After a disappointing 81 win season, the Diamondbacks project to compete for the NL Wild Card in 2014. According to FanGraphs’ depth charts , the team is projected for the fifth most WAR in the National League, with the Rockies and Braves just ahead of them. And that tally could be a bit short, since Diamondbacks starters are only projected to throw 905 innings. For reference, that’s the kind of total posted by terrible rotations. Last season, only the Blue Jays, Rockies, and Twins got fewer innings from their starting pitchers, while the Astros edged by with 906 starter innings.
The club has an obvious lack of high profile pitching, but the rotation is solid from top to bottom. Since missing out on Masahiro Tanaka, the club is rumored to be satisfied with its current unit. They could benefit from a depth signing, but they have a few options available on the farm that could be ready soon. As you’ll notice below, the entire system skews to low strikeout, low walk pitchers. That’s not very useful for fantasy owners.
When we reach the postseason, analysts usually put most of their focus on a team’s top three pitchers. The Diamondbacks’ top trio are competent, but far from imposing. For fantasy owners, this group offers limited value.
Corbin has been a hot topic here at RotoGraphs this offseason. I counselled caution while Chad Young had a more bullish take on Corbin. As Chad points out, there is reason to believe that he can improve his strikeout rate, which in turn would help him post strong all-around fantasy numbers. He’s not a classic ace, but he’s useful in just about any fantasy format.
Miley is one of those pitchers who is solid in real life but doesn’t strike out enough batters to be helpful in most fantasy formats. If you’re dealing with any sort of attainable innings cap, you’ll need to pair Miley with an elite strikeout reliever to ensure you don’t fall behind in that category. According to ERA, Miley appeared to turn a corner in the second half of last season, but all we really saw was his home run rate regressing from very high (15.7% HR/FB) to sort of low (7.6% HR/FB). Miley doesn’t stand out in any category, which makes it hard to leverage him. He’s a solid option for eating innings and winning some games, but that’s the extent of his value.
Cahill’s fantasy profile is similar to Miley’s, except he’s right-handed and walks more batters. Where Miley has a short track record as a ground ball pitcher, Cahill is long established as a sadistic burner of worms. He’s a solid option for spot starts as needed, but lacks anything to recommend owning him outright. Both Miley and Cahill are much more useful in H2H leagues, where volume of innings can sometimes overwhelm other considerations.
Until his 2013 tour with the Diamondbacks, Delgado has always posted a rather high walk rate. In 19 starts with the Diamondbacks last season, he trimmed that rate down to a very spiffy 4.9 percent of batters (1.78 BB/9). In Triple-A, Delgado had a walk rate above 10 percent. For that reason, it’s hard to believe that he’ll continue with his borderline elite stinginess. If he doesn’t, a low strikeout rate and possible problem with the long ball will make him impossible to own from a fantasy perspective.
Like any young pitcher with good stuff, Delgado has the potential for a breakout season. When the pitcher has stats like Delgado’s and lacks any obviously elite talent, then the odds are against such a breakout. Let other owners gamble on him and for the sake of the gods old and new, don’t start him until he shows some definite, repeatable improvement.
McCarthy is entering his age 30 season, which makes him the resident elder statesman. McCarthy is yet another low strikeout, low walk pitcher who is hard to own in most fantasy formats. He’s also had trouble staying on the field due to both recurring and non-recurring injuries. His FIP-friendly pitching style makes him a potentially useful addition in leagues that use linear weights for scoring. Don’t count on a full season.
Spruill and Sanabia appear to be typical swing men. Sanabia is a fly ball pitcher (the jury is still out on Spruill), which doesn’t match well with Chase Field. Neither pitcher possesses any fantasy upside. Josh Collmenter could also serve as a swing man in a pinch, but he’s more useful out of the bullpen.
Bradley is the club’s top prospect and will probably start the year in Triple-A. Thus far in his short career, he’s dominated minor league competition. However, a 3.33 FIP in Double-A points to some room for improvement, specifically his walk rate. Some evaluators think he could potentially join the rotation now, but most believe he needs more seasoning – perhaps as much as a full season. Bradley may be the top pitching prospect in the game, so keeper league owners should target him.
Chafin will join Bradley in the Triple-A rotation. He posted strong strikeout rates in the low minors, but focused on a more contact oriented approach upon promotion to Double-A. It remains to be seen if his strikeout rate will rebound, but the lower walk rate should help ensure major league success. He may be a candidate to join the big league rotation early in the season, but fantasy owners need not jump on him in their drafts. It’s unclear if he’ll even be in the player pool for some leagues.
Holmberg should be in the player pool since he got one ugly spot start last season. As is so often the story with Diamondbacks pitchers, he posted high strikeout rates in the low minors that plummeted upon promotion to Double-A. Holmberg may actually be the club’s sixth starter since he profiles to be better than Spruill or Sanabia. Unfortunately, he’s another guy who lacks notable fantasy upside.
For fantasy owners, the Diamondbacks rotation should provide plenty of usable waiver fodder, but not much talent to own outright. Corbin is a good pitcher and worth a roster spot while Bradley could dominate (or flop) upon promotion. The rest of the names are best suited for spot work.
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