San Francisco Giants: How Scary are the Arizona Diamondbacks?
Now that the Arizona Diamondbacks have stolen Zack Greinke from the Dodgers and traded for Braves ace Shelby Miller, the balance of power in the NL West has shifted considerably. With the additions of Greinke and Miller, the Dbacks have gone from young up-and-comers to legitimate division contenders—and possibly the Giants biggest competition in the West.
Let’s not forgot that the Padres “won” last year’s offseason only to flounder in 2015. Making a splash in free agency never guarantees success, but what makes Arizona different from past surprise free agent spenders is that they are adding to an already talented young core.
To start, the Diamondbacks finished 2nd in the NL in runs scored last year with 720. We’re all familiar with All-Star slugger and Tim Lincecum-destroyer Paul Goldschmidt, but it’s the plus-hitters around him that make Arizona’s lineup especially deadly. Center fielder A.J. Pollock had a breakout year last season sporting a .315/.367/.498 slash line and winning his first Gold Glove award. Outfielder David Peralta and catcher Welington Castillo also had career seasons in 2015, and rookie Yasmany Tomas showed huge power upside despite his poor performance in the second half of last year.
In addition to getting it done at the plate, Arizona was one of the better defensive teams in the league last season, ranking 8th inteam fielding percentage. As Pollock has evolved into a dynamic fielder in center, young players like stud shortstop Nick Ahmed have helped the Diamondbacks construct a solid defensive infield anchored by Goldschmidt’s consistent Gold Glove defense at first.
Which brings us to the Arizona pitching staff. The starting rotation ranked near the bottom of the league last year with a 4.37 ERA, and GM Dave Stewart is clearly set on changing that. The additions of Greinke and Miller—each coming off excellent seasons—obviously give the Diamondbacks one of the best 1-2 starter combinations in the league.
With Patrick Corbin fully recovered from season ending Tommy John surgery, however, Arizona could conceivably have the best front-three starters in baseball. Corbin was solid in the 16 games he pitched last season but wasn’t able to realize the promise of his 2013 sophomore campaign in which he finished 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA. A bounce-back season from Corbin would go a long way in helping the Dbacks compete for the NL West crown.
The good news for the Giants is that the Diamondbacks still have a considerable amount of flaws including a shaky bullpen, shallow bench and big question marks in right field and the leadoff spot in their order after losing Ender Inciarte in the Miller trade. In the deal, Arizona also gave up Aaron Blair, their top pitching prospect, and Dansby Swanson, the #1-overall pick in this year’s draft—meaning that between a depleted farm system and Greinke’s mega-deal, Arizona will be stuck in win-now mode if their young players fail to live up to expectations and the team struggles.
Despite the acquisitions of Greinke and Miller, the Giants still match up nicely with the Dbacks. Even when not accounting for a free agent addition in left field, the Giants lineup is deeper and more consistent. They have the stronger bullpen and their young, homegrown core projects to perform better as a whole into the future.
In any case, The NL West race just got a whole lot more exciting, and it will be interesting to see how the Giants respond to Arizona’s bullishness this offseason.