Arizona Diamondback season preview

After tremendous off season, D-Backs poised to reach elite status in 2016

Charles Landis, Sports Editor

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After an improved 2015 regular season, the Arizona Diamondbacks finished with a 79-83 overall record, a 15-win increase from the previous year. The D-Backs took a “go big or go home” approach to the offseason by spending the most money in team history.

With that idea in mind, it is essentially playoffs or bust for the D-Backs this season with what looks like a formidable team and a very good chance at making a deep run in the playoffs. Hopes are high in the desert for this summer, and the team will look to do its best to compete in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball, the National League West.

The D-Backs made the biggest splash of the offseason, signing former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke to a six year, $206-million-dollar deal. Greinke was expected to resign with the Dodgers for most of the offseason, until the D-Backs made him a deal he could not refuse.

Greinke was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season. He posted a 1.66 Earned Run Average, the best in Major League Baseball.

The Diamondbacks also acquired former Atlanta Braves pitcher Shelby Miller in a trade.

Miller had a 3.02 Earned Run Average last season for the Braves. Though his overall pitching record was 6-17, the Braves did not provide him with copious amounts of run support when he was pitching, which can lead to a lot of losses on the mound. The Braves provided 2.64 runs per game while Miller was pitching, a mark that was one of the worst in the league in 2015. The best runs per game provided was by Francisco Liriano with 5.19 runs per game.

The deal sent 25-year-old outfielder Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair, and the 2015 No. 1 draft pick short stop Dansby Swanson all to the Braves in exchange for Miller.

Inciarte spent the 2015 season for the D-Backs playing mostly in right field, and hit for a .303 batting average, and also added 21 stolen bases for the season.

Aaron Blair was in the minor leagues for all of the 2015 season. He is currently ranked as the 61st best prospect in Major League Baseball’s “Top 100” list.

Dansby Swanson played short stop at Vanderbilt and was the number one overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He is currently ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the MLB Top 100 list.

Many experts see the trade as completely lopsided towards the Braves and while that may be true, I see it as the cost of wanting to win now.

Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and center fielder A.J. Pollock are in the prime of their careers, and are the spark plugs to this team that ranked second in the National League for runs scored last season.

Putting runs on the scoreboard was not the D-Backs problem last year. It was lackluster performance in the pitching department. The team ranked in the bottom third of the entire league in Earned Run Average, and both of the premiere moves the team made this offseason put them in a much better position to win ballgames with a tremendous upgrade to the starting rotation.

With that being said, here are some of my predictions for the 2016 regular season Arizona Diamondbacks.

Projected Lineup: 1. 2B Jean Segura, 2. CF A.J. Pollock, 3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 4. RF David Peralta, 5. LF Yasmany Tomas, 6. 3B Jake Lamb, 7. C Wellington Castillo, 8. SS Nick Ahmed, 9. Pitchers Spot

Projected Starting Pitching Rotation: 1. RHP Zack Greinke, 2. RHP Shelby Miller, 3. LHP Patrick Corbin, 4. RHP Rubby De-La-Rosa, 5. LHP Robbie Ray

Biggest Strength

The biggest strength the Arizona Diamondbacks have going into the 2016 season is their offensive prowess. As stated before, the Diamondbacks ranked second in the National League in runs scored this past season. If Goldschmidt and Pollock can produce as they have in previous seasons, and right fielder David Peralta does not regress from the outstanding season he had last year where he hit for a .312 batting average, 78 runs batted in and 14 home runs, the D-Backs will be in prime position to score runs in bunches.

Biggest Weakness

The biggest weakness this team will face is pitching, mainly in the bullpen. The D-Backs did a great job of adding high quality depth to their starting rotation with Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, but it will be up to the bullpen to keep this team in close games and keep the lead in the later inning. Sinkerball pitcher Brad Zeigler is the designated closer this year. He pitched in 66 games last year with a 1.85 ERA and 30 saves. This will provide veteran experience for the 9th inning, but it is up to the other relievers to make sure the job gets done while they are on the mound.

Keys to Success

The biggest key to success this year for the team will be consistency. If the starting pitching rotation can consistently keep their team in the ballgame and not give up a lot of runs, and the offense provides the run scoring potential that they showed during last season, there is a very good chance this team will be one of the best in the league.

Prospect to Watch

Infielder Brandon Drury is a prospect to watch this season. He hit .303 in the minor leagues last year. If injuries occur at the big league level, Drury will most likely be the first prospect to be called up to fill in that positional need.

Breakout Candidate

My breakout candidate for the 2016 regular season is starting pitcher Shelby Miller. He is coming to a team where he does not have to be relied on as the No. 1 starter, and with an offense destined to score plenty of runs he should be able to win most of his games.

Projected Overall Record: 90-72

As long as there are no season-ending injuries to this team during the regular season, I see the Diamondbacks having lots of success and being able to compete for a playoff spot.

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Arizona Diamondback season preview