NL West pitching staff rankings -- No. 3: Diamondbacks

NL West pitching staff rankings -- No. 3: Diamondbacks
January 29, 2014, 9:30 am
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Patrick Corbin went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 32 starts for Arizona last year, his second MLB season. (USATSI)

Ranking NL West pitching staffs
No. 5 -- Padres
No. 4 -- Rockies
No. 3 -- Diamondbacks
No. 2 -- 
No. 1 --


Trevor Cahill is 21-22 with a 3.87 ERA in two years with Arizona. (USATSI)

Programming note: Get up to date on all the latest offseason Giants news with the Hot Stove Show, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

Editor's note: Check back on Thursday to see who Andrew Baggarly considers the second best pitching staff in the NL West.

SAN FRANCISCO –- We continue our weeklong rankings of NL West pitching staffs, having already delved into the issues that confront the No. 5 San Diego Padres and No. 4 Colorado Rockies.

Moving on, we explore the next team in the countdown:

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS:

Who’s new: RHP Addison Reed, RHP Marcos Mateo, LHP Santos Rodriguez, RHP Alex Sanabia.

Who’s gone: RHP Heath Bell, LHP Tony Sipp, LHP Tyler Skaggs.

2013 rotation ERA (NL rank): 4.13 (10th)
2013 bullpen ERA (NL rank): 3.52 (10th)
2013 overall ERA (NL rank): 3.92 (10th)

Projected rotation: LHP Patrick Corbin, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Randall Delgado.

Projected bullpen: RHP Josh Collmenter, RHP Will Harris, LHP Joe Thatcher, RHP J.J. Putz, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Brad Ziegler, RHP Addison Reed (closer).

OUTLOOK:
They say the last thing you want to top an offseason wish list is a No. 1 starter, and for good reason. There are never enough aces in the deck, they tend to be extremely expensive and they’re seldom worth the investment in the long run.

But the Diamondbacks prepared to boost their payroll over $100 million for the first time, and exercised plenty of legwork trying to lure Masahiro Tanaka from Rakuten. They were never in the picture, and now will join the Cubs and perhaps the Angels to shop for another free agent from the leavings that include Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo.

[RELATED: Yankees sign Tanaka to seven-year deal]

If Arizona fails to add to their rotation, they’ll rely on their young duo of Corbin and Miley to front a starting five that might be best described as serviceable. Corbin, 23, dwelt in the shadow of greater prospects like Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer in the DBacks’ minor league system, but he proved much more competent against big league hitters while making the NL All-Star squad in his first full season. He had a 2.92 ERA before stumbling a bit in his final three starts, or else he would’ve garnered a handful of Cy Young votes.

Corbin can’t regress the way that Miley did in his second full season. The big lefty’s ERA went up just a smidge, from 3.33 to 3.55, but his walks per 9 exploded from 1.7 to 2.9. That’s simply too much traffic for a pitcher who has averaged a hit per inning over his career. His home runs jumped from 14 to 21, too. And he wasn’t unlucky, since his BABIP held steady year over year from .297 to .299.

So … serviceable. Same word applies to Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. They just don’t miss a lot of bats, so it’ll be up to Arizona to play pristine defense and not give away outs. Randall Delgado has a job as the No.5 starter as long as Arizona doesn’t acquire anyone.

Although the farm system has provided just as many hyped busts as productive pitchers (Tyler Skaggs was punted away to get thumper Mark Trumbo from the Angels), young Archie Bradley ranks among the top three or four most exciting prospects in all the minors. Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair are also well regarded, but not as near to the majors.

In the bullpen, Arizona led the majors with 29 blown saves last year but performed some addition by subtraction when they dealt Heath Bell to the Rays. They picked up another ninth-inning weapon by acquiring Addison Reed for third base prospect Matt Davidson. Reed recorded 40 saves and is the frontrunner for a job that Brad Ziegler filled ably toward the end of last season.

It’d be a surprise if J.J. Putz has a prominent role again, but he’ll return. The bigger innings should go to Ziegler and David Hernandez, who quietly might have been the NL’s best relief pitcher last September. Despite an up-and-down season, he had a 0.64 ERA over his final 14 outings and has tremendous stuff.

Arizona picked up another toxic right-hander by getting Marcos Mateo in the Rule 5 draft from the Cubs. They also added Alex Sanabia off waivers from the Marlins to provide some innings if needed. In addition, they might be able to call upon Daniel Hudson, the one-time rising star who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and re-tore his UCL during the rehab process. Now he’s recovering from the second procedure and could be back in the majors after the All-Star break. It certainly would be a nice story for the Diamondbacks and their fans.

ANALYSIS: Arizona should have enough dependable inning-eaters to stabilize the pitching staff, and with the number of home runs they expect Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt to hit, that could be all they need to compete on a daily basis. The bullpen is prone if you can get to it before the eighth inning, which is just one reason the Diamondbacks staff would grade in the middle of the NL West pack even if they do manage to sign Ervin Santana.

RANK: 3 of 5.

 

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