The Arizona Diamondbacks have a long road ahead in the fight for a National League West division title. After a spectacular postseason run, the process is already underway to improve the roster to close the 16-game gap in the standings between themselves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. What will it take for Arizona to repeat its magic? Here are three steps to a successful 2024 season.
Three Keys to Win in 2024
The first item checked off for the Diamondbacks came in the form of a trade with the Seattle Mariners for third baseman Eugenio Suárez. The Diamondbacks had the eighth-lowest home run total as a team last season and now have to manage the loss of Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Suárez, 32, is an intriguing option for a young team on the rise. He still barrels the ball often and had 22 home runs this year. In both 2021 and 2022, he had 31 home runs. However, he has struck out at least 30% of the time in back-to-back seasons. As long as Suarez’s bat continues to make an impact, the Diamondbacks can afford a high-strikeout profile in their lineup.
Internal options could be expected to provide a boost to the team’s offense. Outfielder Corbin Carroll, fresh off a Rookie of the Year campaign, only hit four home runs in the final two months of the season. Carroll dealt with a shoulder injury in July, so a full offseason should be enough to get him fully healthy again. Even with his home run output dropping through the final half of the season, he hit 25 home runs. Carroll could easily match that number again.
Youngsters Make an Impact
Shortstop Jordan Lawlar is a top-10 prospect, according to MLB.com. He might be a dual-threat option to only add to the Diamondbacks’ style. Lawlar hit 20 home runs across two levels in the minor leagues in 2023. Even if he only hits around 10 home runs, his speed and extra-base hits will lengthen the lineup.
Centerfielder Alek Thomas is primed for his own breakout season. Thomas will be entering his third season after two lackluster years, still offering promise. In his second season, Thomas made small but meaningful improvements in his contact quality. In areas like hard-hit percentage and barrel rate, he made enough progress to believe he could still become an average bat. He underperformed his expected average by 20 points, so some positive regression in that area would be a welcome bonus. Thomas is already an excellent defender and baserunner and could become a fantastic, well-rounded player in 2024.
Pitching, Always Pitching
Pitching, hmm… It seems like nearly every contender is hunting for pitching, but it is a necessary ingredient for any playoff recipe. So, where to start? The Diamondbacks already have Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Brandon Pfaadt will need to build on his playoff success if the Diamondbacks have designs on repeating last year’s success. Pfaadt had a 16.2% strikeout minus walk rate (K-BB%) in the regular season. His 24.1 K-BB% in the postseason was the third-best among pitchers with at least 10 innings. That ratio is a key number for Pfaadt heading into next season.
His pitch arsenal and late-season adjustments hint toward a breakout that could lead to a formidable rotation for Arizona. Beyond his impressive sweeper and strikeout potential, length will be a necessity for Pfaadt’s development. He showcased the ability to work deep into the sixth and even seventh innings in the regular season but should have much more consistency this year to finish his starts effectively. Pfaadt only pitched 96 regular season innings, so his workload will have to be monitored if he does make longer starts.
Free agency and trade are other options for the Diamondbacks, but free agency seems like a reasonable route for Arizona to make the most out of their situation. Adding two pitchers would be ideal, given the lack of starting pitching depth. Even as the first dominos have fallen in the market with players like Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray already signing, there are plenty of options to forge a rotation capable of competing in the National League West. If the Diamondbacks were able to land a high-end starter that could push Pfaadt down to the fourth spot, it would become a much more realistic goal for the Diamondbacks to earn a convincing entrance to the playoffs.
With so many teams making a push to compete again in 2024, will the Diamondbacks be able to do enough to win the World Series this time? Will they even have the opportunity to win their division? The Diamondbacks might even make a splash in free agency. It will be a difficult test, but after such a wild season just finished, do not rule them out quite yet.
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