PT TOMORROW: NL West—Gallen eyeing spot in ARI rotation

Arizona Diamondbacks

The team enters spring training with somewhat surprising rotation depth after the offseason signing of Madison Bumgarner (LHP, ARI) and with the expected reintroduction of Luke Weaver (RHP, ARI), who got off to a splendid start (3.03 ERA, 9.8 Dom in 62 IP) last year before hitting the shelf with an elbow injury in May.

With Robbie Ray (LHP, ARI) also guaranteed a spot, the discussion so far this spring has been how the back end of the rotation will be filled—with the likes of Zac Gallen (RHP, ARI), Merrill Kelly (RHP, ARI) and Mike Leake (RHP, ARI), who was recently diagnosed with a fracture of his left (non-throwing) wrist and who hopes to be back early in the season, if not by Opening Day.

As for Leake, acquired last year at the trade deadline, he has developed a reputation as an innings eater who provides little help in terms of ratios or strikeouts. And that certainly seems to be the case, with a rising xERA trend (4.75 last year) and sub-6.0 Dom for two years running. Nonetheless, his career 4.05 ERA and 1.28 WHIP coupled with his string of 30-start seasons dating back to 2012 makes it hard to rule him out as an option when healthy. 


Kelly, meanwhile, logged 32 starts last year despite struggling out of the gate (4.83 ERA, 1.53 WHIP through June 1) after spending the previous three years in the KBO. The interesting thing for Kelly, though, was the notable uptick in velocity (to 93 mph) in September, when he allowed just 8 ER in 33 IP (2.18 ERA) with 35/11 K/BB. If he returns with that velocity in spring, he makes for an interesting late-round flyer in drafts.

And then there’s Zac Gallen, whose hype train has been gathering steam in fantasy circles all offseason (ADP of 125 since Jan. 1). Making his MLB debut last year, Gallen pitched to a 2.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 10.8 Dom (13% SwK), and 4.1 Ctl (67% FpK) across 15 starts. He no doubt benefited from a fortunate H%/S% combo (29% and 81%, respectively), but he provides plenty of intrigue as one of only six MLB pitchers with a >15% SwK on three different pitches: change-up (21.7%), cutter (15.6%), and curveball (15.4%).

Those in deep leagues should also keep Alex Young (LHP, ARI) on their radar. Young sits below 90 mph with his fastball, but generated swinging strikes (13%) and ground balls (48%) at a decent clip. Yes, his underlying numbers say he overperformed (3.56 ERA vs. 4.53 xERA) over those 83 IP, but with a couple nice secondary pitches of his own (CB=19% SwK, CH=17% SwK), he could prove useful in stretches over the course of the season.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

After receiving no small amount of criticism as high-priced free agents came off the market in November/December, Dodgers brass finally made some waves with the acquisition of Mookie Betts (OF, LA) and David Price (LHP, LA) earlier this month. Betts, who played 143 games in RF last year with BOS, figures to man that same position on most days, with Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, LA) handling a large chunk of CF duties.

Betts is coming off another impressive season, even if somewhat disappointing given his acquisition cost in drafts last year. His 14% bb% was a career high, while his 124 HctX and 134 xPX suggest a very possible return to the .300 BA/30 HR level he posted in both 2016 and 2018. While the yellow flags are minimal, one thing to consider is whether, given the Dodgers’ depth, Betts sees a few more days off over the course of the season—unlike in BOS, where he amassed over 700 plate appearances in three of the past four seasons.

There is some thought that Joc Pederson (OF, LA) could still be moved prior to Opening Day, but without such a move, A.J. Pollock (OF, LA) could struggle to find full-time at-bats, at least when everyone is healthy. Pollock, signed to a four-year deal last offseason, lost six weeks in the first half to an elbow infection, returning in the 2nd half to post a nice .288/.348/.577 line with 13 HR and 5 SB across 205 at-bats. The 32-year-old has seen his ct% (76%) fall off from his 2015 peak (85%), and his frequent visits to the IL have made him more of a speculative play than bankable asset at this point.

Another who would benefit from a Pederson deal is the left-handed Gavin Lux (2B, LA), who was looking at the possibility of seeing at least some time in the outfield this year. In his brief (75 AB) debut, Lux went just 18-for-75 (.240 BA), but flashed an impressive 164 xPX and 129 Spd score, a hint at the power/speed combination he could offer with extended playing time.

 

San Francisco Giants

It looks like the retooling Giants will have plenty of options when it comes to the keystone this year, with newcomers Yolmer Sanchez (2B, SF) and Wilmer Flores (2B, SF) joining the mix with holdovers Mauricio Dubon (2B, SF) and Donovan Solano (2B, SF).

