MLB: AZ Diamondbacks 2015 Preview
As the Arizona Diamondbacks begin the 2015 MLB season, they are looking to bounce back after a terrible 2014 season that ended with the worst record in baseball, at 64-98.
They have a new Manager in Chip Hale. This is his first big league manager’s job; new Coaches, Mark Grace and Andy Green; a new General Manager, Dave Stewart; and a new Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations, De Jon Watson; and begin their first full season with Chief Baseball Officer, Tony La Russa.
There have been numerous roster changes as well. Half of the 25 players on this year’s Opening Day roster were not part of the Opening Day roster in 2014.
Let’s take a look at what will need to happen in order for this to team to win more than the 65 to 70 games that the writers have predicted for this season.
One positive is that the Diamondbacks will have several players return from disable list after injuries suffered last season. With the return of Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock, the lineup should be at full strength. The Diamondbacks’ lineup looks strong with hitting and power and young players eager to show they belong in the Majors. With little to no pressure to win, since most writers have picked them to be one of the worst teams in all of baseball, they should be able to relax and produce at the plate.
The Diamondbacks’ also made some offseason moves with their pitching, acquiring right-hander, Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson should help boost a rotation that needed another established starter. Right-hander, Rubby De La Rosa, was also acquired during the offseason. De La Rosa should be able to provide a power arm for the starting rotation, with his fastball hitting close to 100 MPH.
If this team is going to improve on last year’s win total, the starting staff must pitch past the sixth inning regularly.
Josh Collmenter will be the number one starter. Jeremy Hellickson will be number two, with Rubby De La Rosa as their number three. Leaving Chase Anderson and top prospect, Archie Bradley, to fill out the starting rotation. The pitching must overachieve this season, as they will not be intimidating to other teams. The key to the starting staff might be Chase Anderson, who won his first five starts last season in his rookie year. There is reason to believe Anderson will be a solid starter based on last year’s performance. His arm did tire out late in the season last year, but hopefully that will not be a factor this season. De La Rosa throws harder than any starter on the team. If he can fix his control problems, they will have another solid starter alongside Collmenter, Hellickson and Anderson. The most intriguing pitcher will be Bradley. He comes with a lot of upside and he will need to be able to handle the pressure of being considered the salvation of this team’s pitching staff. When Patrick Corbin returns he could be the ace of the rotation and jump-start the rotation once again. The question is if/when Corbin returns, who could he replace in the starting rotation?
The bullpen has been shaky over the past three seasons, but appears to be stronger for 2015. Brad Ziegler and Evan Marshall will return to their setup roles, where they were solid last season. Ziegler has been dealing with a knee injury, but looks ready to go. The Diamondbacks have a lot of talent throughout the bullpen, including former starters Daniel Hudson and Randall Delgado, but they will lean on Ziegler and Marshall to hold leads and then get to Addison Reed to close out games.
The Diamondbacks have not been very good at maintaining leads over the last three years. They have blown an average of 23 saves per season during that time. Last year Brad Ziegler and Addison Reed combined for 14 blown saves, the most of any duo on the same team.
Reed will need to be more reliable in close, late-game situations this year. He blew six saves in his first season in Arizona last year and most of those off homeruns. Reed gave up 11 homeruns last season. During Spring Training he was having shoulder concerns, but he insists he is healthy. Fans will understand a loss or two by setup guy(s) and/or the closer, but fourteen losses by the relievers is too many, particularly for a team that has struggled to win games. The return of David Hernandez, likely in May, will add another powerful arm to the back end of the bullpen and will hopefully provide more depth for Ziegler and Marshall.
Perhaps everyone’s favorite story for this season will be the return of Daniel Hudson, who lost the last three seasons of his career due to back-to-back Tommy John surgeries. Hudson returned for three relief appearances down the stretch last year and showed his mid-90s velocity during 2015 Spring Training. He was named a reliever before the regular season, but if he shows pitching endurance, he might be put in as a starter later in the season. Let’s hope he can finally stay healthy and deliver on the promise he showed in the early part of his career.
Lastly, the lineup must produce a lot of runs. Their situational hitting needs to be better than it has been the last three years. With A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and possibly Yasmany Tomas, (who is at AAA Reno learning to play the outfield) there is reason to believe this team can be an offensive threat. Speed on the bases from Pollock and Ender Inciarte is something we need to see as well.
This season the Diamondbacks should focus on winning at least 12 to 15 more games than last season while avoiding a last-place finish in the division. That can be done by improving their winning at home. Last year they won only 33 games at Chase Field. They have the talent and the young prospects to improve on that record this year.
Remember, this team is in a rebuilding season. Management will be more likely to bring up young players to see how they can perform for the future. If these players can come up and make an impact sooner rather than later, the Diamondbacks could certainly improve on last year’s record.
Check back here all season long for updates on the Arizona Diamondbacks and follow me on Twitter: @Basebaldaz. You can listen to me on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 PHX for AZ Sports Talk Saturday from 10AM to 1PM AZ time.