SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — A year ago at this time, the D-backs were riding the high of signing the most desirable free-agent pitcher, Zack Greinke, and between Greinke and Shelby Miller, who’d been acquired by trade, Arizona was supposed to dominate pitching-wise.
Greinke had a terrible year and Miller was worse. Plus, A.J. Pollock missed almost the entire season after he fractured his elbow sliding during spring training, cutting a big hole in the Arizona offense. Here’s the Pollock injury. Keep in mind this is the third inning of an exhibition game:
It didn’t look that bad at first but you can see Pollock knew he was seriously injured, as he went directly to the clubhouse.
Even without Pollock the D-backs actually had a halfway-decent year offensively, led by Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Jake Lamb, who had a breakout season. Their pitching staff, though, was a mess, allowing 890 runs — more than even the Rockies, and that’s hard to do. Greinke’s 4.37 ERA, his highest since 2005, was actually best among D-backs starters.
It’s a new year. Greinke is healthy. Miller has supposedly figured out whatever was wrong with him last year (I’d kind of hoped the Cubs would trade for him; he seemed a perfect candidate for Bosmosis). That’s what the Diamondbacks are going to have to do in order to contend this year — have consistently good starting pitching, because the offense is quite solid, helped by the return of a healthy Pollock.
The D-backs did subtract some offense to get some pitching help, trading Jean Segura, who had a breakout year at the plate (.319/.368/.499, 20 HR, 203 hits), to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker. (Other players were in this deal, but those were the centerpieces.) Either Chris Owings or the good-field, no-hit Nick Ahmed will take over at shortstop from Segura.
Greinke, Miller and Walker make up a pretty good starting trio. Robbie Ray, who struck out a lot of guys (218 in 174⅓ innings) is the No. 4 guy and Patrick Corbin, who was once thought of as ace material, brings up the rear of the rotation. Top prospect Archie Bradley is still around, too.
If I had to pick a possible surprise team this year, it would be the Diamondbacks. They’ve had an odd pattern since their last playoff year in 2011 — two .500 seasons in a row, a 98-loss season, then back to near .500 (79-83), then 93 losses in 2016. An improvement from 69 wins to wild-card contention would be a significant one — at least 15 or 16 wins’ worth — but it’s not impossible.
The Cubs and D-backs will play their entire season schedule in a two-week period in August — August 1-2-3 at Wrigley, August 11-12-13 at Chase Field.