After three years of disappointing finishes, there has been a feel of optimism around the Arizona Diamondbacks this spring.
Not the “it’s Spring Training and everyone has a chance” type of belief, but confidence that the young core of players the team has been pushing through the farm system the last several seasons is ready to break out.
There were signs of that late last season with a young outfield group led by Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy playing an exciting brand of baseball that dovetails nicely with baseball’s new rule changes.
There is also a group of pitching prospects, including Drey Jameson, Ryne Nelson and Brandon Pfaadt, that gives the D-backs much-needed starting pitching depth.
If there is a turnaround in Arizona this year, it can’t come soon enough for general manager Mike Hazen.
“We want to start playing good winning baseball,” Hazen said. “We haven't won a lot here the last three years and ... [getting to] August and September and not being competitive, being at the Trade Deadline and selling, it's not why we get into these jobs.”
Here’s a look at what the 2023 season could look like for the D-backs:
What needs to go right?
Early in the season, the D-backs' rotation needs to be solid while the revamped bullpen finds its footing and roles get sorted out. Veterans Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Madison Bumgarner and Zach Davies will lead the way with a rookie filling out the No. 5 spot. Gallen and Kelly are both coming off outstanding seasons, while Davies is a steady presence. After a rough first few seasons in Arizona, Bumgarner has looked good this spring, and the organization is hoping that will translate to the regular season. The D-backs do have starting pitching depth, but they’d like to not have to tap into that too early in the season.
It’s no secret that the bullpen has been a sore spot for the D-backs for the last couple of years; its improvement was the No. 1 priority in the offseason. Rather than bring in big names or an experienced closer like they did last year with Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy, the D-backs brought in a number of intriguing arms, including Miguel Castro and Scott McGough, both of whom appear poised to pitch in high-leverage situations, as well as veteran lefty Andrew Chafin. Holdover Kevin Ginkel has looked good this spring, too, so there are multiple options for manager Torey Lovullo to use late in games. How it will all come together remains to be seen.
Team MVP will be: Corbin Carroll
First baseman Christian Walker and second baseman Ketel Marte were also candidates for this, but given the way he’s looked this spring, it’s hard to go against Carroll. A favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, Carroll signed an eight-year contract extension this spring and has appeared unfazed during his first big league camp. Just like his September debut last year, the game at the highest level doesn’t appear to move too fast for Carroll, who has lined balls all over the field in the Cactus League. Spring Training numbers don’t necessarily translate to the regular season, but with Carroll, there’s also a little more than a month of Major League experience and a strong Minor League season to draw conclusions from.
Team Cy Young will be: Zac Gallen
It’s hard to pick against Gallen, who also could very easily be a candidate for NL Cy Young after finishing fifth last year. Gallen, who will be making his first career Opening Day start, is coming off a season in which he led the NL in WHIP and opponent’s batting average while also compiling a club-record 44 1/3 straight scoreless innings, the longest streak in the Majors since 2015. A perfectionist, Gallen is constantly looking for any way he can get better and is extremely detail oriented when it comes to preparing for his starts, so there’s no risk of complacency after last season.
Hazen is no longer a seller at the Trade Deadline, as the D-backs’ young players continue to develop, and the team gets enough from its veterans to push Arizona into the thick of the NL Wild Card race down the stretch.