Saturday, December 9, 2023

Uncustomed Heroes of 2023: Diamondbacks


For obvious reasons, there weren't a ton of Diamondbacks left for me to do this month. This team had an excellent season, outdid expectations, outlasted some greats and went toe-to-toe with Texas in the World Series. There's still fundamental issues with how the D-Backs hung onto momentum while other teams couldn't that I'm sure will be addressed by Rob Manfred sometime after hell freezes over, but the D-Backs were still an entertaining and scrappy team, with enough heroes and excellent performances to warrant their ascent.

The strange part of Arizona going with a Gallen-Kelly-Pfaadt-opener rotation for the playoffs was that Ryne Nelson, who started 27 games for the D-Backs during the regular season, was mostly limited to relief work during the playoffs. I do get why they did it, despite Nelson's innings-eating he went 8-8 with a 5.31 ERA, it wasn't the cleanest break for the primary third man. Nelson thankfully made the most of a playoff long relief appearance, going 5 innings, allowing 3 hits and a run while striking out 6, which should be an indication to the D-Backs that he can still perform.
2024 Prediction: I think he will get some starts next year, but with Pfaadt a bit more prized now, Eddie Rodriguez now a major player, and the possibility of a Tommy Henry depth chart shift, I do not think he will be starter No. 3.

Speaking of people who might be demoted given an offseason upgrade, Emmanuel Rivera was once again a solid backup third baseman, this year getting some play due to the usual injury to Evan Longoria. Rivera was a strong choice, hitting .261 in 86 games, and playing some very nice defense at the corner. During the postseason he hit .235 with 4 hits and 3 RBIs. 
2024 Prediction: I don't think he'll be the primary corner next year either. The D-Backs want an upgrade, they'll get one, Rivera will do a lot of similar stuff to what he did this year.

Last year, Joe Mantiply was the D-Backs' only All-Star nod. This year he thankfully got a fuller bullpen to be a part of, and in a lot of cases he opened games for Arizona. In an injury-shortened season he had a 4.62 ERA and a 1.218 WHIP in 39 innings. During the postseason he went 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA, as he was one of the few Diamondbacks who lost momentum over the course of October.
2024 Prediction: An improvement, though I do fear his durability has lessened.

And then, with less than a month to go, the D-Backs brought up a rookie reliever named Andrew Saalfrank, who was scoreless in his 10 regular season games. Saalfrank, despite his MLB inexperience, became one of Arizona's most reliable relief pieces, with a 3.18 ERA overall, and only 3 hits allowed in 5.2 innings. If that's anything to go by, he'll be alright going forward.
2024 Prediction: Pitches the most relief innings for the D-Backs, shows the most consistency.

Coming Tomorrow- Several Dodgers players who couldn't get past these guys.

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