2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

Some positives from Justin Turner’s broken wrist, he won’t need surgery. It’s unknown when he will return but the term “weeks,” not “months” was used when talking about his return, which is a good sign. On a lesser front, Nationals star second baseman Daniel Murphy is expected to miss Opening Day as he’s still recovering from October knee surgery. Since joining the Nationals in 2016, Murphy has been on the best run of his career, including hitting .322 last season. Also, the Orioles signed Alex Cobb to their rotation, basically just leaving Greg Holland as the last remaining free agent of note. With that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Tampa Bay Rays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 13 games behind Boston Red Sox, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Carlos Gomez, 1B CJ Cron, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Dan Runzler, SS Christian Arroyo, CF Denard Span,

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Steven Souza Jr, LF Corey Dickerson, SP Alex Cobb, 1B Lucas Duda, 1B Logan Morrison, SP Jake Odorizzi,

Best Offensive Player: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Best Pitcher: Chris Archer

Depth Chart:

C-Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre

1B-CJ Cron

2B-Brad Miller, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle

3B-Matt Duffy

SS-Adeiny Hechavarria, Christian Arroyo

LF-Mallex Smith

CF-Kevin Kiermaier, Denard Span (DH)

RF-Carlos Gomez

SP-Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Nate Eovaldi

Bullpen-Alex Colome (CP), Dan Jennings, Matt Andriese, Sergio Romo, Daniel Hudson, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Dan Runzler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Kevin Cash (4th season with Rays)

Hitting Coach-Chad Mottola

Pitching Coach-Kyle Snyder

1st Base Coach-Ozzie Timmons

3rd Base Coach-Matt Quatraro

Bench Coach-Charlie Montoyo

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The Rays blew the everloving shit out of their lineup from last season. In 2017, the Rays as a team hit 228 home runs, 6th best in baseball. In the offseason, they lost each of their top 4 home runs hitters in Morrison, Souza, Dickerson, and the former face of their franchise Longoria. It’s going to be weird seeing a Rays team without Longoria manning the hot corner. It’ll be the first time since they dropped the “devil” out of their name before the 2008 season that he wasn’t the everyday third baseman. With all that subtraction, here’s how the Rays are slated to line up in 2018.

1. Carlos Gomez-RF

2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF

3. Brad Miller-2B

4. CJ Cron-1B

5. Wilson Ramos-C

6. Matt Duffy-3B

7. Mallex Smith-LF

8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS

9. Denard Span-DH

Not great. There’s not a single bat in that lineup that puts fear in the heart of pitchers. Sure there’s some quality defense in that lineup, particularly in centerfield with Kevin Kiermaier, but at the plate there’s a lot to be desired. Kiermaier spent a lot of time on the DL last season but was still able to provide a lot of value to the Rays. He hit .276 last season with 15 home runs, 39 RBI, 16 stolen bags, and was worth 3.0 WAR. He’s better known for being arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game and that’s where a lot of his value comes from but he’s also a pretty good hitter in his own right. I can’t toot his horn too much because he went to Purdue so I’m going to stop right there. Brad Miller has had a weird tenure in his two seasons with the Rays. His first season with the team saw him hitting 30 bombs after a previous career-high of 11. In 2017, he hit 9. Injuries played a big part in that but the dropoff is pretty enormous, especially when you consider how big a dip his rate stats took as well. In 2016, Miller hit .243 but also slugged a pretty good .482, resulting in a league average 2.0 WAR. That dropped significantly to a .201 average and .337 SLG, resulting in a -0.1 WAR, all of which are abysmal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see which Brad Miller we get this season, the one that was one of the biggest power-hitting middle infielders in the game? Or the one who can’t hit the broad side of what Jabba the Hut calls an ass?

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The pitching situation is going to be interesting in Tampa. I always find that they seem to develop good pitching every year and this season is no different, as there are a lot of talented young arms in the rotation. But that’s where the intrigue lies. The Rays are going to experiment with a 4-man rotation as opposed to the traditional 5, which you may have noticed when I listed the Rays’ depth chart. You gotta wonder how that’s going to affect their preparation. However the oldest guy between Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Nate Eovaldi is Archer at 29 (wait, shit, seriously? Guy looks like he’s 19) so it’s not like they’re dealing with some old dogs who refuse to change their routine. But it’ll be interesting to see how this works out because like I said, this is a talented bunch. Archer is one of those guys who is a much better pitcher than his stats might indicate. Last season Archer had a 4.07 ERA but a 4.6 WAR (All Star-level) and a 3.40 FIP with the 5th best K/9 rate at 11.15. Apparently he’s just been the victim of bad luck. Blake Snell has shown some flashes of being an ace-level pitcher but so far he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Faria had a 3.43 ERA last season and may quietly be one of the better pitchers in the American League. I remember hearing one anecdote that said if you were to start a pitching staff with no names, based on just the eye test alone, Nate Eovaldi would probably be the #1 choice. I can’t really argue with that, since the guy’s fastball consistently touches 98 and he’s got a pretty good curveball to boot but for whatever reason, he just seems to get hit. He hasn’t pitched since 2016 thanks to Tommy John surgery but he appears to be ready to go in 2018.

