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2023. What a year it was for the Diamondbacks.
After a six-year playoff drought, they got off to a fast start and held the best record in the National League as late as June 13. Then, after a seismic collapse in July and the first half of August, they turned their season around quickly enough to clinch a postseason spot on the second-to-last day of the season.
In October, they strung together one of the more remarkable postseason runs in MLB history. They beat the Milwaukee Brewers in comeback fashion in both Wild Card Series games. They swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. They won back-to-back games at hostile Citizens Bank Park to turn a 3-2 series deficit into a seven-game defeat of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.
While the end result was not as thrilling — a 4-1 World Series defeat to the Texas Rangers — 2023 brought Diamondbacks fans the most unprecedented postseason run in franchise history.
Now, as the calendar turns to 2024, there is plenty to be excited about — perhaps as much as any year of the team’s 26-year history.
1. Year 2 of Corbin Carroll
No one player had a bigger role in the Diamondbacks’ turnaround than Corbin Carroll.
In a memorable rookie campaign, Carroll signed a historic extension, started in left field in the MLB All-Star Game and became the first player in AL/NL history to eclipse 25 homers and 50 stolen bases in his rookie season.
It will be difficult for Carroll to one-up that in 2024, but he has seemingly surpassed expectations at every turn since the Diamondbacks drafted him in 2019.
2. Gabriel Moreno’s emergence
After coming over in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays in late 2022, catcher Gabriel Moreno seemed to get better and better as his first full year in the majors went on.
From July 1 through the end of the postseason, Moreno slashed .293/.369/.483 in 234 plate appearances with better-than-average strikeout and walk rates of 20.5 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. His .276 expected batting average and .447 expected slugging percentage in that timeframe mostly back that performance.
With his emerging offense and Gold Glove defense, Moreno figures to be one of the more exciting Diamondbacks players for years to come. He seems poised to take the next step in 2024.
3. Alek Thomas’ defense
Alek Thomas had an up-and-down year offensively in 2023, but there is little question that his center-field defense is among the best in the majors.
In both 2022 and 2023, Thomas’ outfield range ranked in the 92nd percentile, according to Statcast.
Thomas spent some time in the minors in 2023, but his hitting numbers were slightly better across the board than the season prior. Perhaps 2024 will see Thomas take more strides forward offensively, too.
4. A new third baseman
Throughout much of the regular season — and especially in the playoffs — the Diamondbacks got very little offensive production at third base.
In November, general manager Mike Hazen seemingly plugged that hole by acquiring veteran third baseman Eugenio Suárez in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. Suárez will be the team’s first true third baseman since Eduardo Escobar, who was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021.
Despite a relative down year that saw him post roughly league-average offense in 2023, Suárez hit 31 homers and posted an excellent 129 OPS+ the year prior.
Perhaps he can get back to a similar level of production in 2024. If not, he still likely represents a big upgrade over what the D-backs had at third base last year.
5. More Kevin Ginkel
Several Diamondbacks relievers emerged late in the year to help form one of the better bullpens in baseball down the stretch, but Kevin Ginkel, who has been overlooked throughout much of his pitching career, had the best overall season of all of them.
In 65 1/3 innings, Ginkel posted a 2.48 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 2023. He then followed that up with 11 2/3 scoreless innings in the postseason.
Along the way, Ginkel endeared himself to fans by showing some emotion on the mound in several key spots in the playoffs. They will be excited to see him return to the mound in 2024.
6. No who-is-the-closer questions
Spring training is still more than a month away, but the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day closer has already been pencilled in. That role belongs to Paul Sewald.
Acquired from the Mariners at the last year’s trade deadline, Sewald struggled initially with the Diamondbacks, but ultimately turned in a 3.57 ERA in 20 appearances down the stretch. He also converted 13 of 15 save opportunities.
For most of the playoffs, Sewald was lights-out, tossing eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and only three hits allowed in the first three rounds. The World Series was a different story, however. He gave up six runs in two appearances, including a blown save in Game 1.
Nonetheless, for a team that has struggled for years to secure reliable ninth-inning arms, Sewald’s presence is a welcome change.
7. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is back
With a career-best 24 homers and solid defense in left field, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made an impression in his first year with the Diamondbacks. Now, he is back on a three-year contract.
Entering his age-30 season, there are good reasons to believe that Gurriel could age better than most. He was seemingly loved by fans and teammates, too. Purple hair, it turns out, is contagious.
Yes, that is Diamondbacks shortstop Geraldo Perdomo donning a purple-hair wig while taking infield grounders. Those wigs later became a giveaway item at Chase Field.
8. Gurriel Jr., Moreno become hair twins?
Speaking of Gurriel’s purple hair, there is a bit more hair-related drama to unpack.
