It’s time to start getting excited in Arizona.
In any other division, this Diamondbacks team could be a competitive, emerging team. However, in a division where an extremely talented Dodgers team isn’t close to the most complete roster, they are left to complete for third place with the San Francisco Giants. They’ve spent the last handful of years in the shadow of their three Californian division mates, but their farm system has been building up and is finally welcoming some of their most talented players to their big league starting lineup. If all goes well, this team will remain competitive against the top tier in their division, but perhaps make a jump where they are neck and neck with the Giants all year. Before jumping into their roster outlook, let’s take a look at their performance last year and projection for 2023:
2022 record: 74-88 (4th, NL East)
2023 FanGraphs projection: 78-84 (4th, NL East)
The expectation is for this team to make a jump from last year propelled by their young core that includes the new acquisition Gabriel Moreno, Rookie of the Year front runner Corbin Carroll, and bounce back candidate Alek Thomas. If Carroll isn’t the best National League rookie this year, I’d be shocked. He is the No. 2 ranked overall prospect by FanGraphs and looked like an immediate impact player in his 2022 cup of coffee. In just over 100 plate appearances, he hit for a 130 wRC+ while playing incredible defense (+5 OAA). Watching him run the bases is a delight — his legs move as fast as Sonic the Hedgehog and he pairs his speed with instinctual aggression. Truly, I cannot see another rookie having the impact he will this year if he continues to play anything like what we saw in 2022.
Beyond the rookies, the team is filled with solid players including Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, Josh Rojas, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and veterans Kyle Lewis and Evan Longoria. Lewis and Marte are two talented hitters looking to have bounce back offensive years. Marte was just around an average overall hitter last year despite being incredibly talented with an impressive batted ball profile. If all goes according to plan, he will be one of the top three hitters on the team in ’23.
Unlike many other mid-tier teams, this roster is filled with offensive depth. They have the ability to shuffle around their outfield with average to above average players, while leaving room for breakouts from Thomas and Jake McCarthy. Longoria hopes to be a good lefty masher again and Puerto Rican WBC standout, Emmanuel Rivera is looking to prove his minor leagues numbers are no fluke and that he can be an impactful big leaguer. I truly like this team and think they even have the depth to make aggressive trades and upgrade some spots from good to great.
Their pitching isn’t as formidable as their offense, but it is led by one of the most underappreciated pitchers in the game in Zac Gallen and multiple average options in the middle of the rotation. Their bullpen is the weak spot here, but I’m not sure of any average to below average teams that are going to roll out a good bullpen in 2023. Depending on the performance of the ‘pen and back end of their rotation, expect to see multiple top 100 prospects get opportunities as soon as April or May.
Brandon Pfaadt is maybe one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the sport, and since he is healthy, he might be the top in the game. After an impressive spring performance, he was optioned to minor league camp, but the expectation is he breaks this roster very soon. The same goes for Drey Jameson and Ryne Nelson. Nelson is likely to claim the fifth starter spot out of the gate, and Jameson is in a similar position where an injury or two would quickly assert him as well. It’s an exciting group of pitching prospects that will get a shot at some point in 2023. I’m not sure another team in baseball can say that to the extent that Arizona can. On the offensive side, Jordan Lawlar is the only top end prospect that D-Backs fans can hope to see impact this team other than the ones already mentioned. Lawlar was drafted in 2021 and has been impressive thus far while asserting him into the top 20 of prospect lists, but there is no need for the team to rush him.
If I had to pick one team in the middle of the league that is most likely to make a jump into contention in the near future, I’m picking this D-Backs squad. It’ll be tough for them to jump the Padres or Dodgers, but with this third wild card spot, I can seriously see them jumping into the playoffs as soon as next year. It’s an exciting time in Arizona, and this is a big year to see if some players can jump from exciting prospects to impact big leaguers.
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