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The Rays bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Alex Colome is the only real pitcher of note, being their closer, and he saved 47 games last season, the most in baseball by about 6 saves over Kenley Jansen, however his rate stats aren’t nearly as impressive as the Dodgers’ stopper. Colome had a 3.24 ERA and only struck out about 7 batters per 9. That’s by far the lowest number out of any closer in the top 10 in saves last season (next lowest is Fernando Rodney at 10.57). If he can’t bring that K/9 rate up, the Rays could be in trouble in the 9th inning. After him, Sergio Romo was quietly really good for Tampa last season, posting a 1.47 ERA in 25 appearances, which is really encouraging because he’s had a rough tenure since losing his closer’s job with the Giants so many years ago. Other than those guys, though, nobody in the Rays’ ‘pen is really worth talking about here.

Overall, I don’t think the Rays are going to be any good. They blew up their team in the offseason and I sincerely doubt they’re going to be any threat for a Wild Card spot, let alone the AL East. Yet they always find some way to play the role of pesky spoiler and I wouldn’t put it past them to be that team that costs another team a playoff berth. That just seems to be what the Rays do. But in all, I wouldn’t argue you too hard if you were to tell me the Rays are going to be the worst team in the American League in 2018.

Projected Record: 68-94, last in AL East

That’s going to do it for today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Texas Rangers, who may need to take a long look at whether or not to blow up the team and start a rebuild after toying with being a World Series threat the last couple years. Let me know what you think of the Rays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Arizona Diamondbacks

I’m not going to delve in too deep to the sanctions that came out for Louisville basketball. If you want to learn what exactly was going on, here’s a blog I wrote a while back about the scandal in question and here’s what I think about the subject of vacating wins. So let’s get into the next edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and take a look at the Arizona Diamondbacks. One thing I wanted to mention, too. After I had this blog initially finished, the Diamondbacks struck a 3-team trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The Diamondbacks will be sending second baseman Brandon Drury to the Yankees, the Rays will be sending outfielder Steven Souza Jr to the Diamondbacks, and prospects will be sent to the Rays from the Yankees and DBacks and one to the Diamondbacks from the Yankees. So I had to do some last minute edits to this so forgive me if it might read a little choppy.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, 2nd in NL West, 11 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, Owner of Top Wild Card Spot, defeated the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game, Lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Jarrod Dyson, C Alex Avila, RP Fernando Salas, RP Brad Boxberger

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF JD Martinez, CP Fernando Rodney, C Chris Iannetta, RP JJ Hoover

Best Position Player: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Best Pitcher: Zack Greinke

Depth Chart

C-Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis, Chris Herrmann

1B-Paul Goldschmidt

2B-Daniel Descalso

3B-Jake Lamb

SS-Ketel Marte, Chris Owings

LF-David Peralta

CF-AJ Pollock, Jarrod Dyson

RF-Steven Souza Jr, Yasmany Tomas

SP-Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, Zach Godley, Shelby Miller

Bullpen-Archie Bradley (CP?), Brad Boxberger (CP?), Randall Delgado, TJ McFarland, Yoshihisa Hirano, Andrew Chafin, Braden Shipley

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Torey Lovullo (2nd Season with Diamondbacks, 2017 NL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-Dave Magadan

Pitching Coach-Mike Butcher

1st Base Coach-Dave McKay

3rd Base Coach-Tony Perezchica

Bench Coach-Jerry Naron

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The Arizona Diamondbacks had a breakthrough season under first-year manager Torey Lovullo. They completely flipped their record from 2016-17, as they went 69-93 in ’16 and 93-69 in ’17 en route to their first playoff appearance since 2011. One thing that is expected of you in Arizona is that you’re going to hit, as Chase Field kind of flies under the radar a bit as far as hitter-friendly ballparks go mainly because they share a division with the Coors Field-inhabiting Colorado Rockies. But I think Chase Field is the second-most hitter-friendly park in the Majors. Let’s take a look at the lineup that will benefit from this stadium.