Earlier in the offseason, Moreno, who is good friends with Gurriel from their days playing with the Blue Jays, dyed his hair green.
Gurriel was one of the first people who received a photo of the new look. In turn, Gurriel teased him.
“Hey, why are you copying me?” Gurriel said.
At the time, Moreno was not completely copying Gurriel — it was a different color, after all. However, right around the time that Gurriel’s re-signing with the Diamondbacks was made official, that appeared to change.
Will Moreno and Gurriel be hair twins on Opening Day and throughout the season? Only time will tell.
9. A starting rotation that now features Eduardo Rodriguez
Hazen made it clear from the beginning of the offseason that adding starting pitching was his top priority. In December, the Diamondbacks signed one of the formidable starters on the market in lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. The deal was reportedly worth $80 million over four years with a vesting option for a fifth year.
Coming off a 3.30 ERA season with the Detroit Tigers, Rodriguez figures to slot in as the Diamondbacks’ No. 3 starter. With Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt already pencilled in, the Diamondbacks could have one of the best starting rotations in the National League.
10. Zac Gallen, and a ‘new era’ of Diamondbacks baseball
You might have seen Zac Gallen’s article in The Player’s Tribune, entitled “The Diamondbacks Will Be Back to Ruin the Party.” In the story, Gallen details his favorite moments of the 2023 season and why he believes we are entering a “new era” of Diamondbacks baseball.
On a personal level, Gallen finished a career-best third in NL Cy Young voting in 2024. In Thursday’s episode of the PHNX D-backs Podcast, we looked into some key factors that could help him reach another level. Regardless, Gallen has established himself as one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and fans will be eager to see him pitch when the season starts.
11. A new pitch from Merrill Kelly?
Okay, maybe Merrill Kelly won’t add a new pitch to his arsenal in 2024. But he already had five entering last season, and that did not stop him from adding a slider last winter that proved to be an important weapon throughout the 2023 season. Maybe he has something else up his sleeve for next year?
Whether Kelly does or not, D-backs fans can look forward to another year of a pitcher who only seems to be getting better, even as he enters his age-35 season.
12. Brandon Pfaadt taking the next step
With the Diamondbacks only having two established, healthy starters in Gallen and Kelly entering the playoffs, rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt slotted in as the No. 3 starter throughout October.
Pfaadt was a big reason for the Diamondbacks’ postseason success. In five starts, he posted a 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 26 strikeouts against just five walks in 22 innings of work. The Diamondbacks went 4-1 in those games.
In a recent edition of the PHNX Diamondbacks Podcast, we took a look at some of the underlying numbers that led to Pfaadt’s playoff success. His whiff and chase rates, in particular, were exceptional.
After his stellar playoff performance — which was preceded by a promising second half in which he posted a 4.22 ERA from July 22 on — Pfaadt seems poised for a breakout in 2024.
13. The next wave of D-backs starters
Pfaadt has been the Diamondbacks’ headliner pitching prospect for a couple of years, but the team has several other young starters who could contribute in 2024.
Tommy Henry posted a 4.15 ERA in 18 games before an elbow injury sidelined him from August onward. He is expected to be fully healthy for 2024.
Ryne Nelson struggled in 2023, but he still has some of the characteristics — namely, a four-seam fastball with good ride and solid overall command — that teams desire in young starters.
Other potential starters waiting in the wings include Slade Cecconi, Bryce Jarvis and Blake Walston, all of whom were selected in the top 35 picks in their respective drafts.
14. The potential impact of Jordan Lawlar
Jordan Lawlar’s cup of coffee in the majors did not go well in 2023; he hit just .129/.209/.129 in 34 plate appearances. Nonetheless, he is still widely regarded as Diamondbacks’ top overall prospect — and one of the best prospects in baseball — for a reason.
Whether the 21-year-old cracks the Diamondacks’ Opening Day roster remains to be seen, but he figures to contribute in the majors at some point in 2024 — possibly as the everyday shortstop. Lawlar has a chance to be one of the Diamondbacks’ best position players in the not-too-distant future.
15. Facing the Dodgers
The Diamondbacks are slated to play the Los Angeles Dodgers 13 times this year, and those matchups will feel different than they have in the past.
Yes, the Dodgers have been all over the headlines this offseason by adding two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, decorated Japanese starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto and dominant-when-healthy right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Nonetheless, after the Diamondbacks swept the Dodgers in the NLDS in 2023, the Dodgers will be looking to re-assert their dominance.
The first of those Diamondbacks-Dodgers series is scheduled for April 29-May 1 at Chase Field.
