I’ve always been a huge fan of interleague play, despite several valid criticisms. It does create a schedule imbalance. It’s weird to have one league with teams that specifically plan and pay for a designated hitter only to severely minimize that player’s role in some road games. It’s weird for the other league to have to bat a random bench guy as the designated hitter while their opponents have the advantage of using a positionless slugger. With an odd number of teams in each league, interleague play is happening at all times and playoff scenarios could potentially be decided on the last game of the season while competing teams are using the other league’s rules. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s great for fans to get to watch their teams compete against players and teams that they don’t normally see. Sometimes, that means facing the Padres, but other opponents are a lot of fun. The Arizona Diamondbacks are fun.
Arizona hasn’t finished above .500 in any of the past five years, but they look primed to bust that trend in 2017. They’ve got one of the best hitters in the world in Paul Goldschmidt. They have under-the-radar five tool stud A.J. Pollock in center field. They have electric strikeout stuff in the rotation, including the nasty sliders of Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray. They have 40-year-old closer Fernando Rodney doing his usual entertaining Fernando Rodney things: striking out lots of hitters (despite copious walks) and slingin’ arrows when the job gets done. Every regular hitter in the Diamondbacks lineup except one is under 30 years old. The one guy who isn’t is catcher Jeff Mathis who...OK, maybe not everything about the Diamondbacks is fun.
Excitement-devoid old backstops with a career .563 OPS aside, the Diamondbacks surround Goldschmidt and Pollock with a variety of quality bats. All the concerns about Yasmany Tomas’ ability to play the field upon his signing proved to be extremely valid, but at the plate, he’s a powerful force, albeit one that packs a low OBP. Cleanup man Jake Lamb adds some thump from the left side, as the third baseman hit 29 dingers last year and seems to get better each year.
Second baseman Brandon Drury is the Swiss Army knife of the team; he serves as the primary second baseman, but has major league experience at every position on the field outside the battery. He’s not a particularly good defender, but has enough power and knack for quality contact to keep the Diamondbacks in the black at the keystone. Left fielder David Peralta brings an almost identical offensive skill set as Drury’s but from the left side.
In the rotation, the Diamondbacks have a few interesting arms besides the ace Greinke and the wild Ray. We’ll miss the red-hot Zack Godley and will instead tangle with Taijuan Walker and Patrick Corbin. The Sox have faced Walker before; he came over from the Mariners in trade. He’s a righty groundballer with a very effective mid-90s fastball and notably less-effective breaking pitches, namely a splitter, slider, and curve. Corbin is a bit of a wormkiller himself, but from the left side. He primarily relies on a sinker/slider mix, with the occasional changeup thrown in. Both Corbin’s strikeout and walk rates are rather pedestrian, so he was a bit miscast at the Diamondbacks number-two guy coming into the year, but he’s a perfectly useful guy in the middle or at the back of a rotation.
EDIT: Walker was placed on the 10-day DL yesterday. His replacement for Wednesday’s start is TBA.
With the Mets faltering and the non-Cubs portion of the NL Central looking jumbled and average at best, the Diamondbacks are in great position for a Wild Card slot in the National League. They’ve got a good rotation, a strong lineup, and a bullpen with plenty of guys that can make you whiff, such as Rodney, JJ Hoover, Andrew Chafin, and Archie Bradley. I’d bet on them being in the mix for much of the year. It’s unfortunate we’re catching them at Chase Field, as they have the best home record in the National League to this point. This is going to be a tough series.
(Whew. I made it through the whole thing without saying anything about the Shelby Miller trade. That was hard.)
Probable Starting Pitchers
Monday, May 22: Zack Greinke vs. Miguel Gonzalez
Tuesday, May 23: Patrick Corbin vs. Dylan Covey
Wednesday, May 24: TBA vs. Jose Quintana
|1. Gregor Blanco - CF||SP1. Zack Greinke - RHP|
|2. David Peralta - RF||SP2. Patrick Corbin - LHP|
|3. Paul Goldschmidt - 1B||SP3. Taijuan Walker - RHP|
|4. Jake Lamb - 3B||SP4. Robbie Ray - LHP|
|5. Yasmany Tomas - LF||SP5. Zack Godley - RHP|
|6. Brandon Drury - 2B||CL. Fernando Rodney - RHP|
|7. Nick Ahmed - SS||RP1. Jorge De La Rosa - LHP|
|8. Jeff Mathis - C||RP2. JJ Hoover - RHP|
|9. Pitchy McPitcher - P||RP3. Archie Bradley - RHP|