2019 Arizona Diamondbacks Season Preview: Can their franchise player be replaced?

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9542/" data-ylk="slk:Archie Bradley">Archie Bradley</a> has elite-reliever potential — if healthy. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Archie Bradley has elite-reliever potential — if healthy. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are entering the post-Paul Goldschmidt era, and as you can imagine, it’s not exactly the best life. Gone is Goldschmidt — their middle-of-the-lineup, franchise face and perennial MVP candidate — to the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade that seemed to fully move the D-backs into rebuilding mode.

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They still have some very recognizable names, mainly Zack Greinke, who is coming off a good but not amazing season. There’s also Archie Bradley, one of MLB’s better personalities, the underrated David Peralta, and Robbie Ray, who can gather Ks with the best of ‘em when he’s on.

It’s probably unrealistic to expect the D-backs to challenge the Los Angeles Dodgers or Colorado Rockies in the NL West, but they could add some value to your fantasy roster with some of the names above. - Mike Oz

Diamondbacks’ offseason grade

It’s hard to be too positive about an offseason that saw the D-backs losing their biggest star. The return might come immediately, but it also might not. Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly both have a lot of potential and will see action immediately, but they won’t immediately provide Goldy-level production.

The D-backs also re-signed Eduardo Escobar, then added Greg Holland and Wilmer Flores. They brought over pitcher Merrill Kelly from Korea, hoping he could be their Miles Mikolas. He’ll have a chance to prove himself in the rotation.

Our grade: C- — They got something for Goldy before free agency, so that’s a plus, but immediate future doesn’t look too bright.

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Arizona’s projected lineup and pitching staff

The Arizona Diamondbacks projected lineup for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)
The Arizona Diamondbacks projected lineup for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)

Who is Arizona’s fantasy buy?

Archie Bradley suffered a broken fingernail early last season that prevented him from throwing his knuckle-curve as usual, but it healed over the offseason, and he’s confidently back “throwing hammers” during spring. He posted a 1.73 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP when he first moved full-time to the bullpen in 2017, and his K/BB ratio was nearly identical last season (when his ERA ballooned to 3.64) while pitching through the damaged finger. The former top-10 pick may not have the official title as closer (it seems like a record-setting few actually do entering the year), but he should run away with the job this season.

What is Arizona’s biggest fantasy question?

What impact did the humidor have last season? From 2015-2017, Chase Field ranked third in MLB in parks that increased run scoring. In 2018 after the humidor was introduced, it fell to 10th. The greater effect came on home runs, in which Chase Field dropped to below league average (with a Park Index of 94 that ranked 19th). It’s been just one year, but early returns suggest the humidor makes Chase Field a less favorable hitter’s park (but still one), with the biggest impact so far being a noticeable drop in homers.

D-backs prospect to watch

Of all the players who changed teams this offseason, catcher Carson Kelly may have been the most fortunate. He went from sitting behind Yadier Molina and never getting at-bats to a starting job. Kelly is regarded as an excellent defensive player. He’s posted strong on-base percentages in the minors. While he struggled last season, his bat could be an asset once he adjusts to major-league pitching. - Chris Cwik

Things that MUST go right for Arizona

1. Filling the Paul Goldschmidt void: The Diamondbacks aren't going to replace Goldschmidt's MVP-level production. But they'll have to figure out how to lessen that blow as much as possible. That will initially involve moving Jake Lamb across the diamond from third base to first base. Lamb is a very good hitter who combined to hit 59 homers in 2016 and 2017, but is coming off an injury-riddled campaign. If he falters, Arizona will have a problem.

2. Replacing A.J. Pollock: Goldschmidt isn't the only star leaving town. Center fielder A.J. Pollock is gone too. Making matters worse, he signed with the division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The current plan is to have infielder Ketel Marte shift to center field, where he'll split time with Jarrod Dyson. It's a lot to ask simply from a defensive perspective, but Marte's talent and willingness to embrace the role gives it a chance to succeed.

3. Late-inning dominance: Losing closer Brad Boxberger shouldn't hurt too much. That is, unless Archie Bradley and Greg Holland don't pitch up to par. Bradley seems like the best fit to close after previously dominating in the eighth-inning set-up role. He had a down season in 2018 thanks to a cracked fingernail, but has looked strong when healthy. Holland has been an elite closer in the past, but is coming off what some are calling a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" season spent in St. Louis and Washington. Having both guys in peak form would make life much easier for manager Torey Lovullo. - Mark Townsend

If this team had a walk-up song, what would it be?

It’s going to take some time getting used to the D-backs without Goldschmidt, so their walk-up song should be an easy reminder. Like this, from Kanye, Consequence and Cam’Ron. - Mike Oz

(Warning: NSFW language)

More 2019 MLB Previews From Yahoo Sports

Baltimore | Miami | Kansas City | Detroit | Texas | Toronto | San Diego

Chicago (AL) | Minnesota | San Francisco | Pittsburgh | Arizona | Seattle

Cincinnati | Los Angeles (AL) | Oakland | Tampa Bay | Colorado | Cleveland

New York (NL) | St. Louis | Atlanta | Philadelphia | Milwaukee | Chicago

Washington | Los Angeles (NL) | Houston | New York (AL) | Boston

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