Arizona Diamondbacks: Predicting the ’17 Starting Rotation

Sep 16, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) pitches during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) pitches during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

After trading for Taijuan Walker, the Arizona Diamondbacks now have a lot of starting pitching options as they gear up for the 2017 season.

When the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired pitcher Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in exchange for Jean Segura and two prospects last week, one thing was made clear for the team: the starting rotation is a bit of a mess.

Walker joins a cluttered D-Backs rotation with possible starters such as Braden Shipley, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley, and Matt Koch. There’s also ace Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, who flashed signs of potential throughout last season. You can’t count out Shelby Miller either, since the front office didn’t last season.

Although we’re just one month into the off-season, general manager Mike Hazen and the Diamondbacks will soon need to make decisions regarding how the rotation will round out.

If it were up to me, this is what the Diamondbacks would send out when the 2017 season begins..

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1. Zack Greinke, RHP

No surprise here. Going into his second season as a Diamondbacks, Greinke will still be the ace and leader of this young staff. Although he didn’t pitch like one, there’s really nobody else in this rotation as of right now that you could slot in ahead of Greinke.

In his first season with the Diamondbacks, there were plenty of expectations Greinke was projected to meet coming off of a stellar 2015 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He finished the ’15 season 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA which was good for second place for the NL Cy Young. He finished first in the National League with his sub-2.00 ERA, and second with 19 wins.

Although he won 13 games last season in Arizona, he finished with an ERA north of 4.00. He threw 158.2 innings, made 26 starts, and allowed 23 home runs; numbers he hadn’t seen in nearly upwards of ten seasons.

Either way, the success he’s had in the past makes him the Diamondbacks ace heading into the 2017 campaign.

2. Shelby Miller, RHP

I know what you’re thinking, because I’m right there with you. But, let’s give him another shot.

Miller was horrible last season, the first with the Diamondbacks. He finished at an awful 3-12, and compiled an ERA of 6.15 in 20 games. In his season debut against the Colorado Rockies, Miller allowed six earned runs on eight hits over 6.0 innings. He gave up three home runs, walked one, and struck out just two batters. He wasn’t off to a good start, and neither did he get on one.

He battled some injuries and even spent some time in the minor leagues in 2016. It was not a good first year, but a strong second year could be on the horizon.

After all, Miller was an All-Star with the Atlanta Braves in 2015, and won more than ten games twice in his three years with the St. Louis Cardinals. His 3.02 ERA in ’15 with the Braves really stood out regardless of the 6-17 record he had. He’s only 26-years old, and has shown his potential in the first few seasons of his career. Give him a shot.

3. Taijuan Walker, RHP

Walker had been a guy that had gotten a lot of praise from scouts and experts leading into his Major League debut in 2013.

Walker became a regular in the Seattle Mariners rotation in 2015, when he made 29 starts and ended the season at 11-8 with an ERA of 4.56. He had two short stints with the big league club in the ’13 and ’14 seasons, making a combined eight starts. But, he did impress many with a 3.10 ERA over the span 53.0 innings pitched. Walker held opponents to a .213 batting average over that stretch.

The 24-year old throws an assortment of pitches, but primarily relies on his upper-90’s fastball, a change-up, and a curveball. Walker can also throw a cut-fastball, in which he threw it 9.3% of the time in 2016. His impressive repertoire of pitches and the potential he boasts makes him a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy for the D-Backs next year.

4. Robbie Ray, LHP

Throw Robbie Ray’s record out of the window for a just a second now. His 8-15 record doesn’t do him any justice, so just hang with me for a second.

Ray flashed some signs of what his season would bring with a masterful 6.0 inning, two-run performance against the future-champion Chicago Cubs. He only struck out three batters that game, but held Joe Maddon’s potent lineup to just four hits.

He wasn’t able to follow up that strong start with six-straight months of good starts, but he managed to keep his head above water in a disappointing season for the Diamondbacks. He struck out 218 batters over 32 starts while tossing thirteen quality starts for Chip Hale. He, like a lot of D-Backs pitchers, showed potential and reasoning as to why he belongs in this rotation.

The only problem with Ray, the only D-Backs lefty starter last season was his inconsistency. In half of his starts, he allowed more than four earned runs per game. Ray was also a guy that would guy deep into the game, or would be yanked early. He failed to make it beyond the sixth inning in nineteen of his starts. A little more consistency and Ray deserves a spot in the team’s rotation in 2017.

5. Archie Bradley 

In his first full big-league season, the 24-year old Bradley finished at 8-9 with a sloppy 5.02 ERA in 26 total starts.

Bradley was constantly shuffled to-and-from the Triple-A affiliate Reno Aces to begin the season, but performed well in June and July. His 3.63 ERA wasn’t pretty, and neither was his 2-6 record. What did stand out though was his ability to pitch into the later into games.

Bradley logged more than five innings in his eleven starts made in June and July, which was something Ray failed to do. He struck out 64 batters, but walked 33. Like seemingly every other Diamondbacks starter, Bradley had some lopsided stats last season, but did enough to hopefully reserve a spot in the rotation for Opening Day.

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Besides Greinke, there doesn’t seem to be an arm that really stands out. There are guys with a lot of potential, and there are guys who need to bounce back from a rough season the previous year.

The success of the Arizona Diamondbacks can go hand-in-hand with how the rotation plays out. There may be a lot of uncertainty right now, but the young arms they currently possess brings a lot of excitement heading into April.