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Fantasy Baseball Team Previews – Arizona Diamondbacks
After a disappointing 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks went all in for this upcoming season. The team made perhaps the biggest off-season move in all of baseball, signing free agent pitcher Zach Greinke to a massive six-year deal worth $206.5 million. While it sure seems like they paid Greinke based on his prior accomplishments, Arizona finally has a proven ace to lead their rotation.
Aside from adding Grienke, the team made a series of interesting moves centered on exchanging young prospects for more immediate contributors. In December, number one overall pick Dansby Swanson and OF Ender Inciarte were sent to Atlanta in a deal for Shelby Miller. Arizona followed that up with a January trade with the Brewers that sent Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill and shortstop prospect Isan Diaz to Milwaukee in exchange for Jean Segura. Many in the MLB community felt that the Diamondbacks gave up way too much young talent in these transactions, but fortunately for fantasy players the overall long-term health of an organization is not a relevant concern.
While the Segura trade didn’t make much sense from a baseball perspective, the fantasy value of the players involved in the deal is largely unchanged. Similarly, Miller should benefit from playing on a better team, but he’s moving to a hitter-friendly ballpark in a division with stronger offensive lineups so that could very well be a wash. Lastly, Inciarte stands to gain the most value as he now projects to be an everyday player and hit atop the Braves order.
Key Additions: SP Zach Greinke, SP Shelby Miller, RP Tyler Clippard, SS Jean Segura
Key Losses: SP Chase Anderson, SP Jeremy Hellickson, RP David Hernandez, OF Ender Inciarte, IF Aaron Hill, SS Dansby Swanson
2016 Prediction: 85-77 (3rd in NL West, miss playoffs)
Projected Lineup (per MLB RosterResource)
CF – A.J. Pollock
2B – Jean Segura
1B – Paul Goldschmidt
RF – David Peralta
C – Wellington Castillo
3B – Jake Lamb
LF – Yasmany Tomas
SS – Nick Ahmed
A.J. Pollock – Pollock really broke out last year and is now being drafted as an early second rounder. Some may be skeptical of his sudden success, but I’m expecting another season where he hits around .300 with 20 homers and 35-plus steals. He’s always had this skill set, 2015 just happened to be the first time he was healthy and an everyday player. While Pollock bounced around the order a bunch last season, even hitting cleanup for some time, he now appears to be locked into the leadoff spot. This will obviously hurt him a bit when it comes to RBI’s, but it should help with steals and runs scored.
Jean Segura – The move to Arizona should boost Segura’s value, but I still don’t think it’s enough to make him a top 12 shortstop. While he’s only 25, it seems like he’s ages removed from the 12 homer 44 steal season he put up in 2013. Hitting between Pollock and Goldschmidt should be a dream scenario for any hitter, though can we really count on Segura, who hasn’t had an OBP above .289 in either of the past two seasons, to take advantage? I’m not expecting much, but his ability to steal 30 bases alone is enough to make him a relevant middle infield option in roto.
Paul Goldschmidt – Goldy is an elite fantasy option and one of the most balanced contributors at any position. I currently have him ranked as my number three player overall, but I have no issue with anyone who takes him one or two. Personally, I don’t project him to steal 20 bases again, though even 12-14 would be sufficient for him to maintain his value. My only concern would be that replacing Inciarte with Segura, who has terrible on base skills, atop the lineup could reduce his opportunities to drive in runs.
David Peralta – Now in an every day role, there is an expectation that Peralta will improve upon on impressive stats from 2015. However, while the additional playing time will help, there’s more to be considered when making this projection. He’s doesn’t really profile as hitter who will bat .300 or steal 15 bases so even over the course of a full season I’m expecting him to hit around .285 and swipe 8-12 bags. That said, hitting cleanup regularly in this lineup should boost his counting stats and lead to 20-24 home runs with around 90 RBI. I currently have him ranked 40th at the position and expect him to be a dependable third or fourth outfielder for fantasy teams.
