The biggest question remaining in a dreadful season by the Arizona Diamondbacks is whether they will break a franchise record for losses. That’s hardly something to sell tickets and get ratings, but there are a few reasons to still pay close attention to the Snakes.
The team activated two players on September 1 when rosters were expanded from 26 to 28 players, and both of them are worth watching.
Former First Round Pick Weaver Is Healthy Again
Almost three years ago when the D-Backs traded Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals, one of the pieces they received in return was pitcher Luke Weaver, a first round selection in the 2014 MLB Draft. But so far, for several reasons, Weaver has been unable to take the ball much.
In 2019, injuries sidelined Weaver for nearly nearly four months and he made just twelve starts. In 2020, the pandemic shortened the season and Weaver never seemed to get going, making 12 starts again and pitching terribly in most of them. This season, in a near repeat of his ’19 season, Weaver was in the rotation in April and May before going down with a shoulder injury. He returned last week and has pitched pretty well in two starts.
Weaver is a cautionary tale of how you can overvalue young pitchers, especially those who were plucked in the first round. There’s still a lot of dumb luck to finding good pitchers, and Weaver now has three years in Arizona with not much to show for it. He’ll be 29 next August, and the Diamondbacks need to use the last month of this season to learn if the long-legged right-hander can be part of their future.
The Longshot: Stuart Fairchild
The second player the D-Backs activated at the start of this month was outfielder Stuart Fairchild. Unlike Weaver, Fairchild was not a blue chip prospect. The Nationals picked him in the 38th round of the draft back in 2014. Picks made that late are almost whispered, not announced. Then in 2017 after he opted to go to college, Fairchild was selected by the Reds in the second round. Arizona got him at the trade deadline last year for Archie Bradley.
So far, Fairchild has been better than expected when he’s healthy. He was summoned to the Snakes in July and showed good speed in the outfield before being sent to Triple-A Reno rather unexpectedly. Fairchild is a trim, quick right-handed hitter who makes contact and has a good idea of the strike zone. He can play any of the three outfield positions adequately. He doesn’t seem to project to have power at the MLB level, but he’s still just 24 and could grow into it.
The Diamondbacks have every reason to play Fairchild to see how he can help them in the outfield in 2022 and beyond. He has the feel of a guy who might be a super-utility type, like Chris Taylor in LA (play 4-5 positions well and do a lot of things pretty good). Teams need that type of player in the modern game, and Fairchild could fit that role.
What Will We Hear From Bumgarner?
Since coming over from the Giants two years ago, Madison Bumgarner has been flummoxed in his attempts to be a true ace. The ornery left-hander was inconsistent last season in the shortened year, and he’s been hampered with nagging injuries in 2021. But since coming back to the rotation healthy in mid-July, MadBum has pitched well: 3.39 ERA in ten starts with a 44-to-17 K-to-BB ratio. He’s the one pitcher that gives the lowly Diamondback a chance: the team is 5-5 in his starts since he came back to the rotation in July.
Bumgarner has a lot to prove. He’s proud and he’s highly-paid. He feels like a pitcher you want to keep an eye on for double-digit K games or low-hit games. Still just 32, Bumgarner has great stuff when he’s healthy.
Weekend Series Odds for Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are north in Seattle to play the Mariners this weekend in a three-game series. On Friday, the D-Backs are -124 according to FanDuel, and they will be underdogs all weekend. But the best option for an Arizona winner this weekend against the Mariners is actually Friday night, since Madison Bumgarner will be on the mound. Last weekend at Chase Field, Seattle swept the D-Backs in their ballpark. The Snakes will want to flip that this weekend. I don’t think they have the fangs for it, but MadBum should be tough in the opener.