Most expansion teams have to pay their dues by wallowing in obscurity for years, if not decades, before achieving any level of success. Not the Arizona Diamondbacks. After breaking into MLB in 1998, the Snakes caught lightning in a bottle with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and won the 2001 World Series, beating the Yankees in a seven game thriller for the ages.
However, since that epic championship win, it has been a struggle in the desert. The Diamondbacks have only reached the playoffs four times over the past 18 years. Their last postseason appearance came in 2017 when Arizona got swept in the NLDS by the Dodgers. Last season the D-Backs went a respectable 85-77 but finished 21 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and four games back in the Wild Card.
In an attempt to get back to the playoffs, Arizona showed urgency and purpose this offseason. The typically cash-strapped Snakes went out and spent big money, signing former Giants World Series MVP and lefty ace Madison Bumgarner to a 5-year, $85 million deal. Then Arizona swung a deal for former Pirates spark plug outfielder Starling Marte. The D-Backs also signed outfielder Kole Calhoun, catcher Stephen Vogt, pitchers Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra and extended key contributors in outfielder David Peralta and shortstop Nick Ahmed. In the process, Arizona suffered few meaningful defections, most notably outfielders Adam Jones and Jarrod Dyson.
The addition of Marte (.295, 23 homers, 82 RBIs in 2019) is key for the Diamondbacks offense. By penciling him in front of Ketel Marte (.329, 32 homers, 92 RBIs) and Eduardo Escobar (.269, 35 homers, 118 RBIs), the Snakes now possess one of the most potent 1-2-3 combos in baseball, followed by a balanced middle and bottom of the order.
Here is the Diamondbacks projected starting lineup:
1. Starling Marte OF
2. Ketel Marte 2B
3. Eduardo Escobar 3B
4. Christian Walker 1B
5. David Peralta OF
6. Kevin Cron DH
7. Kole Calhoun OF
8. Nick Ahmed SS
9. Carson Kelly C
The backbone and ultimate strength of the D-Backs is their deep and talented starting rotation. Bumgarner steps in as the ace, pushing everyone back one slot. Even with Mike Leake opting out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns, Arizona has plenty of starting pitching to go around, specifically young pitchers with high upside.
Here is the projected Arizona starting five:
1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Robbie Ray
3. Luke Weaver
4. Zac Gallen
5. Merrill Kelly
In the bullpen, Archie Bradley (3.52 ERA, 18 saves) remains the closer and will be set up by Guerra, Rondon and Andrew Chafin.
So what do oddsmakers think of the 2020 Diamondbacks?
At BetMGM, Arizona's win total is 30.5. This translates to 82.35 wins over the course of a 162-game season. The juice on the win total is very telling. The over is priced at -120, with the under + 100. Why are oddsmakers forcing over bettors to pay such an expensive price? Because they've likely taken in sharp money on the over, creating house liability. In three seasons under manager Torey Luvullo, Arizona has gone 260-226 (.535), averaging 86.7 wins per season.
FanGraphs, one of the most trusted and respected sites for advanced baseball analytics, projects the Diamondbacks to go 31-29, lending further credence to the over 30.5 win total.
Unfortunately, Arizona isn't expected to make the postseason. The Snakes are a -264 favorite to miss the playoffs and a + 210 dog to make the playoffs. This translates to a 72.5% implied probably that Arizona misses the postseason.
The Diamondbacks are + 1000 to win the NL West, trailing both the Dodgers (-667) and Padres (+ 700). The Rockies are + 4000 and the Giants + 5000.
Arizona is + 2500 to win the National League and + 5000 to win the World Series.
In terms of player props and futures, Ketel Marte is + 2500 to win NL MVP. He has the 3rd-best odds to lead the NL in batting average at + 1000. Marte has the 2nd-best odds to lead the NL in hits at + 700, trailing only Nolan Arenado at + 600.
Starling Marte has the 4th-best odds to lead the NL in steals at + 800.
Ray is + 5000 to win the NL Cy Young and Bumgarner is + 8000. Ray is + 1600 to lead the NL in strikeouts and Bumgarner + 5000.
Bumgarner is + 2000 to lead the NL in wins. Ray is + 3500 and Merrill Kelly is + 3000.
Bumgarner's over/under wins is 4.5 (over + 105, under -136) and over/under strikeouts 63.5 (over -110, under -120).
Bradley is + 1000 to lead the NL in saves.