PHOENIX- The National League West has been a two horse race the last four seasons. The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the division title the past three years, and the San Francisco Giants have won the world series twice in that four year span and three times in the past six. The last year that both the Giants and Dodgers did not make the postseason was 2011 when the Arizona Diamondbacks took the NL West crown. With the Dodgers and Giants looking a bit weaker, and a ton of question marks in Colorado and San Diego the Arizona Diamondbacks may have a legitimate shot at running the table in the NL West in 2016.
The Diamondbacks are coming off a season where the club rebounded from a dreadful 2014 campaign when they finished with the worst record in the major leagues. The Diamondbacks won 79 games in 2015. A 15 win increase from the forgettable 2014.
The heart and soul of the Diamondbacks is First Basemen Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt seems to be in the NL MVP discussion every season. He finished second in the voting behind Nationals Bryce Harper this past season. Goldschmidt at age 28 is in his prime a three time all star (2013-2015), and two time Gold Glove Award, and Silver Slugger Award Winner. The Diamondbacks have a superstar who can do it all hit, hit for power, field, and even run the bases better than most first baseman.
Goldschmidt however isn’t the only great hitter on the bull club. Quietly the D-Backs where one of the best hitting teams in all of the majors. The team ranked 8th in the big’s in runs scored, second in the National League only behind Colorado. The reason behind the D-Backs offensive success wasn’t the long ball as the team only hit 154 home runs just below league average ranking 17th in the majors in that category. Rather than slugging the ball out of the park the D-Backs found ways to manufacture runs. They hit the eighth most doubles in the majors, hit the third most triples, and stole the second most bases. The Diamondbacks had four players finish in the top 10 in the national league in batting average including the whole starting outfield. All star first basemen Paul Goldschmidt led the team with an average of .321, fellow All Star AJ Pollack batted .315, Leftfielder David Peralta batted .312, and Right Fielder Ender Incarnate batted .302.The baseball world just watched a Kansas City team that did not rely on the long ball rather the stolen bases, and clutch base hits to win ball games win the world series. The Diamondbacks play a similar brand of baseball.
The Diamondbacks also played exceptionally well in the field. The ball club ranked sixth best in fielding percentage, and committed the ninth least errors in the majors. Two Diamondbacks took home Gold Gloves AJ Pollack winning his first, and Paul Goldschmidt winning his second.
The Diamondbacks biggest weakness for the moment is their pitching both the starting rotation and bullpen. Diamondbacks starters finished 23rd in the majors with a combined 4.04 ERA. The Arizona bullpen however finished a pretty solid 13th in combined ERA at 3.56. Both the D-Backs bullpen and rotation have some young pieces that should help the ball club in 2015.
The rotation features 26 year old Ruby De La Rosa who won 14 games in 2015. He will look to lower his ERA which was a little high (4.67), 2013 NL All Star Patrick Corbin who returned from Tommy John surgery went 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 16 starts in 2015, and Archie Bradley a top prospect in all of baseball entering 2015 just 23 years old will look to build upon his potential.
Currently the rotation lacks a true ace. With an ambitious General Manager in Dave Stewart once a starting pitcher in his playing days the Diamondbacks could look to the free agent, or trade market in aquarting a frontline starting pitcher. The team apparently offered a $120 million dollar contract to Johnny Cueto already that was rejected. Cueto could still be an option for Arizona if he were to want to pitch in the desert as he would fit like a glove for an Arizona team looking for that front line starting pitcher.
As for the bullpen the Brad Ziegler a 36 year old veteran is coming off a phenomenal season. He closed out 30 games with a 1.85 ERA in 66 games pitched. The Diamondbacks could look to possibly add an 8th man like Darren O’Day to set up Ziegler or perhaps even have Ziegler pitch the 8th inning as the team has been linked to many trade rumors involving closers like Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Mark Melancon.
As for now the Arizona Diamondbacks are set offensively, and defensively for success in 2016. If they add a front line starter and perhaps anothor arm to the back end of the bullpen the Diamondbacks may just be the favorites in the National League West despite how little anyone talks about them.
UPDATE: THE DIAMONDBACKS HAVE SIGNED STARTING PITCHER ZACK GREINKE TO A 6 YEAR DEAL