After a strange 2020 season, the 2021 MLB season will be starting on time. Currently, teams are slated to play all 162 games which means pitchers’ workloads will return to normal. More innings and more batters on more teams mean pitchers will actually have time to ramp up, unlike in 2020. During spring training, teams will need to start getting a feel for what their rotations might be. Here is an early look at the Arizona Diamondbacks projected 2021 pitching rotation.
1. Zac Gallen
Gallen had a fantastic 2020 season. In 12 starts and 72 innings pitched he posted a 2.75 ERA. These numbers ranked him ninth in Cy Young award voting. Despite the shortened season, Gallen only threw eight fewer innings than he did in 2020.
He has a legitimate chance to be an ace for the Diamondbacks. His ERA may rise due to the increased work he will be seeing, but he is already trending upward.
Madison Bumgarner was once one of the biggest names in the entire MLB. During his time with the Giants he won three World Series, a World Series MVP, an NLCS MVP and made four All-Star team.
His production has fallen off in recent years, culminating in an all-time low in 2020. During his first year with Arizona, his ERA was 6.48 and he won only one of his nine starts. Bumgarner still deserves this spot in the rotation, however, because he deserves the benefit of the doubt during a pandemic-shortened season.
He has star power, and he can pick up his numbers and maybe even return to top form if given the right chance. The Diamondbacks should give him that opportunity.
3. Luke Weaver
Weaver actually led the entire MLB in losses last season, at nine. His ERA was abysmal at 6.58. He gave up almost 11 hits and almost two home runs per nine innings last year.
In almost as many innings in 2019, however, Weaver posted an ERA under 3.00 and had almost five strikeouts per walk. He is a risk and an anomaly, absolutely, but he deserves another chance with a larger workload. His place in the rotation, however, is subject to change.
4. Caleb Smith
Smith’s 2020 numbers are misleading, because he only pitched 14 innings. In a full season with the Miami Marlins, he posted an ERA of 4.52 in 28 starts and 153.1 innings pitched.
If the Diamondbacks want to experiment with him, then he should be a back-end pitcher for the first year of their test. He could surprise many fans in Arizona, or return to 2019 form. Those numbers are admittedly not fantastic, but worthy of a rotation spot on a team without a bunch of stars.
In 2020, Merrill Kelly was not given much of a chance. He pitched only 31.1 innings and started five games, posting an ERA of 2.59. His previous season with the Diamondbacks saw him start 32 games, throw 183.1 innings and earn and ERA of 4.42.
Expect Arizona to give him starters’ work again in 2021. Due to his lack of resume, he will fall toward the bottom of the rotation. But if Smith and Weaver do not deliver, he could rise quickly.
Featured Image courtesy of Rob Schumacher/The Republic
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