St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks loaded up with pitching to compliment a talented offense during free agency, throwing them into the NL West conversation ahead of 2016. The St. Louis Cardinals will face the D-Backs seven times this year.
2015 Record: 79-83
Notable Departures: 2B Aaron Hill
Notable Newcomers: SP Zack Greinke, SP Shelby Miller, RP Tyler Clippard, SS Jean Segura
Against St. Louis in 2016: 4 games April 25-28 @ARI, 3 games May 20-22 @STL
The Arizona Diamondbacks had an exciting offseason, adding two top of the rotation starting pitchers in Zach Greinke and Shelby Miller. They were able to woo the free agent Greinke to the tune of $206.5 million over six years. The 32-year-old’s average salary will be $34.4 million a year, or roughly a little bit more than $1 million per start.
On December 9, it was reported that the D-Backs and the Braves had reached a deal that would send Shelby Miller to Arizona. In return, the Braves received Arizona’s 2015 first round and #1 overall pick SS Dansby Swanson as part of a three-player deal. The Braves also received OF Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair.
Experienced reliever Tyler Clippard will look to compete for the setup role in the Arizona bullpen after signing on for two years and $12.25 million. Clippard cited Arizona’s potential moving forward as a big reason for why he chose not to re-sign with the 2015 NL Champion New York Mets.
In all, a team that got just 69 quality starts from their entire staff in 2015 added two starters that combined for 51 by themselves a year ago. Greinke had a 1.66 ERA, his WAR value was 9.3. That’s ridiculous.
Clippard solidifies the Arizona bullpen behind closer Brad Ziegler. The now 30-year-old Clippard has a career 2.88 ERA and has even closed out 53 ball games in his nine-year career. Clippard is capable of filling a variety of roles in that bullpen, and says that he would not lock himself into any one role.
There are still some questions that will need to be answered concerning the back end of Arizona’s starting rotation along with how the middle innings will be covered. However, the moves they made this offseason were crucial in moving towards competing for the NL West, especially considering the offensive unit that Arizona can roll out there.
Offensively, everything revolves around the perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. “Goldy” is one of those “once in a generation” talents that has flown under the radar, mostly because Arizona has never been particularly competitive during his time there.
The 28-year-old first baseman is in the prime of his career. He boasts a career .299/.395/.535 career slash line. 2015 was his most complete year so far. Goldschmidt finished second in MVP voting behind Bryce Harper after slashing .321/.435/.570 with 33 home runs and 110 runs batted in. He also stole 21 bases, walked 118 times and scored 103 runs.
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Goldy’s numbers are very Albert-like from his earlier years, and the D-Backs have a strong core of offensive talent to go along with their superstar at first base.
In the outfield, the Diamondbacks will have David Peralta in left, AJ Pollock in center with Yasmany Tomas patrolling right. Those three combined to slash .303/.353/.479 in 2015. Peralta led the National League with 10 triples last year while Pollock was second in the league in hits with 192.
The Diamondbacks will be eager to see what a full season of Jake Lamb at third base might look like. The 25-year-old slashed .263/.331/.386 over 350 at-bats as a rookie in 2015.
The other offseason acquisition of the D-Backs, shortstop Jean Segura solidifies the left side of the Arizona infield. The 25-year-old shortstop has a career .266/.301/.360 slash line.
Chris Owings will handle second base duties, and he’s even younger than the other two at 24 years of age. Ownings slashed just .227/.264/.322 in 2015, but also committed just five errors defensively for a .990 fielding percentage.
With Goldschmidt being the “veteran” of the infield at 28, the Diamondbacks appear to have the pieces in place for long-term stability at those four positions.
In summary, the D-Backs took some major steps this offseason towards competing for the NL West title in 2016. I still think that they will struggle at times when Greinke and Miller are not on the mound, but those two give them a huge advantage in 40% of the games they will play in this year.
The NL West is now a three-team race between the D-Backs and the two California teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of those three squads won the division. I think the D-Backs are still a year and a starting pitcher away, but anything could happen.
Next: St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: San Diego Padres
I like the Cardinals to take two of three April match ups against the D-Backs as that group still works to develop their identity. The Cardinals are 24-10 against the D-Backs at Busch Stadium III, so I see them taking two close ballgames when the teams meet in may. All that adds up to a 4-2 season series win.