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View from the other side: Diamondbacks questions for Jim McLennan of AZ Snake Pit

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Boston Red Sox v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We start a 3-game series at Rogers Centre with the Diamondbacks tonight.

The Diamondbacks are 31-32, sitting fourth in the NL West, but just 2 games back of second place. They are averaging 5.08 runs per game, 4th in the NL. And, on the defensive side they are allowing 4.48 runs per game, 6th in the NL.

They have a pretty terrific starting rotation, though Luke Weaver is on the IL at the moment, and a good offense.

I sent off questions to Jim McLennan of AZ Snake Pit and he got the answers back to me in record time.

I guess I have to start by asking if the Diamondbacks are going to be buyers or sellers at the deadline? If buyers, can I interest you in a slightly used Justin Smoak? Maybe a Ken Giles?

Nobody knows. The NL West seems out of reach, with the Dodgers cruising their way to another NL West title post-season failure. The wild-card is still possible at this point though, even if it feels like almost everyone in the National League bar the Marlins and the Giants can say that. We’ll probably know more by the end of June, but GM Mike Hazen has frequently come out against fire-sales, and with most of the roster under contract for next season, I can see not much actually changing.

If we end up buying, it seems more likely we’d be looking at pitchers, so Giles more so than Smoak (especially since our Goldschmidt replacement, Christian Walker, has almost as many home-runs and is earning league minimum). But our closer Greg Holland has probably been our most reliable reliever, and Giles would be an expensive set-up man. Though also how much would Arizona be willing to give up, for what is effectively a shot at a coin-flip game as the wild-card? We’re more likely, I think, to roll the dice on someone like Clay Buchholz, who was excellent for us last season. Whatever happened to him?

Sorry, Clay is in our heap of broken toys.

The Diamondbacks had 7 picks before the start of the 3rd round of the MLB draft. How did that happen? Who were your favorite picks?

We added a pick for failing to ink our first-rounder last year. Two for Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock signing elsewhere. We had a competitive balance pick. And we got another of those from the Cardinals in the Goldschmidt trade. Hey, we should do that every year! I really just have to nod my head and agree with more knowledgeable pundits in this area - overall, the reaction seems to have been pretty favorable. But I’m keen to see how our 7th-round pick pans out: you can’t do much better in terms of names for a 235-lb first baseman than Spencer Brickhouse. That’s a 70-grade label.

Could we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers whose ERAs we are going to help out?

It’s an interesting selection. We start with Merrill Kelly, a 30-year-old rookie whom we signed out of Korea this year. Doesn’t strike out a ton of people, but can work effectively around the edges of the zone. Then there’s Zack Greinke, who has embraced his declining velocity, and has thrown more pitches below 70 mph this year than anyone else currently in the majors. Can’t argue with a K:BB better than 6:1 though. Finally, you get Robbie Ray, who will last only five innings due to pitch count, but have ten K’s in that time. While probably also walking five. He’s the epitome of the “If only he could put it all together” crowd.

Not that we are playing there but you guys put fake grass in your ballpark this year….how has that gone over? The Blue Jays changed their turf a bit ago and opposing teams whined and complained for the first year and then we didn’t hear any more about it. How have opposing teams been with your turf?

I don’t think I’ve heard too many complaints. The numbers show that it has played slow, reducing batting average and also cutting back on doubles and triples. So you’d think that pitchers would love it, and hitters would hate it. But there has seemed to be very little in the way of comments on it from players that I’ve heard, positive or negative.

Who is your favorite Diamondback to watch?

I’m a big fan of David Peralta. He was a failed pitcher in the Cardinals’ organization, who went back to his native Venezuela, re-invented himself as an outfielder and came back to America to play in independent ball. We signed him out of there, and he hit 30 home-runs last year. It’s an amazing story, and his energy and enthusiasm for the game are infectious. Nick Ahmed is an amazingly slick-fielding shortstop, who fully deserved the Gold Glove he won last year. And just for amusement, Tim Locastro, the human magnet. 67 PA this year, 10 HBPs. It’s a genuine talent (his minor-league stats show that). For context: Josh Reddick = 4,186 career PA, 7 HBPs.

I often ask NL bloggers if they really like the NL style of baseball with the pitchers hitting, or would you prefer the far better game with DHes?

Zack Greinke is batting .286 for the season, and has a two-homer game to his credit this year, in Petco, no less. His OPS of .986 would be =12th among qualified batters,.. and is 261 points better than that of your regular DH... So, don’t try and tell me that pitchers can’t hit! More generally though, I like the extra dimension of tactics it adds, NL managers actually have to think at the bottom of the order.

Anything else we should know about the Diamondbacks?

We will run, and run well. Our top five for SB - Jarrod Dyson, Locastro, Ahmed, Walker and Ketel Marte - are a combined 27-2 in stolen base attempts, thanks to the wizardry of first-base coach Dave McKay. [Did I mention Greinke is 9-0 in his career?] But the bridge to Holland at the back of the pen has been ropey. Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano were supposed to be it, but both have ERAs above five, and higher than that of late. It has become a rocky process there, so these games probably won’t be over until they’re over!

Thanks Jim.