Wellington Castillo – Going into last season, Castillo wasn’t even on the radar of most fantasy players. However, a mid-season trade to Arizona apparently turned him into a completely different player. The catcher hit 17 home runs and drove in 50 runs in 80 games playing for his new club and now his prospects for 2016 look far more promising. Castillo did show some power in limited opportunities with the Cubs so there’s reason to believe his second-half wasn’t just a fluke. I currently have him 13th in my catcher rankings, which makes him a low-end starter in most leagues.
Yasmany Tomas – The Cuban prospect had an interesting 2015, failing to provide the power many expected, but managing to hit above .300 for much of the season. Defense proved to be a major issue for Tomas, as Arizona has already given up playing him at third and is now trying to turn him into a right fielder. 15-20 home runs are certainly a possibility, but the positional concerns have be worried about how much he’s really going to play. I don’t have Tomas ranked inside my top 20 at 3B or top 60 at OF so I wouldn’t expect much of a fantasy contribution from him.
Any Other Business?
- Jake Lamb – Still young and showed flashes in 2015, but could easily be in a platoon with Drury by mid-season. Currently only relevant in NL-only leagues, though that could change if he continues to develop and holds onto the job.
- Nick Ahmed – Defense oriented player who’s not a threat at the plate. Locked into the eight spot in the order and could lose some playing to both Owings and Gosselin.
- Zach Greinke
- Patrick Corbin
- Shelby Miller
- Rubby De La Rosa
- Robbie Ray
The Diamondbacks have three starters that will be relevant in all leagues. Greinke is a consensus top 10 option, though some regression should be expected. He’s a guy I’m probably going to avoid, mostly because he doesn’t have the strikeout upside of the other pitchers in his tier and I have a feeling that many will value him based on his 2015 stats.
I have Corbin and Miller ranked in the 45-55 range among starting pitchers and both should be dependable options for your fantasy squad. Personally, I prefer Corbin as he’s currently going later in drafts and I’m confident he can regain his form from 2013. That said I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller doubled his win total from last season so he has some upside as well.
De La Rosa and Ray may be used as streamers in the right situation, but neither should be drafted in mixed formats. Additionally, Arizona has a pair of young prospects in Bradley and Shipley who are both projected to join the rotation at some point in 2016.
- Closer: Brad Zeigler – He’s got one of the worst strike out rates among projected closers, but is still very reliable when it comes to converting save opportunities. Job security and playing for a playoff contender make him a top 20 option at the position.
- Next up: Daniel Hudson/Tyler Clippard – Neither is expected to challenge Ziegler for the closing role, though both would be options if he were to get hurt. I’d give the slight edge to Clippard based on his track record, but it’s not really worth speculating at this point.
Archie Bradley (SP) – Bradley was very impressive in his first few starts after getting called up last April, but really struggled down the stretch. He gave up at least four runs in each of his last four starts and finished the year with a 5.80 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. To be fair, all of Bradley’s poor outings came after he took a liner off the face in a game against the Rockies and missed two weeks. I certainly expect him to bounce back and pitch better in 2016, but his low strikeout rate and poor control should limit his fantasy upside.
Brandon Drury (3B) – Drury is a solid prospect and had a quick cup of coffee with the big league club last September. He has good patience at the plate and should hit for a decent average with 15-20 home run power. The likeliest scenario is that Drury will get called up mid-season and platoon with Jake Lamb at third. There is also the option to play him at second and move Segura to short if Ahmed doesn’t hit. Either way the lack of a path to consistent playing time is a major concern.
Peter O’Brien (C/OF) – While O’Brien clearly has the talent to be a major league player, the Diamondbacks can’t seem to figure out his defensive position. He spent most of last season playing left field before temporarily getting moved back behind the plate. His defense is a clear issue and unfortunately for fantasy owners it’s highly unlikely that he will ever become good enough to catch at the pro level. That said, O’Brien has 30 home run power and would certainly become relevant if injuries force Arizona to put him in the lineup.
Braden Shipley (SP) – Some had Shipley ranked as Arizona’s top pitching prospect heading into last season, but a disappointing 2015 has removed much of the hype. His strikeout rate and other peripherals regressed pitching in AA last year and he’s slated to start 2016 in the PCL. Given that he’s already 24, a mid season call-up seems likely though it certainly doesn’t look like he has top of the rotation upside anymore.