There’s nothing to be ashamed of for how the Diamondbacks played in 2017. They reversed their win-loss record from 2016 and advanced to the NLDS for the first time since 2011. Sure, they didn’t get the outcome they were hoping for, but there’s always room for improvement when you don’t win it all. Here are five things the Diamondbacks can do to advance to the NLCS in 2018.
1 Add bullpen depth
The Arizona Diamondbacks had a 3.78 ERA out of the bullpen, the fifth best in MLB. Even with the struggles of closer Fernando Rodney, the team overshadowed that with the emergence of setup man Archie Bradley. Lefties Andrew Chafin and Jorge De La Rosa had nice bounce-back seasons after decimating 2016 campaigns and rookie Jimmie Sherfy came through in clutch moments in the regular season.
With Rodney being a free agent and possibly calling it a career at age 41, the Diamondbacks should look for a veteran who can hit the setup role or closer position. The Diamondbacks have one of the youngest rosters in baseball, meaning veteran presence will be a key.
2 Bring back J.D. Martinez
The outfield situation is interesting, considering J. D. Martinez blasted 29 home runs in a two-month span for the club while Yasmany Tomas was sidelined from June 2 through the rest of the year with a groin injury. Martinez is a free agent as well and the Diamondbacks need to decide who they will keep next season.
Martinez is at the peak of his career at 30 years of age, meaning Arizona could give him a friendly two or three-year contract to keep his bat in the lineup. In a perfect world, you could have Martinez and Tomas in the same lineup but the National League doesn’t have the DH, making it that much more difficult for Arizona to decide.
3 Jake Lamb overcoming his second-half struggles
Jake Lamb has been an offensive spark in the Diamondbacks lineup the last two years. That is, in the first half of the season. Lamb is a lifetime .284 hitter in the first half of the season but declines mightily in the second half, posting a .220 clip. The Diamondbacks need Lamb to pick up his offensive game in the second half if they expect to make a run in 2018.
It’ll also help if he can learn how to hit left-handed pitching. He’s a career .159 hitter against southpaws, which forced manager Torey Lovullo to platoon him at third base with Adam Rosales as the season went down. It’s nice to see Lamb blast home runs like Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt, but his ability to hit consistently will boost his value as he continues to play.
4 Dominance in pitching once again
Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray had incredible bounce-back seasons from a year ago, with Greinke lowering his ERA by a full run and Ray lowering his by two. Both pitchers were a combined 32-12 and posted a 2.94 ERA. Patrick Corbin struggled in May and June but found his groove once again in the second half, posting an 8-4 record and a 3.26 ERA.
Should Arizona add more depth to the rotation next year? No, because they have young talent in Zack Godley, Braden Shipley and Anthony Banda who are expected to take spots in the rotation soon. They’ll also get Shelby Miller back from Tommy John surgery after the All-Star break so the Diamondbacks should be set unless injuries plague the rotation.
5 A healthy A. J. Pollock
It’s been a frustrating last couple of seasons for Pollock, who’s been injury riddled with elbow and groin issues since 2016. Pollock proved what he can do for the club in 2015 when he posted a 20/20 season and hit a career-best .315 and made his first All-Star Game appearance.
He only hit .251 in the second half but hit 11 home runs, showing flashes of his 2015 campaign. He’s arguably the best defender in the outfield which is why he’s in center field every day. If Pollock is healthy, this club could ride his momentum in the leadoff spot next season and decimate pitching staffs nightly.
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