The Diamondbacks entered Spring Training with four rotation spots in place. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are the top two on the staff. Madison Bumgarner will get another crack in the middle, while Arizona brought back Zach Davies on a one-year free agent deal to take a back-end spot.
Who would secure the fifth spot was one of the more interesting decisions for the Snakes in camp. As MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald explored in early January, that battle looked likely to come down to four hurlers: Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson, Tommy Henry and Brandon Pfaadt. Jameson and Nelson, both of whom made their big league debuts late in the 2022 season, seemed the early favorites.
That indeed now appears to be a two-person race. Arizona reassigned Pfaadt, who is not yet on the 40-man roster, to minor league camp over the weekend. They optioned Henry to Triple-A Reno this afternoon, taking him out of consideration for an Opening Day job as well.
Neither Jameson nor Nelson has done much to seize the job this spring. The former has allowed eight runs in 9 2/3 innings, while the latter has been tagged for nine runs in the same amount of work. Jameson has at least managed a solid 12:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while Nelson’s 10:6 mark is less impressive.
Both pitchers fared well in very limited MLB looks last year. Jameson made four starts and posted a microscopic 1.48 ERA through 24 1/3 innings. That came with an excellent 56.1% grounder percentage and above-average strikeout and walk numbers. It was a very strong debut effort but won’t completely erase concerns about the ghastly 6.95 ERA he’d posted over the 114 Triple-A innings he’d thrown prior to his promotion. Reno is among the hardest places in affiliated ball to pitch, which certainly didn’t do him any favors. That said, some prospect evaluators have suggested the Ball State product is likelier to settle into a bullpen role than a rotation because of concerns about his command.
Nelson has had some relief concerns himself, though he’s generally credited for more advanced command than Jameson. He doesn’t throw quite as hard and didn’t miss as many bats in his brief big league look as Jameson did. Nelson had similarly strong bottom line numbers in a cup of coffee, however, allowing four runs in 18 1/3 big league frames. Over 136 innings in Reno, he’d posted a 5.43 ERA with roughly average strikeout and walk numbers.
Henry had the most MLB work of this group in 2022, starting nine games. He didn’t find the early success of Jameson or Nelson, pitching to a 5.36 ERA with below-average strikeout and walk rates in 47 innings. Henry allowed 11 runs in 16 1/3 frames in camp before being optioned. Pfaadt is arguably held in the highest regard of the bunch but is the only one who hasn’t made his big league debut. The 24-year-old made 19 starts at Double-A Amarillo and 10 with Reno last season, combining for a 3.83 ERA in 167 innings. He allowed five runs with 15 strikeouts and four walks in 12 innings this spring.
As expected, the opening day 5th rotation spot comes down to Nelson or Jameson. But make the distinction between opening day and the total 2023 season. All 4 will definitely start games for the Dbacks in 2023.
At season’s end, expect MadBum and Davies to be long gone, with 3 of the 4 in the starting rotation and the other probably in the bullpen for aWild Card team that no one will want to face.
Should have traded Dalton Varsho to the Marlins for Pablo Lopez when they had the chance.
@Edub23 – While Pablo Lopez would have been a nice addition to the 2023 Diamondbacks, Moreno will end up providing more value to Arizona than Lopez would have over their remaining careers. You don’t see many trades like this in baseball anymore; it should pay off for both Toronto and Arizona.
I was hoping to see Pfaadt win a spot in the rotation. He has the best stuff of all the options they have and he had a great season in 2022. Also, he wasn’t that bad this spring. 5 runs over 12 innings = 3.75 ERA and the 15 K’s in those 12 inning equates to 11.25 K’s/9. If their fourth or fifth starter struggles, I’d expect Pfaadt to be the next man up and make his major league debut. The Diamondbacks are building an interesting squad in the desert. The major league team has a fair amount of talented youth on it today and they have some serious prospect talent on the cusp of making it to the majors as well. Provided they can keep Gallen, they should be ready to compete for a playoff spot come 2025 even with the Dodgers, Padres & Giants in their division.
Backup Catcher to the Backup Catcher
Gotta be a really slow news day when one of MLBTR’s highlight stories involves the battle to become Arizona’s fifth SP!
D=Backs have a good chance to finish third this year in the NL West. That’s the good news. The bad news is 75 wins might get that done.
Baseball news does tend to be rather slow this time of the year. However, it’s interesting to see which of these prospects will step up and which will get bypassed by others.
Totally don’t get the love for the Dbacks chances to compete this year. It’s coming, but it’s a ways away. I don’t see much more on this team than the Rockies, to be honest. Maybe less. Varsho was a big loss, and they’re completely dependent on Gallen and Kelly knocking it out of the park again (and staying healthy) with a mediocre pen and rookies and ok vets all over the lineup.
I think they’ll be a fine team who can put up a fight but they’re almost guaranteed to finish at best third in the division and I don’t think they’d be able to beat out which ever two of NYM/Atlanta/Philly who don’t win the division for a wild card spot.