16. A flatter-than-usual NL West division
Entering 2023, some analysts viewed the San Diego Padres as being equally formidable in the National League as the Dodgers. Now that the Padres have dealt star outfielder Juan Soto to the New York Yankees and lost several key pitchers in free agency, the club looks like much less of a threat.
According to Fangraphs’ 2024 win percentage projections, the Diamondbacks are currently seen as the second-best team in the division behind the Dodgers. The Padres and San Francisco Giants both project to finish slightly below .500. The Colorado Rockies are widely expected to finish in a distant last place.
Of course, the offseason is far from over. There is still plenty of time for the Padres and Giants to add. Regardless, this looks like a less competitive NL West than the Diamondbacks have dealt with in recent years.
17. rematch with the Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks have long been paired as natural rivals in MLB’s scheduling system, meaning that the two clubs play four inter-league games every year. In the past, there was no actual rivalry to speak of. Now, coming off a World Series matchup in 2023, those games figure to have much more meaning.
In 2024, the Diamondbacks are slated to play the Rangers in Texas on May 28-29. The Rangers will then come to Arizona for a second two-game series from Sep. 10-11.
18. New lighting at Chase Field
While the Diamondbacks’ long-term stadium plans are still undecided, it appears that new LED lights have been installed at Chase Field.
Expect the field to look a bit brighter in 2024 when the roof is closed.
19. Justin Martinez trying to get over the hump
Diamondbacks 21-year-old reliever Justin Martinez posted poor numbers in his first taste of the majors in 2023, logging a 12.60 ERA and 2.40 ERA in 10 innings. Nonetheless, he also showcased arguably the best stuff in the organization, including a four-seam fastball that averaged over 100 mph, a wipeout splitter and a slider.
Command was a big issue for Martinez; he walked 11 in those 10 innings of work. While that is not necessarily an easy problem to fix, Martinez figures to get another crack at a bullpen job this year. If he finds a way to put it all together, he could find his way into a late-inning relief role.
20. Diamondbacks Base running
With the help of first base coach Dave McKay, the Diamondbacks were once again one of the league’s premier base running teams in 2023.
According to Fangraphs’ all-encompassing base running metric, the D-backs produced more value on the bases in 2023 than all but five major-league teams. They also ranked second in baseball with 166 stolen bases and second in stolen base success rate at 86.5 percent.
Of course, much of the team’s base running prowess came from Carroll, who went 54-for-59 in stolen bases and assembled one of the best base running seasons in MLB history in his rookie year.
A bounce-back season from Jake McCarthy could make the D-backs even better on the bases in 2024. Despite spending roughly two months in the minors and struggling offensively, McCarthy went 26-for-30 in stolen base attempts while in the majors.
21. Another Christian Walker Gold Glove?
Perhaps it would be unwise to assume that Christian Walker will win his third straight Gold Glove at first base in 2024, but it is fairly difficult to imagine it going any other way.
In 2023, Walker turned in another excellent season with the glove, tallying nine defensive runs saved and 12 outs above average. Walker figures to be a key cog once again in a Diamondbacks defense that should be well above average again in 2024.
22. A healthy Corbin Martin
After coming over from the Houston Astros in the Zack Greinke trade in 2019, former top pitching prospect Corbin Martin has yet to reach 100 professional innings in any season in the Diamondbacks organization. In 2023, he did not pitch at all after suffering a lat tendon tear in his throwing shoulder in spring training.
Prior to the injury, Martin seemed to be on track to make the Diamondbacks’ 2023 Opening Day roster. In 5 2/3 Cactus League innings, he allowed two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts.
It appears that Martin will be healthy from the get-go in 2024. Maybe this will be the year he is able to show what he can do.
23. Cactus League baseball in your backyard
Few MLB fanbases have easy access to their teams before the regular season begins. In Arizona, fans can get an up-close look at the Diamondbacks — the reigning National League champions entering 2024 — starting in mid-February.
With the additional attention brought by the team’s World Series run, Diamondbacks fans figure to take advantage of that opportunity this year more than they have in a while.
24. The PHNX Diamondbacks Podcast
If we aren’t making the Diamondbacks fan experience more enriching on the PHNX Diamondbacks Podcast, we are not doing our job!
If you are not familiar, the PHNX D-backs Podcast is a year-round, five-days-a-week Diamondbacks podcast featuring myself and Derek Montilla. The show streams live from our downtown Phoenix studio, generally on weekdays at 1 P.M. Arizona time. You can watch live or after the fact on our YouTube channel, or download the audio-only version on your preferred podcast app.
Thank you so much to all who watched, listened, commented, submitted questions, etc. in 2023. We cannot wait to talk Diamondbacks with you in 2024 and beyond.
Top photo: Joe Rondone/The Republic
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