The Arizona Diamondbacks finished 2017 with a 93-69 record which propelled them to a wild Wild Card game and a quick NLDS series against the Dodgers. The D-Backs lost fan favorite JD Martinez after a quick three-month rental, but they were able to bounce back with the addition of Steven Souza Jr. and Jarrod Dyson.
The Giants, Rockies, and Padres made some big moves in the offseason, so the D-Backs are going to need another big year. Here are some predictions that would put the Snakes in the thick of it down the stretch.
Taijuan Walker has his breakout season
Walker is entering his fourth full season and sixth overall at the age of 25. Last year was his best year as a big leaguer with a career-best 3.49 ERA in 157.1 innings. He struck out 147 batters, but he saw a career high in walks allowed at 61.
While many thought that Walker’s approach of elevating the ball in the zone would not help him home runs allowed, Walker only allowed 17 homers in his first stint in Phoenix. He allowed 25 and 27 in the years prior, so he vastly improved in a difficult ballpark.
Some might say that he broke out last year, but the hype wasn’t around him due to the steps forward that Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin took and with the emergence of Zack Godley. The former top prospect has a chance to put his name in the conversation as a top of the rotation guy this summer.
Chris Owings wins over a starting position
Owings will see the majority of the playing time in right field while Souza Jr. is recovering from injury. Owings will have a month to prove Lovullo and the front office that he deserves to be in the lineup every day.
Owings hasn’t been able to completely figure it out as a big leaguer, but he has shown plenty of flashes of starter material the past few years. His speed can be a game changer as he has 16, 21, and 12 stolen bases the past three years in injury-riddled seasons.
His first full season in the bigs was in 2015, and he hit .227/.264/.322. He has improved upon that by hitting .277/.315/.416 and .268/.299/.442 in 2016 and 2017. While 2017 looks like a down year, he hit 12 homers and 51 RBI’s in 96 games in 2017 compared to 5 homers and 49 RBI’s in 117 games in 2016. His continual improvement in power numbers shows that he might be ready to take the next step.
Patrick Corbin will earn a big contract
Corbin had a tough three years between 2014 and 2016 after Tommy John surgery. After a 2016 season that saw a demotion to the bullpen, he came back and had a bounce-back 2017 season with a 4.02 ERA in 189.2 innings. His walk and strikeout rates both improved from 2016, and this led to him being named the Opening Day starter in 2018.
In 14 starts after the All-Star break, he had a 3.26 ERA while batters hit just .252 against him. Corbin started to throw his nasty slider 12.5% more in 2017, and his fastball usage went down nearly 10% because of the adjustment. This adjustment led to his hard-hit rate going down 7%, and his soft hit rate going up 3%.
Much like Taijuan Walker, I expect Corbin to continue his great second half of the season into 2018 which is the final year of his contract.
Jake Lamb hits more homers than Paul Goldschmidt
Now, this might sound absolutely crazy, but Lamb has hit 29 and 30 the past two seasons. Goldy hit 24 in 2016 in seven more games than Lamb, but he hit 36 last season in 30 more plate appearances.
Lamb lost some at-bats last season in the second half due to his slump for the second consecutive year after the All-Star break. With the addition of Adam Rosales, the D-backs were able to give Lamb a couple games off against tough lefties.
Lamb hit .204/.332/.403 post All-Star break, but he was still only 6 homers off of Goldy’s pace. Pitchers have been able to make adjustments to Lamb through four seasons, and now it is his turn to adjust to the rest of the league. I would be pleasantly surprised if Lamb hit 40 homers, but I wouldn’t be in utter shock as well. With a second big bat in the lineup for a full season (aka Souza Jr.), Lamb has a chance to be somewhat of an afterthought in the lineup to opposing pitchers.
The Diamondbacks finally beat the Dodgers in the playoffs
The competition in the National League got substantially better with the Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Rockies, Brewers, and Mets making some noise in the winter. One team that stayed awfully quiet was the Dodgers.
They shipped away veteran pitching depth in Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir to add Matt Kemp again. They lost clubhouse leader and fan favorite in Adrian Gonzalez along with a great bullpen arm in Brandon Morrow.
The Dodgers were trying to stay under the luxury tax for next seasons free agent class, and it appears this is a bit of a between year for them. Don’t get me wrong, the Dodgers are still the favorite in the NL West, but this is a great time to dethrone the Dodgers at the top of the National Leauge.
Many think the Nationals will finally get out of the NLDS, and others think the Cubs are back with a revamped pitching staff.
Fans will point out that losing JD Martinez was detrimental to catching the Dodgers, but the D-Backs were a playoff team before that trade. The D-Backs bullpen got better with Brad Boxberger and Yoshi Hirano, and the position player depth got better with the additions of Steven Souza Jr, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Aliva, and Deven Marrero.
If the D-Backs can prevail over the Rockies and Giants, they will have a good chance to best the Dodgers in October.