It starts and ends with pitching for the D-backs. If Greinke, Ray and Zack Godley can pitch the way they’re capable that gives them a solid front three. Right-hander Luke Weaver, part of the return in the Goldschmidt trade with the Cardinals, entices the D-backs with Weaver's potential, and they are counting on a fresh start and a little different pitch mix to be the key to getting him back to his 2017 form. If the rotation can eat innings, that allows the D-backs to set up their bullpen the way they want.
While the closer is up in the air at this point, they feel good about their ability to finish games with Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley and Greg Holland. With Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. returning to health, the front office believes they can give the offense some punch and help it to avoid the inconsistencies last season.
What could go wrong?
Early returns on Ketel Marte moving from second base/shortstop to center field have been positive, but if for some reason he is not able to handle center, the D-backs do not have a lot of depth there. Defense has been a huge point of emphasis with Arizona under general manager Mike Hazen, and with Marte in a new position and Jake Lamb shifting from third to first, as well as free agent Wilmer Flores taking over at second base, it will be interesting to see how that holds up.
If the D-backs fall out of the race early, they could wind up with an awfully young roster in the second half which could struggle.
Who might surprise?
When he came up in September, reliever Yoan Lopez wowed with his impressive stuff and poise on the mound. The right-hander might get squeezed off the roster to start the season, but there’s little doubt that if he throws the ball the way he did last year, he will not only be in the big leagues this year, but also pitching in some high-leverage situations.
Catcher Carson Kelly was stuck behind Yadier Molina in St. Louis, but he’ll get plenty of opportunity to play in Arizona, and he could become a key part of the organization’s present and future.