Can Arizona bounce back in 2017?

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Updated: March 24, 2017

Last season the Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball. They signed Zack Greinke, they traded (way too much) for Shelby Miller and they looked like they would be Wild Card contenders. The moves and season basically cost Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa their jobs and now the team enters a rebuild phase.

Or does it?

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The thing about last season is that it didn’t go that well on the field. Paul Goldschmidt had a relatively down season by his standards. He had 8.8 WAR in 2015 and dropped down to 4.8 in 2016. That’s four wins. They also lost A.J. Pollock for much of the season to an injury. He had 7.4 WAR in 2015 and ended with just 0.5 WAR in just 12 games. That’s another seven. Get those back and all of the sudden last season was an 80-win team.

Of course, those were career years from those two and a repeat of that is probably unlikely. That said, a 4-5 win improvement is not out of the question. Just having Pollock back alone could get that.

On the pitching side, it’s hard to imagine things going that bad for Zack Greinke again. He’s one of the smartest pitchers in the game and even though he’s lost velocity, you have to imagine he’ll figure something out. All of the projection sites love Robbie Ray this season as well. He’s been a bad ERA/good FIP guy for years and his 11.3 strikeouts per nine is real. If this is the year he puts it all together, he could be worth 3-4 wins by himself.

The trade for Taijaun Walker could be great. He’s shown flashes of being a dominant pitcher in the past and hopefully he can figure it out in Arizona. Those three plus a return to form for Shelby Miller and suddenly this looks like a decent rotation. Round it out with Patrick Corbin/Braden Shipley and this is starting to look like a much improved team.

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Jean Segura left in that trade and will likely be replaced by Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed/Ketel Marte. While none of them offer the offensive output of Segura, the defense should be improved this year. Pollock back in center will improve the defense as well, but most of all the catching situation should help this team. Last year they had hit-first Wellington Castillo as their everyday catcher. This year they’ll roll with Jeff Mathis and Chris Ianetta getting the bulk of the starts. That is big for the defense and huge for the pitching staff.

Mathis has a reputation as a great pitch framer and Ianetta was one as well not all that long ago. Getting improved framing could really help this staff, especially Ray and Walker.

Of course, the trade off is the offense. Shortstop and catcher will be offensive blackholes so there is a lot riding on Brandon Drury, Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb and David Peralta to make the offense tick around Pollock and Goldschmidt.

The win totals and projections both peg this team as a 77-ish win team, but I see definite upside in this squad. If Robbie Ray is what the systems think he is, if Greinke can be some of what he was, if Goldschmidt and Pollock can return to 2015 form and if Tomas, Lamb and Drury can continue on their 2016 successes then this team might be a Wild Card contender.

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