Sanchez, the best defender of the bunch, owns a career .244/.304/.360 across six seasons, with decent plate skills (8% bb%, 76% ct% last year) and a little bit of speed—as evidenced by his career-best 14 SB in 2018. Solano, who logged most of his time at 2B last year while serving as a utility infielder, owns a similarly uninspiring offensive profile, with a career-best 4 HR and a .330 BA buoyed by an unsustainable 41% h% last year (215 AB).

The 25-year-old Dubon is capable of playing both 2B and SS, but is also garnering consideration for CF as the team focuses more on a position-flexibility approach. As noted in the 2020 Baseball Forecaster, Dubon owns a career .300 BA in the minors and displayed solid contact skills (81%) during his brief debut last year (106 AB), during which he hit 4 HR (2 xHR) and stole 3 bases.

Flores, signed to a two-year deal earlier this month, missed two months last year with a foot injury before returning to post solid numbers in part-time duty over the final 2+ months: .350 BA (.301 xBA), 7 HR and 23 RBI in 137 AB. Known more for his success vs. LHP, Flores has actually posted respectable numbers vs. RHP—804 OPS (2018) and 762 OPS (2019)—the past two years. Flores could also spell lefty Brandon Belt (1B, SF) against the occasional LHP as well, opening up an additional path to playing time.

 

Colorado Rockies

Daniel Murphy’s (1B, COL) first year in Colorado didn’t exactly go as planned, as he broke his left index finger in the second game of the season and posted an unimpressive (by his standards) .279/.328/.452 line in 438 at-bats. The fact that his 13 HR came on 8 xHR doesn’t inspire much confidence for the soon-to-be 35-year-old. On the plus side, however, GM Jeff Bridich was quoted as saying that Murphy likely rushed back too soon after the injury and, despite wearing a stint on his finger, never really played to his full abilities. With one year left on his two-year deal, Murphy should get a chance to get on track and perhaps turn into a trade candidate by mid-season.

If Murphy struggles, the team could move Ryan McMahon (2B/3B, COL) over from second base. McMahon spent time at both corner-infield positions last year and came on with a strong second half (.264 BA, 17 HR (12 xHR), 41 RBI) to salvage an otherwise start-and-stop first half. His improved bb% (10%) is encouraging, though it’s worth noting his ct% (67%) and GB% (51%) still leaves much to be desired.

Looking ahead, the future is bright with the presence of switch-hitting Michael Toglia (1B, COL) in the farm system. Toglia, selected out of UCLA with the 23rd pick in this past year’s draft, garnered an 8E rating in the 2020 Minor League Baseball Analyst, where he received high marks for his raw power and OBP skills. Likely still at least a year or two away, he nonetheless provides a glimpse of the potential that lies ahead in the coming years.

 

San Diego Padres

Last year’s MLB Saves leader, Kirby Yates (RHP, SD), will return in 2020 to resume his rightful place at the back of the Padres bullpen. His pristine 1.19 ERA and 0.89 WHIP will no doubt be difficult to repeat, but he should have a long leash while his 16% SwK and 61% FpK provide a great foundation for continued success. If looking for a reason to nitpick, it would likely be with the 33-year-old’s drop in velocity (from 94 mph to 93.5 mph last year). That said, the improved team context and talented bullpen in front of him should help preserve many a lead heading into the 9th inning.

If speculating on a possible replacement, the best bet is Emilio Pagan (RHP, SD), who recently came over from TAM as part of the Manuel Margot (OF, TAM) trade. Pagan himself saved 20 games in 2019, with a sparkling 2.31 ERA (3.20 xERA) and 0.83 WHIP. His 95.5 mph fastball helped generate a 12.3 Dom, backed by an elite 19% SwK. Pagan’s fly ball tendencies could open him up to some HR risk, but he otherwise looks like one of the best late-inning pitchers in the game.

Speaking of late-inning assets, the team also went out and acquired Drew Pomeranz (LHP, SD) this offseason. Pomeranz, who has bounced between the rotation and bullpen during his time in the majors, flourished during his time in the MIL pen during the latter half of the season. Across those 26.3 IP, Pomeranz struck out a whopping 45 batters against just 8 walks, pitching to a 2.68 ERA and spiking his velocity up to 95.2 mph in September.

Though more of a “closer of the future” type player, 21-year-old Andres Munoz (RHP, SD) wowed many last year, bursting onto the scene with a near-100 mph fastball and wipeout slider (28% SwK). Munoz had consistently posted elite Dom rates in the minors, and showed improved control in AAA before flashing palatable control numbers (35% Ball%, 66% FpK) during his 23 MLB innings.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.