1. AJ Pollock-CF

2. Ketel Marte-SS

3. Paul Goldschmidt-1B

4. Jake Lamb-3B

5. David Peralta-LF

6. Steven Souza Jr-RF

7. Daniel Descalso-2B

8. Alex Avila-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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That’s a pretty well-rounded lineup as it is and when you combine the added boost Chase Field brings, expect the Diamondbacks to finish near the top of the leaderboard in runs scored in 2018. Last year the Diamondbacks finished 8th in the Majors in runs scored and actually scored 42 more total runs than the team that won the vision by 11 games over them in the Los Angeles Dodgers so a repeat performance or even an improvement isn’t out of the question. However they did suffer a big loss a couple of days ago, as JD Martinez signed a 5-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. Martinez hadn’t been in Arizona very long, as they acquired him at the Trade Deadline from the Detroit Tigers, but his tenure in Phoenix was nothing short of incredible. After his trade from Detroit, Martinez hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBI in just 62 games, becoming the perfect complement to arguably the best first baseman in baseball in Paul Goldschmidt. However with Martinez’s departure, there is a bit of a dip in production at the cleanup spot. I’m expecting Jake Lamb to be the one to fill that void and while he’s a good power hitter (he hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 RBI last season) he’s not Martinez. In fact, Lamb only hit .248 last season. But there is one thing to get excited about with him: he appears to have gotten better each season. Not only has Lamb’s home run totals gone up in each of his 4 Major League seasons, but so has his walk rate, suggesting that he’s seeing the plate a lot better and maturing as a hitter. Plus he’s only 27 years old, which should have the Diamondbacks excited for his future prospects. AJ Pollock is another guy the Diamondbacks hope can get back on track as well at the top of their lineup. He was downright amazing in 2015 but a Spring Training shoulder injury in 2016 robbed him of that season and he looked like he was still recovering in 2017. If Pollock can return to his 2015 form where he hit .315 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, 39 stolen bases, and a 6.5 WAR, then the Diamondbacks’ run totals should go through the roof. Also, as I mentioned at the opening, the Diamondbacks struck a trade to acquire Steven Souza Jr from the Rays while sending Brandon Drury to the Yankees. This leaves an interesting situation for the Diamondbacks with how they’re going to set their lineup because as it stands right now, Daniel Descalso is their starting second baseman and that’s not a good thing. Not a knock against Descalso, he’s a good utility player, but that’s where his true value lies, in being able to give rest to any player in the lineup due to his competence at a wide variety of positions. But it does fill the hole a bit more nicely in right field left by Martinez. Souza was hitting near the top of the Rays’ lineup for the last few years as he hit 30 home runs last season. Yasmany Tomas might be considered at second base but he’s never played there in the Major Leagues. Plus he’s 6’2 250 pounds and not exactly nimble, which makes him very out of place at second base. Granted, he can’t do much worse at second than he does at any of his other positions, such as third base and the corner outfield spots, as he is an atrocious defender. So I’m curious to see if the Diamondbacks decide to pull any more moves to try and find themselves a more established second baseman.

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Perhaps the most critical factor to the Diamondbacks’ 2017 success, though, was their pitching. The team got a return to form from ace Zack Greinke as well as breakout seasons out of Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. After a disastrous first season in the desert in 2016, Greinke returned to his ace form in 2017, going 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts. Ray was also excellent as he was able to drop his ERA from 2016-17 by 2 whole runs, going from 4.90 in ’16 to 2.89 in ’17. That’s basically going from not really deserving of a roster spot to ace level in one season, but it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. Had I had a blog last season, I would’ve listed Ray as a potential breakout candidate for 2017 mainly because his 4.90 ERA may have been misleading. Ray’s FIP, which takes into account the defense behind the pitcher and gives what the pitcher’s ERA would’ve been with a neutral defense, was 3.76 in 2016, over a run lower than what his actual ERA was, meaning that a lot of the problems he had that year weren’t really his own but were a result of poor defense behind him. And just for the record, this doesn’t have anything to do with the Diamondbacks, but the pitcher who had the worst ERA despite a good FIP in 2017 was Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija, so keep an eye on him this season for the Robbie Ray effect. Godley was also a nice surprise for the Diamondbacks as he went 8-9 with a 3.37 ERA despite having an ERA of well over 6 the year prior. So if those three guys can keep up the improvements they made in 2017, the Diamondbacks will be in great shape.

The Diamondbacks bullpen also had one major breakout star in particular in Archie Bradley. Bradley had been one of their top starting pitching prospects but just didn’t seem to pan out in that role. After moving to the bullpen, however, Bradley seemed to find his groove like a lot of other failed starters tend to do of late (including Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, and Zach Britton to name a few). His fastball was touching triple digits and he was setting things up perfectly for closer Fernando Rodney, as he had an ERA of just 1.73 in 66 appearances last season. Rodney signed with the Twins in the offseason so that leaves the closer’s role wide open. The competition for the job is likely going to be Bradley against former Rays closer Brad Boxberger, who was newly signed in the offseason. Boxberger has an All Star appearance as a closer and is a legitimately good 9th inning option for the Diamondbacks but I think Bradley’s going to win out here, though even if he doesn’t I’m sure the DBacks will be perfectly happy with knowing the 8th inning is on lockdown for them.

Overall, I think the Diamondbacks should be really excited about their prospects for the 2018 season despite losing out on the JD Martinez sweepstakes. There’s a lot of talented hitters in their lineup and they boast a pitching staff that made huge strides last season. Whether they’re able to keep that up is another story, but it’s hard not to be excited if you’re NL Manager of the Year Torey Lovullo. Quite frankly I think the Diamondbacks would win any other division in the National League, however they’re stuck behind a Dodgers team that lost virtually nothing from the team that won 104 games last year and was one win away from a World Series title. They’re likely going to have to play for the Wild Card once again this season but I am confident in their ability to repeat as Wild Card winners.

Projected Finish: 91-71, First NL Wild Card Team

That’s going to do it for Day 2 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow where I will be previewing the Atlanta Braves, who may not have much of a chance for competing in 2018 but have a lot to look forward within the next few years due to the plethora of young talent they boast. Let me know what you think of the Diamondbacks’ chances in 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.