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MLB season preview: D-backs hoping revamped front office can make them a winner

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The biggest change for the Arizona Diamondbacks this past offseason may have come off the field, where a front-office regime change sought to make the team smarter and more modern. Gone is general manager Dave Stewart, with him went manager Chip Hale. Tony La Russa, who was the team’s chief baseball officer, has had his role diminished too. La Russa and Stewart, in particular, were proudly old school.

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The new blood comes from Boston. Mike Hazen, a 41-year-old Princeton grad, is the new general manager. He was previously the GM of the Red Sox, but he had less authority under team president Dave Dombrowski. Now, Hazen is running the show with the D-backs. He installed Torey Lovullo as manager. Lovullo was the ex-bench coach for the Red Sox and their interim manager for a spell while John Farrell underwent cancer treatment.

Now we’ll see if a new front office can turn a talented roster into a winner. The D-backs have potential, there’s no doubt. Many people picked the D-backs as a sleeper playoff team last season, then they flopped, winning just 69 games. The building blocks are there, though — from Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb on the offensive end to Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and the newly acquired Taijuan Walker in the rotation.

It’ll be a tough climb in the NL West, where the Giants, Dodgers and Rockies all figure to be better, but the D-backs at least have a chance to move past a terrible 2016.

ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Additions
: Ketel Marte, Taijuan Walker, Fernando Rodney
Subtractions: Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Welington Castillo

The Diamondbacks didn’t sit back and sell off parts after winning just 69 games in 2016. Instead, the team fortified its weaknesses. The D-backs capitalized on Jean Segura’s strong bounce back, and managed to get both Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker out of it. Fernando Rodney still has trouble with his control, but can serve as a useful reliever.

Haniger could prove to be a late-bloomer, but Arizona proved they were willing to take that risk. Losing Castillo might hurt, but the team came up with an adequate replacement in Chris Iannetta. (Chris Cwik)

Paul Goldschmidt is Mr. Steady for the D-backs. (AP)
Paul Goldschmidt is Mr. Steady for the D-backs. (AP)

KEY PLAYER
Paul Goldschmidt is that sturdy lighthouse in a storm of change. With the D-backs in flux the past two years, both on the field and off, Goldschmidt is the guy you can count on. His constancy is a gift. In 2016, he hit .297/.411/.489 with 24 homers. All marks are very slightly down from 2015, but he’s still outstanding. He hits for both average and power, and for the second year in a row, he walked more than 100 times. He drew 110 walks in 2016, second in all of baseball. He may have been overshadowed a bit by another first baseman on a World Series winning team, but Goldschmidt is still as good as he ever was. He’s exactly what the D-backs need as they navigate this sea of change. (Liz Roscher)

PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION
Lineup
1. A.J. Pollock, CF (.244/.326/.390, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
2. Jake Lamb, 3B (.249/.332/.509, 29 HR, 91 RBI, 81 R)
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (.297/.411/.489, 24 HR, 95 RBI, 106 R, 32 SB)
4. David Peralta, RF (.251/.295/.433, 4 HR, 15 RBI)
5. Yasmany Tomas, LF (.272/.313/.508, 31 HR, 83 RBI, 72 R)
6. Brandon Drury, 2B (.282/.329/.458, 16 HR, 53 RBI)
7. Chris Owings, SS (.277/.315/.416, 4 HR, 49 RBI, 21 SB)
8. Chris Iannetta, C (.210/.303/.329, 7 HR, 24 RBI)

Rotation
1. Zack Greinke (13-7. 4.37 ERA, 158.2 IP, 134 K)
2. Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15 IP, 155.2 IP, 131 K)
3. Taijuan Walker (8-11, 4.22 ERA, 134.1 IP, 119 K)
4. Robbie Ray (8-15, 4.90 ERA, 174.1 IP, 218 K)
5. Shelby Miller (3-12, 6.15 ERA, 101 IP, 70 K)

Zack Greinke's second year in Arizona could be better than his first. (AP)
Zack Greinke's second year in Arizona could be better than his first. (AP)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The offense is going to score runs. When you can count on something like that, it should greatly improve the team’s outlook. However, as last season’s 64-win team proved, it‘s still mostly about pitching. If Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller bounce back to something resembling their past form. then Arizona could easily add 10-12 wins to its total. The postseason or even a winning season though would still feel like a long shot. (Mark Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
Greinke and Miller continue sinking into the abyss, leaving Arizona to rely strictly on its offense. Without the pitching, this team will likely remain under 70 wins. Not to mention the overhauled front office will have a difficult time selling both pitchers in hopes of starting a rebuilding. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
Where should we draft Yasmany Tomas?
He owns a paltry .309 OBP over 936 career at bats since joining the majors, but Tomas popped 31 homers over 140 games last year and will be entering his age 26 season in 2017.

[Elsewhere: Read a full fantasy breakdown of the D-backs on Roto Arcade]

He posted a .913 OPS after the All-Star break and gets to hit in a home park that’s increased run scoring by 15 percent over the past three seasons (only Fenway Park and Coors Field have been better run-scoring environments over that span). Tomas’ ADP is 147, so he remains plenty affordable. In fact, he should be considered an absolute steal at that price. (Dalton Del Don)

BEST FOLLOW
Archie Bradley loves his beard, and he loves baseball.

Aside from the truly alarming number of cameras in that shot, that’s a cool thing. Bradley tweets about his alma mater (Oklahoma University), he tweets teammate pics, he tweets when he’s doing something cool, and he tweets about his dog. He really seems like a regular guy, someone you’d know in real life. Only he’s a baseball player. (Roscher)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
The Diamondbacks introduced a vending machine that rewarded fans just for tweeting in 2016. If that feature returns in 2017, that seems like a good enough reason to head to the ballpark. All you have to do is find the vending machine, tweet out a certain hashtag while near it, and you’ll receive a free gift ranging from a koozie to a $20 food certificate. That could make long nights watching Yasmany Tomas play the outfield a lot more tolerable. (Cwik)

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!