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Arizona Diamondbacks Series Preview: They’re a whole lot better than last year

A team that looked lost now looks...slightly less lost.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a season when a team loses 110 games, it’s pretty unexpected to see them hovering around .500 as we near that unofficial first marker of the season, Memorial Day. And yet, here we are, a week away and the Diamondbacks sit at just a game under .500. While they’re a non-factor in the National League West race, due to legitimately great teams in the division, that’s a remarkably fast turnaround that highlights how vital it can be to bring in some new voices. The Diamondbacks had pitching led by Matt Herges and Mike Fetters last season and when they had a staff with a league-worst ERA with not nearly enough strikeouts and way too many walks, they went a different direction and hired Brent Strom, who many believed would retire.

It hasn’t been perfect, but they’ve gone from bottom of the pack to a little bit better with enough improvement that it’s made them respectable. And that’s what’s keeping them there because outside of hitting home runs and drawing walks, they don’t do anything well offensively and that includes the most important thing, scoring runs. I wouldn’t say the Diamondbacks are a good team, but they are generally pretty mediocre which is about 14 steps ahead of the Royals these days.

Royals vs. Diamondbacks Matchup Stats

Category Royals Diamondbacks
Category Royals Diamondbacks
Winning % .350 .488
Team wRC+ 89 89
Team xFIP 4.50 4.31
Run Differential -56 -22
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi & Zack Greinke, 1.0 Daulton Varsho, 1.6

Diamondbacks Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Daulton Varsho C 162 .262 .327 .462 8.0% 25.3% 122 1.6
Pavin Smith DH 139 .234 .309 .371 9.4% 30.9% 95 0.3
Ketel Marte 2B 159 .238 .308 .385 8.2% 22.0% 97 0.5
Christian Walker 1B 167 .199 .299 .452 12.0% 21.0% 112 0.9
Josh Rojas 3B 55 .283 .382 .478 14.5% 18.2% 143 0.8
David Peralta LF 141 .223 .319 .446 12.8% 20.6% 112 0.8
Jake McCarthy RF 42 .237 .293 .342 7.1% 33.3% 82 0.0
Geraldo Perdomo SS 116 .208 .339 .250 14.7% 25.0% 80 0.3
Alek Thomas CF 52 .300 .327 .560 3.8% 17.3% 147 0.7

Diamondbacks Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Grayson Greiner C 4 .000 .250 .000 25.0% 75.0% 6 0.0
Drew Ellis INF 12 .167 .167 .250 0.0% 41.7% 12 -0.1
Jake Hager INF/OF 11 .111 .273 .111 18.2% 27.3% 29 -0.1
Jordan Luplow OF/1B 67 .161 .224 .419 7.5% 34.3% 79 0.0

Diamondbacks Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Mark Melancon 17 14.1 0 5 10.1% 7.2% 7.53 4.83 0.0
Ian Kennedy 20 18.1 3 3 17.6% 10.6% 3.93 4.97 -0.2
Joe Mantiply 19 16.1 1 0 21.7% 1.7% 0.55 2.62 0.5

Royals vs. Diamondbacks Pitching Matchups

May 23 - Zack Greinke vs. Zach Davies, 8:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 8 44.0 0 2 9.8% 2.2% 3.48 4.51 1.0
Zach Davies 8 39.1 2 2 18.3% 9.1% 4.35 4.12 0.4

Zack Greinke will return to Arizona for the first time since he was traded during the 2019 season (though he has faced the Diamondbacks twice since then). This year, Greinke has had one of the weirder years I can remember, but he continues to get the job done. After having a rough start in Colorado, he bounced back with a solid enough outing against the White Sox this past week where he struck out four in 5.2 innings and kept the Royals in the game long enough that they could get the offense going to actually get a win. He didn’t get it, of course, and while pitching wins are obviously sort of meaningless, it’d be nice to get him off the 219 he started the year with. His changeup will likely be a big weapon for him in this one, and it’s been good this year. The Diamondbacks have hit .164 with a .240 SLG on righty changeups this season.

Career vs. ARI: 16 GS, 118.1 IP, 7-3, 3.72 ERA


After a terrible year with the Cubs, Zach Davies was forced to sign a small deal after the lockout ended and he wound up in Arizona, where things have gone better for him but still not great. He walked way too many last season and that’s continued this year and he hasn’t struck out enough batters, but he’s generally kept the Diamondbacks in games, holding his opponents to three or fewer runs in six of his eight starts. Davies will not wow anyone with his stuff. He throws a sinker at 88-90 and he throws it about half the time. Then it’s a changeup and a combination of a cutter and a curve, but he doesn’t throw either of them more than eight percent of the time. HIs changeup has been effective, but opponents have hit his sinker. The Royals need to be on the lookout for that pitch and attack.

Career vs. KC: 2 GS, 12.0 IP, 1-1, 4.50 ERA

May 24 - Jonathan Heasley vs. Zac Gallen, 8:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jonathan Heasley 2 8.1 0 2 4.9% 17.1% 4.32 6.83 0.0
Zac Gallen 7 39.1 3 0 26.0% 5.3% 1.14 3.51 1.2

This is either going to be Jonathan Heasley or Brady Singer, but I’m going to guess Heasley for now. I’m quickly becoming confused with Heasley. He’s been a strike-thrower in the minors. He’s had good stuff. And yet, in the big leagues, he’s pedestrian. I posited that he was giving hitters too much credit and maybe that’s it, but it’s just not working with seven walks and two strikeouts in 8.1 innings across his first two starts. He’s only allowed four runs, so it hasn’t exactly hurt him, but it’s just not working. He’s not getting hit hard, so he really just needs to trust his stuff and throw some strikes and stop nibbling. I thought he might face the Twins on Sunday and the Diamondbacks offense is a slightly easier test, though they do walk a lot. Jackson Kowar pitched well again for Omaha the other day, so there’s about to be some competition for this spot again if Heasley allows it.

Career vs. ARI: First Appearance


The Diamondbacks picked up Zac Gallen in a fun deal that sent Jazz Chisholm to the Marlins. It’s kind of fun to think about the fact that both teams have to feel great about the deal. Gallen has been so good with the Diamondbacks even with a bit of a hiccup last season. He’s walking way fewer batters than ever before, but his strikeouts are down, so if you’re looking for a reason to be maybe slightly concerned, that would be it. But he’s allowed a ridiculous 20 hits in 39.1 innings and has generally just been making hitters look silly. His stuff is pretty straight forward. He goes fastball, changeup, curve and cutter with the very occasional slider. Opponents aren’t hitting anything he throws, but his changeup has been the pitch they’ve had the most success on. And most success in this case means hitting .238 with a .286 SLG. You can maybe argue he’s due for a clunker, but he’s very, very good.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

Royals vs. Diamondbacks Prediction

I’ve reached the point in the season where I won’t even predict a win for the Royals until I see it. I think they get swept in the short series and have a very long off day on Wednesday.

Poll

Can the Royals win a game?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Yes, they’ll win both games.
    (18 votes)
  • 36%
    Yes, but only one.
    (56 votes)
  • 51%
    Hahaha, wait for real? No, they won’t win a game.
    (80 votes)
154 votes total Vote Now