For the first time in years, the Arizona Diamondbacks begin spring training without Paul Goldschmidt as the quiet, powerful anchor of the team.
A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin won’t be there, either.
Times are changing for the Diamondbacks, who have significant holes to fill, to say the least.
“I feel like it’s going to be a unique experience for all of us, myself included,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “He (Goldschmidt) has been there every day I’ve been manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it’s probably going to take a minute or two to absorb that he’s not going to be walking through that door.”
Still, the Diamondbacks aren’t calling it a rebuilding year.
“We have some new parts and we know that,” Lovullo said. “And as much as it hurt to let some of these guys go elsewhere, it’s the nature of the game. What it’ll mean is that we need to be a little bit better and a little bit sharper, and we love that challenge. Players are going to have to step up, and the front office and myself are going to have to get a little sharper in every area.”
Here are some things to consider when the Diamondbacks begin spring workouts at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale:
NEW LOOK: The plan is for Jake Lamb to move from third base to first. Lamb, coming off surgery on his left shoulder, is a powerful slugger against right-handed pitching but has struggled against lefties. Arizona also wants to shift Ketel Marte from second base to center field to replace A.J. Pollock, who went to the Dodgers. The second baseman, presumably, would be free agent signee Wilmer Flores, who also can spell Lamb at first.
It’s a significant transition for Marte, who played shortstop until his shift to second, where he was more than adequate defensively.
There also are a couple of openings in the rotation with the departure of Corbin, Arizona’s best pitcher for much of last season, and Clay Buchholz.
The bullpen was a big disappointment last season. Arizona is counting on Greg Holland, another free agent acquisition, to help in the late innings. The closer role is open, but Archie Bradley is the early leader there.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: There are no rookies who figure to battle for significant roles for Arizona, but catcher Carson Kelly doesn’t have much playing time over three years with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kelly, who came in the trade that sent Goldschmidt to St. Louis, could be the everyday catcher for Arizona, with Alex Avila and John Ryan Murphy filling in behind him.
Arizona has vastly improved its farm system the past couple of years, with young players such as shortstop Jazz Chisolm and pitchers Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener rated among the top 100 minor league players in the country.
THEY’RE SET: The left side of the ball club is an obvious strength, with Gold Glove shortstop Nick Ahmed and solid third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract to stay with the Diamondbacks, who acquired him in a July trade with Minnesota.
Ahmed improved his offense last year, batting .234 with 33 doubles and 70 RBIs, while Escobar hit .272 with a career-best 23 homers and 84 RBIs in his combined time with the Diamondbacks and Twins.
And in left field is David Peralta, who in his best major league season batted .293 with 30 homers and 87 RBIs. His batting average and RBIs led the team.
THEY’RE NOT: There are many question marks on the team and pitching probably is the biggest.
Zack Greinke returns at age 35 after going 15-11 with a 3.21 ERA. Lefty Robbie Ray finished strong after a bumpy season and is being counted on to help replace Corbin. Zack Godley (15-11, 4.74 ERA) holds the third spot but the other two positions are open with no outstanding prospects.
The bullpen seems solid at the back end, with Bradley, Abbott and Yoshihisa Hirano. Lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland return but the overall quality of that group remains to be seen.
Somewhere there has to be someone to help replace the big offensive numbers that Goldschmidt routinely produced.
ON DECK: The Diamondbacks’ first spring training game is Feb. 23 against Colorado, the team that shares Salt River Fields with Arizona. Arizona opens its regular season March 28 at the Dodgers.