With Spring Training underway, I wanted to dive into the potential starting rotation that we may see on opening day. In my opinion our starting rotation will be, in no particular order, Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, and Archie Bradley.
Zack Greinke is the highest paid player in Diamondbacks history making over $1m a start. Last year was disappointing, especially after putting up a 1.66 ERA in 2015. The lowest ERA since Greg Maddux put up a 1.56 ERA in 1994. Greinke started off 2016 poorly and dealt with injuries for most of the year. He had starts that showed flashes of his normal self, but couldn’t string them together. My expectations for Greinke in 2017 are high. I would love to see a 2.90 ERA and ~17 wins. The D-Backs are getting a lot of key offensive players back this year which should give Greinke the run support he lacked in 2016. A.J. Pollock and David Peralta are the key guys coming back from injury. They will be a huge boost both offensively and defensively.
Shelby Miller was part of the blockbuster deal that sent our #1 overall draft pick (Dansby Swanson) to Atlanta. Again, like Greinke, expectations for Miller were high. Miller admitted that he felt a lot of pressure after being part of such a talked about trade. In 2015, with the Braves, Miller pitched his way to a 3.02 ERA. Despite putting up the lowest ERA of his career, Miller was 6-17. The run support he received was surprisingly low. The last few years, the Diamondbacks have had no problem knocking in runs. Miller has stated several times during Spring Training so far that last year he was battling mechanics and that is not the case anymore. If Miller can have an ERA around his career average of 3.66, he will be a huge boost to our rotation and should gain some affection from the fans who had to watch Swanson rake in his limited playing time for the Braves.
Robbie Ray is one of my favorite pitchers to watch. He is a strikeout machine, posting a 11.25 K/9 in 2016. Ray Started 32 games in 2016 and had a 4.90 ERA. I am not as worried about the ERA because he made good progress in other areas (K/9). Another bright spot is that he had 10 quality starts last year. If he could post an ERA around 3.80 I could see him being a strong number 3 or 4 starter. My prediction for next year is that he hits double-digit wins for the first time in his career. I expect his K/9 to lower a bit, but still be among the league leaders for starters.
Taijuan Walker is a star in the making. In my opinion Seattle gave up on him too early and sold at his lowest point. I was shocked when we traded for him, but I believe that it was a very fair trade. Jean Segura was awesome for us last year, but I don’t expect him to produce at the same level in 2017. We sold Segura at his highest value for a pitcher that, in my opinion, could have a bigger impact for us in 2017 and moving forward. In 2014 Walker gave Seattle a glimpse of the potential he has after posting a 2.61 ERA over 5 starts. Since then, he has an ERA over 4.00. Walker has the skill to be a very good starter for us. He has Greinke to mentor him now, and Greinke began his career in a similar fashion. His first year (2004) Greinke had a sub 4.00 ERA, then in 2005 he had a 5.80 ERA. As we all know, Greinke figured it out. My prediction is that Walker will have an ERA around 3.90 and will be a solid number 4 starter in 2017, but don’t be surprised if he breaks out and proves everyone wrong (including Seattle).
Archie Bradley is interesting to try to figure out . He is in a similar position to Walker in that he has done well in the minors, but hasn’t live up to the hype in the majors. He got off to a great start in 2015 before taking a line drive off his face from the power bat off Carlos Gonzalez and he hasn’t been able to find his groove since. I see more potential with Walker, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bradley becomes a solid number 4 over the next few years. My hopes for Bradley this year is that he can make some strides towards becoming the pitcher everyone expects him to be. If he can post a 4.50 ERA with 10 quality starts, I’ll be happy.
Bonus opinion regarding Patrick Corbin! People are probably going to freak out that I would pick Bradley over Corbin, but Corbin did very well coming out of the bullpen last year. The 5 spot is really up in the air in my opinion; I will pay close attention to them both during Spring Training.