The Arizona Diamondbacks have some important decisions to make when it comes to who will be starting games for them in 2023. The team is looking to finally step out of that rebuilding stage and try to compete for a playoff spot. However, with competing comes tough decisions. The Diamondbacks have plenty of seasoned vets to go along with their young talent, but who will make the cut?
The main piece of the Dbacks’ starting rotation will be ace Zac Gallen. Gallen, 27, is coming off the best season of his career, finishing fifth in Cy Young voting, limiting batters to a .186 average against him. This includes a 0.913 WHIP in 31 starts, the most starts in his career so far. Gallen has proven he is an elite starter in this league and will continue to lead the Diamondbacks rotation for years to come. Behind Gallen is the always-reliable Merrill Kelly. The former Sun Devil also had a career year pitching to a 3.37 ERA in 200.1 innings, also a career-high. Kelly, 34, proved he is the second option behind Gallen and is durable for an entire season. Both will try to continue their success last year into this new season and lead the Diamondbacks rotation.
Veterans Madison Bumgarner and Zach Davies look to keep themselves in a starting spot during the 2023 season. Due to their experience, both will likely start in the rotation, but pressure from the young talent will force them to perform better than last year. Bumgarner is in the fourth year of a hefty five-year contract he signed in December 2019. The one-time ace of the San Fransisco Giants has struggled heavily since signing in Arizona, including a rough 2022 campaign. The lefty gave up a .281 average to hitters, the worst of his career, including a 1.437 WHIP in 30 starts. Due to his large salary and veteran status, it will be hard to justify not giving Bumgarner a rotation spot out of spring training. However, if he struggles again, he might find himself moved to the bullpen in a long reliever role later in the season. Zach Davies was a reliable fourth starter for the Dbacks in 2022. Both sides agreed on a contract in January for his return to the club, which includes a mutual option for next year. Davies struggled in 2021 with the Cubs but put together a respectable 2022 season in Arizona with a 4.09 ERA in 27 starts. He looks to be a reliable fourth starter again for the Dbacks in 2023 but can find himself out of the rotation if his previous struggles arise again.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have plenty of options when it comes to young talent. Brandon Pfaadt, 24, Ryne Nelson, 25, and Drey Jameson, 25, are all in the Dbacks’ top 30 prospects and have a chance to make the rotation if they have a strong spring. The least likely to make it is Pfaadt. While he is currently 59th on the MLB’s top 100 prospect list, he is the youngest of the three and has no MLB experience. He will most likely start the year with the Dbacks AAA affiliate, the Reno Aces, but he is definitely a candidate to be called up sometime during the season. Nelson and Jameson made their debuts last season and shined in the short time they had in the big leagues. Nelson made three starts and was strong in all of them, allowing just three earned runs total and striking out 16 batters in 18.1 innings. Jameson was just as good after he got called up. He started four games, winning three of them and striking out 24 batters in 24.1 innings. Both also had an ERA below 2. Another young candidate is Tommy Henry, who has the most experience in the bigs so far. Henry, 25, struggled in his first big league stint with a 5.36 ERA in nine starts. While Henry could still take over the fifth spot in the rotation, he might be a candidate to come out of the bullpen as a long reliever and get some spot starts throughout the season. Spring training will be the deciding factor for who makes the rotation and who falls just short.
So, who will the starting five come opening week?
The Diamondbacks open up the regular season on March 30 at Dodger Stadium, and we can look forward to seeing ace Zac Gallen on the mound to start the 2023 campaign. Come opening week; the Diamondbacks rotation will most likely look like Gallen, Kelly, Bumgarner, Davies, and Nelson. The most important thing for a team to have is pitching depth, and the Dbacks have a lot of it. A strong spring for any young guys can push them over the top and earn them a spot in the rotation. We should also expect to see many starts from Jameson and Henry throughout the season, even if they don’t make it into the rotation right away.