“I don’t see much more on this team than the Rockies, to be honest. Maybe less.” Here’s the opportunity to back that honesty up with some facts. What roster positions do the Rockies have superior players at?
Bryant MAY be a better option in RF than what the DBacks have (pending his health), but the DBacks are better equipped in CF and LF (and overall OF depth). That’s about it for position players.
Walker is certainly better than anything the Rockies have at 1B; a healthy Marte (which he has been so far) is better than anything the Rockies have at 2B; Ahmed (regardless of health, and he’s been healthy as well) is better equipped to play SS at the MLB level than Tovar; DBacks have a safer bet for production at 3B (unless you’re trying to tell me that Moustakas is a more viable option in your eyes than Rojas); Moreno or Kelly are better than anything the Rockies have at C (and the DBacks have both).
If there is an area where the Rockies are better, it’s sure not on the position player side (and it’s definitely not a defensive or baserunning edge that Colorado has); so where are they superior in pitching?
I’ll give you that any rotation spot that Bumgarner occupies is unlikely to be a point in favor (in this case that’s the #3 spot), but the DBacks have the better #1 and #2. Davies is pretty much just eating innings at #4, but I don’t know that you can definitively say that Gomber is a better option. And Jameson/Nelson aren’t just rookies, they’re accepted to be MLB ready by industry concensus and are Top 100 prospects working with a pitching guru.
I can give you that the Rockies have more established bullpen arms at the MLB level, but they also have significant drop off in talent (whereas the the DBacks drop-off in talent is much less steep). Calling the DBacks ‘pen mediocre isn’t actually as bad as you’re suggesting. Mediocre is average, and average is a large improvement from league worst (which they won 74 games with last season).
With all of that in mind, is it possible that the “honesty” you were attempting to share is less about you not seeing anything regarding the DBacks, and more about you not actually paying attention to anything regarding the DBacks?
That’s fine if that’s the case, but the weight of your opinion regarding a topic is directly proportional to how much information you have that’s rooted in observable reality. Just be honest on your degree of observation so people can attach appropriate value to your opinion.
Last year the starters for the Dbacks ranked 19th in the league as a collective unit by ERA. Gallen will compete again for Cy Young honors in the NL. Kelly is above average as a #2, is consistent from start to start and will give the Dbacks a chance to win on each of his 30-33 starts. I expect Bumgarner to regress positively a little bit this year before he is traded mid season. Davies is Davies, not exciting but steady, reliable, until he is traded mid season. So the top 4 return from last year, and will be maybe slightly better overall, but only slightly better. The difference makers in this year’s starting rotation are the #5 spot and the second half of the season. All 4 of Pfaadt, Nelson, Jameson and Henry are vastly superior to Castellanos, Kueckel, Gilbert, Smith and the other starters who tried to fill the #5 spot in the rotation last year. In fact, Pfaadt, Nelson and Jameson are better than any of the first 4 except Gallen. So, if they fill the other 3 spots in the rotation behind Gallen and Kelly in the second half of the season, even as rookies/first year pitchers, the staff will be much improved over the 2022 squad. I think they will finish the season as the 12-15th best starters by ERA, which makes them above average.
Quote: Madison Bumgarner will get another crack in the middle,
– The guy is signed through the 2024 season, of course he’s going to be in the rotation.
Side note: I like the first picture of him clean shaven on Baseball Reference. Looks like such an innocent, young man.
They could drop MadBum and move up a few spots.
This rotation is very weak
Please see my comment above about the starting rotation you say is “weak”, 19th in the league by ERA is not weak, it was best characterized as below average.
What was weak last year for the Dbacks was their bullpen. In fact they were arguably worst in the league.
This year, since you can’t get any worse than worst, they will be improved. The huge question mark surrounding the 2023 Dbacks is how good or bad will the bullpen be? On paper, they look significantly better. The two biggest knocks on the 2023 bullpen are a lack of a reliable Closer, and the unproven quality of all the new arms brought in this year.
With the injury to Melancon (which many Dback fans consider a blessing!), there are only 3 holdovers from that disastrous 2022 squad—All-Star Joe Mantiply, Kyle Nelson and Kevin Ginkel. The one proven arm brought in was Andrew Chafin. Here is where the questions begin. Who else fills out the bullpen roster in 2023?
Can McCough convert his overseas success to the MLB? Can Familia regain his early career success? And can the assortment of power arms brought in this year consistently throw strikes? Because of the number of quality new arms brought in, even if multiple relievers fail, there are enough to plug the rest of the bullpen spots with quality, and enough young guys who may develop by mid season to add to that depth.
So there is some justifiable optimism to expect this unit to rise from worst to average.
Not even a Diamondback fan, but your comment is weak and shows you have no idea of what you are talking about. Gallen is an ace and will be in the cy young conversation again. Kelly is a clear cut #2 and has improved, Davies is an inning eater and they just have to hope Bumgarner doesn’t regress. Plus they have Nelson, Jameson and Pfaadt on the rise.
Appreciate your sarcasm, disagree with your assessment.