Are the Diamondbacks the Team to Beat in the NL West?

The Arizona Diamondbacks had a very modest 2015, going 79-83 and finishing third in the NL West behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Diamondbacks finished in the middle of the pack last year despite having the second-ranked offense in all of the National League, and so president of baseball operations Tony LaRussa decided to go out and upgrade the rotation to further prod the Diamondbacks to the playoffs.

What LaRussa was able to accomplish, however, did more than prod the Diamondbacks, as the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller have launched the Diamondbacks right into the midst of the 2016 playoff picture. While the trade that landed Arizona Miller did cost them dynamic outfielder Ender Inciarte (.303/.338/.408), Arizona still has Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock leading a powerful lineup.

As of right now this is what Arizona’s Opening Day lineup looks like:

  1. A.J. Pollock, OF (.315/.367/.498, 20 home runs)
  2. David Peralta, OF (.312/.371/.522, 17 home runs)
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (.321/.435/.570, 33 home runs)
  4. Yasmany Tomas, OF (.273/.305/.401, 9 home runs)
  5. Wellington Castillo, C (.255/.317/.496, 17 home runs in 80 games with Arizona)
  6. Jake Lamb, 3B (.263/.331/.386, 6 home runs)
  7. Nick Ahmed, SS (.226/.275/.359, 9 home runs)
  8. Chris Owings, 2B (.227/.264/.322, 4 home runs)
  9. *Pitcher*

The top five for the Diamondbacks is pretty fearsome, and the 6-8 spots can stand to improve, as the oldest of the three is Ahmed at 25, and all have had success in the minors. For example, Ahmed slashed .312/.373/.425 in 104 minor league games in 2014. Similarly, Owings slashed .330/.359/.482 in his last season of 100-plus games in the minors. Lamb was the most impressive, slashing .327/.407/.566 with 15 home runs in 108 minor league games in 2014. Given their track record of success the Diamondbacks could see an uptick in their bottom portion of the lineup, making their offense even more potent than it was in 2015.

The biggest reason the Diamondbacks are primed for success is the rotation, as their recent acquisitions have turned a very mediocre rotation into a strength in 2016.

  1. Zack Greinke (19-3, 1.66 ERA)
  2. Shelby Miller (6-17, 3.03 ERA)
  3. Patrick Corbin (6-5, 3.46 ERA in 86 IP)
  4. Robbie Ray (5-12, 3.52 ERA)
  5. Rubby De La Rosa (14-9, 4.67 ERA)
  6. In the wings: Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley.

The additions of Greinke and Miller have given the Diamondbacks arguably the best top three in baseball, and the Diamondbacks now have a legitimate shot at becoming NL West champions for the first time since 2011. Although De La Rosa is a bit shaky, the Diamondbacks do have two young arms with a lot of upside in Bradley and Shipley if he falls too far.

Other factors:

Another reason the Diamondbacks could become the cream of the division is that their rivals the Giants and Dodgers have big question marks around their respective teams going into 2016, and the Dodgers are having what has transformed into a hashtag, #DodgerOffseasonFromHell. The Giants have uncertainty in their outfield, and it’s fair to wonder if Matt Duffy can keep up the pace from his rookie season (.295/.334/.428) or is bound to suffer a sophomore slump. The Giants will also be counting on a bounce-back from Jeff Samardzija‘s 4.96 ERA in 2015.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the Dodgers has, as they have missed out on Greinke, Aroldis Chapman, and Hisashi Iwakuma. On top of that the Dodgers have a hole to fill at second base, and starting third baseman Justin Turner had microfracture surgery on his knee, putting his availability in question.

Given how the Diamondbacks division foes have been weakened as well as their roster upgrades, it’s fair to think that the Diamondbacks new-look roster will be the team to beat in the National League West.

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