Last season did not go as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks would have hoped, and a lot of that had to do with the pitching staff. They let loose some serious capital to get both Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke. Neither were any good in 2017, and the middle of the rotation was also a mess. Now we turn to 2017, and the hurlers in the desert are likely to shake out as follows:
Zack Greinke – The Ace(?)
The last-minute coup d’etat in 2016, the Diamondbacks wrest Greinke from not one division rival, but two. He nearly tripled his 2015 stats and his WHIP jumped from 0.84 to 1.27. His K-rate plummeted. This was not an unusual development; Greinke has had amazing years and cratering seasons in his past. His 2016 season wasn’t surprising, either, when taking a look at how lucky he got in 2015. He’s currently setup to be the ace of the staff, and he is likely to bounce back from his 2016, but he will not be anywhere near his 2015 campaign. As far as aces go, he’s middle-of-the-pack.
Taijuan Walker – The Newbie
The newest Diamondbacks pitcher was acquired for Jean Segura this offseason. Fangraphs currently has Walker with a middling 4.04 ERA and 1.24 WHIP and 8.22 K/9. He should exceed those numbers based on his 2015 first half. The 24-year-old went into July with a 3.29 ERA last year, and a 5.68 ERA from June to the season’s end. He had bone chips cleaned up in his foot this offseason. Bone chips he admitted affected his push off, and his ability to pitch pain-free. He had too many dingers in a pitcher friendly ballpark, and he moves to a bandbox. If he is fully healthy, he could be an amazing #2 for Arizona.
Robbie Ray – The Enigma
Robbie Ray had an unusual 2015 campaign. He struck out everyone under the sun (11.25 K/9) but couldn’t get anyone else out (4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP). Ray could easily surpass Walker as the #2. His peripherals last years scream positive regression. His BABIP is in the .350s, his HR/FB% was elevated from his career norm. Ray could get the quick hook this year as the second and third time through the order gave him fits last year. Ray could get as high as dethroning Greinke as the staff ace, or he could end up in AAA.
Archie Bradley – The Prospect
The great hope for the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation (other than Shelby Miller coming out of the sewer) is that Archie Bradley returns on his promise as the #7 overall pick in the 2014 draft. There is some promise there, as he struck out more than a batter per inning last year, but gave up a 5.02 ERA. He walks too many batters and gives up too many home runs, but if he can undo one of those issues, he will be far better than a #4 starter.
Shelby Miller – The Regret
The Arizona Diamondbacks moving Shelby Miller for Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Enciarte might go down as the worst trade ever. The hurler dazzled in both St. Louis and Atlanta, but he fell apart in Arizona. He was demoted to AAA last season and was lit up there. Adding insult to injury, the Braves promoted Swanson to the majors while AAA hitters shelled Miller. He long out-performed his FIP, which caught up with him last season. Miller could be in for a long season.
Patrick Corbin – The Recovery?
If Miller bombs, the one-time up and comer could make his way back to the rotation. A 2014 last minute Tommy John Surgery cost him all of 2014 and most of 2015 after having a great 2013 campaign. Corbin has only three pitches (fastball-slider-changeup), and he lost velocity on both the fastball and the slider, while increasing his velocity on his changeup He is destined to a middle relief role, but most outlets have him slotted as the #5 starter right now.
The Diamondbacks’ 2017 pitching staff is enigmatic, with a lot of question marks. Will Greinke bounce back? Can Shelby Miller regain his form, or end up in AAA? Will Bradley return on his draft stock? Will Robbie Ray breakout? Ultimately, not much of this matters for Arizona, as all of these would need to break right for them to even sniff the playoffs. As it stands, however, the season should at least be interesting.