Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, June 9, 2017 at 4:18 PM
In a sizzling NL West race, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the team you might be tempted to overlook. They’re not in first place, like the Colorado Rockies are. They’re not a preseason favorite with a load of high-priced talent like the Los Angeles Dodgers are. The Diamondbacks are just the team that’s gone 37-25 and is only two games out of the division lead.
Actually, for smart baseball bettors, Arizona has been a lot more than that. The market’s overlooking of the Diamondbacks has turned them into a cash cow. The (+$970) they’ve generated on game-by-game moneyline wagers is the third-best profit margin in all of baseball. And when it comes to futures, there’s value there as well—in a three-team race where no one can get separation it’s Arizona who’s available at a 5-1 figure.
The Diamondbacks can hit and there’s every reason to expect that to continue. Paul Goldschmidt is carrying the load, with a .436 on-base percentage/.569 slugging percentage. The first baseman is now well-established as one of the game’s best hitters and there’s no reason to assume his numbers will fundamentally change.
Younger players are also coming into their own. Third baseman Jake Lamb has stats of .373/.566. Nick Ahmed’s .454 slugging percentage is solid for anyone and particularly noteworthy for a shortstop. A.J. Pollock and David Peralta are productive in the outfield. Even allowing that a minor injury will keep Pollock out the next couple weeks, the D-Backs have depth—they’ve been able to turn to anyone from Chris Owings to Daniel Descalco to Chris Iannetta and get solid production off the bench.
But hitting has rarely been the problem in Arizona, even in their worst years. The hitter-friendly dimensions of Chase Field in Phoenix see to that. It’s pitching that’s the determining factor. Here too, there’s reason for optimism.
After a tough first year in the desert, Zack Greinke has posted 3.20 ERA in 13 starts. Not only is that sustainable, it could be improved on. And it will likely need to be, because even allowing for the promise of young starters Robbie Ray (2.85 ERA) and Zack Godley (2.39 ERA), they’ll probably see those figures rise. Other signs of hope include Shelby Miller’s respectable 4.09 ERA providing a hint that he might be able to revive a once-promising career.
So if the Diamondbacks can hit well, pitch respectably and have a bona fide rotation ace, is there any reason not to climb aboard the NL West futures bandwagon at 5-1? Well, yes.
The bullpen is a dumpster fire right now and rookie manager Torey Luvullo has his work cut out for him. Valuable innings are being eaten up by washed-up vets in Fernando Rodney, Tom Wilhelmsen and Jorge de La Rosa. If Arizona is going to win the division, Luvullo will have to insert some younger arms into key spots.
At least bullpens are always a work in progress. I’ll be watching developments in Arizona carefully to see if a combination develops that can ensure the good work of this lineup and rotation doesn’t go to waste.