Unexpectedly, the Arizona Diamondbacks had the third-best record in the National League as of Tuesday, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves with a record of 28-20.
Their tiny (+15) run differential doesn’t support their 94-win pace yet, and it’s still early. However, few people outside of Arizona anticipated that at this point in the season, there would be a smaller gap between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks (1 1/2 games) than there would be between the Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres (6 1/2 games).
We wanted to use this occasion to review the Diamondbacks’ first-quarter performance even though it has become customary to ignore them because they haven’t played in the postseason since 2017 and haven’t even reached the League Championship Series since 2007. Please scroll gently with us as we discuss three of the most noteworthy dynamics at work in Arizona.
Perdomo and Carroll have a big year
You would have been right to assume that Corbin Carroll would be the guy in question if we had informed you in March that a young Diamondbacks position player would lead the team in OPS+ and Wins Above Replacement.
However, you would have to discover the difference between being justified and being right the hard way. That’s because shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, 23, has surpassed Carroll in both of those metrics, as have the rest of his teammates.
Perdomo struggled mightily in his first full season in the majors last year, batting.195/.285/.262 in 148 games with almost as many strikeouts (103) as total bases (113). Whether out of choice or need, the Diamondbacks persisted with him, and it’s paying off.
His batting line through his first 37 games is.317/.418/.529 (161 OPS+). Perdomo was one of only five batters who entered the weekend with contact and chase rates in the 90th percentile or higher. Other people? Steven Kwan, Anthony Rendon, J.P. Crawford, Adley Rutschman, and others. That’s a good group of people, in our opinion.
In 114 fewer games than last season, Perdomo has nearly reached his home run total, but his rise is less a result of slugging the ball (he’s hitting the ball hard less frequently) and more a result of his aforementioned dedication to commanding the zone.
He increased his in-zone contact percentage from 83.7% to 90.1%, and roughly 33% of his swings are landing in the sweet area (between 10 and 30 degrees). Perdomo is a clever player when you add in his renowned defense.
Carroll is doing really well as well. The fact that he has a well-rounded game is one of the reasons why we placed him as the No. 2 prospect in the country heading into the spring.
He has more pink and red on his Baseball Savant page than a CVS aisle during Valentine’s Day, so he has lived up to that reputation.
With seven home runs and 13 stolen bases (on 15 attempts), Carroll is slashing.275/.371/.490 (137 OPS+) overall. Additionally, he leads all big-league rookies with 1.5 Wins Above Replacement.
The Varsho trade succeeds
How about 23-year-old backstop Gabriel Moreno when we’re talking about talented young athletes? It was worth being concerned that the Diamondbacks could ask Moreno to take on a bigger role than he was capable of handling when Carson Kelly broke his forearm late in the spring.
There goes that. Through his first 37 games, Moreno had a.301/.328/.374 (95 OPS+) batting line. He is in the 50th percentile for framing, which might be improved with time, but he has displayed a strong arm and is second in Statcast’s new caught stealing over average rating.
However, Moreno wasn’t the only player Arizona acquired in that transaction, which involved sending Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays last December.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a seasoned outfielder who has hit.321/.376/.562 (156 OPS+) so far this season, was also acquired by them. Varsho, on the other hand, came into Tuesday with an OPS+ of 81, which is significantly lower than his normal range.
There is no reason to think Varsho or Gurriel will keep up their current paces going ahead because these things are fluid. In light of this, it is fair to say that the Diamondbacks have, so far, reaped more benefits from that trade than the Blue Jays, which is in large part why they have performed so well thus far.
Gallen and Kelly smoothing out snags
Last time out, Zac Gallen struggled against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing eight earned runs in three and a third innings. This is noteworthy given that he had gone 28 innings without giving up a run in his previous seven outings, which featured six earned runs altogether.
Despite Gallen blowing it against the Pirates, he still has a starter ERA below 3.00, one of just two for the D-Backs. The other is Merrill Kelly.
Gallen and Kelly are having All-Star-caliber seasons, which is fortunate considering how inconsistent the rest of Arizona’s rotation has been. To round out their starting five, the Diamondbacks have settled on a combination of Ryne Nelson, Tommy Henry, and Brandon Pfaadt for the time being. Mixed findings were obtained.