2020 Record: 25-35
Last place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.84 (20th in MLB)
Team OPS: .704 (22nd in MLB)
What Went Right
Zac Gallen showed that his impressive 15-start run as a rookie was no fluke by essentially duplicating it this year (2.75 ERA in 72 IP, compared to a 2.81 ERA in 80 IP in 2019). Also, free agent signing Kole Calhoun hit 16 homers and, ummm, speedy Tim Locastro was really good off the bench.
What Went Wrong
As disappointing as the offense was, the biggest flop here was Madison Bumgarner, who lost three mph off his fastball in the first year of a five-year, $85 million contract and turned in a 6.48 ERA. Luke Weaver and Robbie Ray were just as bad, and Ray, a free agent-to-be, was pretty much given away to Toronto before the trade deadline. Ketel Marte, probably the NL’s third best player in 2019, lost 250 points of OPS, going from .981 to .732. Eduardo Escobar also suffered a 200-point drop, and Carson Kelly went from .826 to .749. The two youngsters given opportunities, Daulton Varsho and Josh Rojas, struggled as well. With the team going bust and payroll apparently set to drop, Starling Marte and closer Archie Bradley were sent packing at the deadline, even though both were under control for 2021.
** Ketel Marte, the first Diamondback off the board in fantasy leagues this year, never got it going at any point and finished with just two homers in 195 plate appearances. Wrist inflammation that put him on the IL in September might have had something to do with it. On the plus side, his exit velocity and launch angle weren’t much worse than in 2019, and he hit a new low with his strikeout rate, fanning just 10.8% of the time. It seems likely that he’ll bounce back, though probably not all of the way to 32 homers.
** Gallen can rack up strikeouts with his curve and change and generate ample soft contact on his fastball. He rates as a top-20 starting pitcher for 2021.
** Bumgarner threw a little harder late in the year after sitting out much of August with a back strain, but he was still averaging just 89 mph then. He sat at 91 mph in his final few seasons in San Francisco. The Diamondbacks have to hope he gets that back and reemerges as an above average starter in the final four years of his deal. There isn’t much reason for fantasy leaguers to be optimistic, though.
** Weaver wasn’t quite as bad as his 1-9 record and 6.58 ERA suggests; he had a 55/18 K/BB ratio and a 4.67 FIP in 52 innings. His velocity held steady for the most part, but he threw his changeup about 2 ½ mph slower than in 2019 and had significantly less success with it. That seems like something he can fix. He’s a flyball pitcher, and one wonders if he’ll be a candidate to make 30 starts next year after being limited to 12 each of the last two seasons (in 2019 by injury and in 2020 by the schedule), but he could be useful enough in strikeouts and WHIP to eke out some mixed-league value.
** Kelly’s bat was in question when the Diamondbacks got him in the Paul Goldschmidt deal -- he was inconsistent in the minors, and he had batted just .154/.227/.188 in 131 plate appearances as a seldom-used backup to Yadier Molina -- but when he hit .245/.348/.478 in his first full season in the majors, it seemed like the Diamondbacks had a young star on their hands. Unfortunately, Kelly regressed badly this year, hitting just .221/.264/.385. His average exit velocity sunk from 89 mph to 86 mph, and without the pitcher batting behind him, his walk rate collapsed from 13.2% to 4.7%. It was just 39 games, and he did hit well during the final couple of weeks. Still, it’s difficult to find anything to be encouraged about in his numbers.
** The Diamondbacks have another catching option in Varsho, who made 18 starts in the outfield and five behind the plate during his audition this year. Varsho averaged one steal every five games during his minor league career, making him an extremely interesting fantasy prospect if he can play regularly (and maintain catcher eligibility). He hit just .188 in his 115 plate appearances this season, though he did collect 10 extra-base hits and 12 walks. If Arizona gives him a try in center next year, he’ll be someone to target late in fantasy drafts (or earlier in leagues in which he already qualifies at catcher).
Team Needs: The 2020 Diamondbacks thought they were legitimate contenders after adding Bumgarner and Starling Marte to a team that won 85 games in 2019. Incredibly, what looked like a possible three- or four-year window might be closed now. The team needs a middle-of-the-order bat, at least one starting pitcher and a couple of quality relievers, but it doesn’t seem all that likely that the budget will allow it. With the Padres joining the Dodgers as an elite team, the Diamondbacks might figure it’s just not worth it to try to contend in the NL West right now and opt for a mini-rebuild.