Our last Arizona Sports roundtable looked at individual Arizona Diamondbacks players. Here, we’ve zoomed out to look at the roster from a wider view.
Radio hosts and staff members from Arizona Sports weigh in on more questions about the D-backs, who get their season underway Friday.
What is your biggest worry or problem that you see with the D-backs?
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Long relief may be the biggest issue after watching Taylor Widener and Taylor Clarke struggle. Alex Young will be protected, as he is the sixth starter, so it’s unlikely he fills the top long reliever role. Clarke and Widener will have some pressure on them to eat innings. But also, first base — can a combination of Jake Lamb, Christian Walker and Kevin Cron give Arizona the pop they need?
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: The schedule. If the D-backs don’t start strong, they’re doomed. I’m sure you could say that about a lot of teams but specifically games against the Dodgers and Astros, two of the best in baseball, and a ton of early games against the Padres, a team they’re directly competing with for a Wild Card spot, puts the onus on a good start.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: Production from first base. We’ll see (hopefully) Christian Walker get the bulk of time at first this season, but his groin strain this July doesn’t encourage anyone to think he can repeat his performance from last year. Jake Lamb could see time vs. right-handers, but I’m not totally convinced his 2017-18 production span wasn’t the outlier in his career.
Doug Franz, co-host of Doug & Wolf: The front office has done an excellent job, but the biggest problem is the roster isn’t as good as the Dodgers.
Ron Wolfley, co-host of Doug & Wolf: Depth. The Diamondbacks have really good talent across the board in their rotation, lineup and bullpen. But when you dig below the surface their depth is not their strength and that is concerning in this COVID-19 era.
Luke Lapinski, Arizona Sports host and reporter: I wouldn’t call it a worry, but the bullpen has a lot of unknowns right now. Moreso than any other part of the roster, at least.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: There is enough depth through most of the roster to believe down years by some players can be made up for with surprise seasons from others. But the bullpen? Even if Archie Bradley shines as closer, the D-backs are relying on a lot of guys who haven’t been bullpen staples over the course of several seasons.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: Pitching up and down. The only starting pitchers who put up encouraging numbers for their respective roles last year were Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen, who combined for 20 D-backs starts. And, yes, that includes Madison Bumgarner. The bullpen has a handful of guys who are “fine” but no one you feel great about in big situations, which is where I look at someone like Yoan Lopez as being crucial for them. He has the type of stuff to be that guy.
Matt Layman, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: I don’t love the bullpen. I think it doesn’t have enough pitchers that you feel really, really solid about for a whole season. That’s especially true of the back end of that bullpen, which of course is the most important part. It might be really good, but it’s a gamble.
Steve Zinsmeister, co-host of Ain’t No Fang podcast: This team doesn’t have the kind of top-notch pitching to keep up with the Dodgers’ top guys. Madison Bumgarner has a great track record, but he’s not in his prime. Robbie Ray had one great year. Zac Gallen hasn’t pitched enough to be considered elite. Even in the bullpen, the D-backs don’t have a lot of top-end talent.
Derek Montilla, co-host of Ain’t No Fang podcast: Their lack of depth in the bullpen and the outfield is concerning. While the move of Alex Young to the ‘pen may prove to be an asset, they didn’t add much else to a relief core that struggled last season with depth. The outfield also lacks seasoned options outside of the starters, which could be problematic if the team experiences any roster issues related to COVID-19 or injuries.
Cody Fincher, Arizona Sports producer and co-host of Ain’t No Fang: My biggest worry is the depth in the bullpen, particularly at closer. In a normal season, if a guy struggles out of the gate in a particular role, you might see the manager stick with that player so he can work out the kinks. In just 60 games, Torey Lovullo will have to make some tough decisions if guys struggle early. If Archie Bradley blows a few saves early on in the season, how long can Lovullo stick with him in the closer role? And if a change needs to be made, the D-backs only have one other reliever who has experience closing out games, and that’s Hector Rondon who has 92 career saves.
What part of this roster would you say is the strength of the team?
Gambo: Strength is the back of the rotation. Bumgarner and Ray are a decent 1-2. But Gallen, Weaver and Kelly should be one of the better back-of-the-rotation trios. With 36 starts expected out of those three, this is where Arizona can separate themselves from the rest of the pack if those guys pitch to expectations.
Burns: Starting pitching depth. Gambo has said it and I agree. First couple of spots in the rotation, most teams can match that. But one through five? I think the D-backs have the advantage there.
Marotta: Even with Bumgarner being my X factor and Mike Leake opting out of playing this year, I like the starting rotation. This is a big year for Robbie Ray, and he’s looked outstanding this summer. I almost answered with Zac Gallen’s name in the breakout candidate. His demeanor is as impressive as his stuff. Luke Weaver looks to be ready to go and a lot of teams would like to have someone as steady as Merrill Kelly as their fifth starter.
Franz: Consistent fighters throughout the lineup. Ketel is the only true stud but every player (minus Jake Lamb — and I hate saying that because I’m a huge fan of the person but I don’t get to be a fan when I write opinions) will fight a pitcher to the death. Most pitchers are bound to make mistakes when there are no breaks in a lineup.
Wolf: The rotation. Madison Bumgarner’s presence is huge and his prowess should be even better. I think he was in need of change as much as the D-backs were at the top of the rotation and don’t believe he’s in decline. Robbie Ray is in the best shape of his life and Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen should bring great stability to this rotation if they stay healthy. Mike Leake opting out sucked buttermilk but I think Merrill Kelly has something to prove. This rotation, and the defense the D-backs can run out there, should give them an opportunity to compete for a wildcard spot.
Lapinski: The balance is what stands out to me. Maybe Bumgarner isn’t a dominant No. 1, but they have four pitchers capable of pitching like No. 2’s. And while Marte is clearly the leader offensively, there aren’t really any glaring holes in the lineup.
Zimmerman: I would put the collection of infielders up against any in baseball. Eduardo Escobar, Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed range from underrated to elite in different respects. Vargas might be able to break out if he gets enough at-bats. And hey, someone who plays the corners (Walker, Lamb and Cron) has got to be up for a good year, right?
Olson: Overall balance in the order and in the field. A lot of above-average hitters for their position and solid-to-great defensive players. Keep an eye on a beefier Ildemaro Vargas adding more pop from DH as well. I continue to lead the bandwagon on this offense being underrated.
Layman: It’s the depth in the rotation. I think you have to feel good about Gallen and Weaver being your No. 3 and No. 4 starters. Also, the outfield depth is really strong.
Zinsmeister: Depth. Lots of depth. In the past, it felt like the D-backs had exactly five MLB-caliber starting pitchers. Now they have eight to ten. They’ve been short on quality outfielders in years past, but that’s no longer an issue with the additions of Starling Marte, Kole Calhoun and Jon Jay. Don’t forget that Josh Rojas can play pretty much any position on the field!
Montilla: I feel like the D-backs starting rotation is criminally underrated. While I still like Alex Young as a starter, the combination of Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly is better than they’re given credit for. Weaver, Gallen, and Kelly are all young, talented pitchers who could benefit greatly from being around an ace like Bumgarner. If we see Bumgarner revitalized by a young, competitive team and the same Robbie Ray that was feeling the best he ever has during summer camp locked in and leading the way, the D-backs could have a formidable staff to contend with.