You'll have to forgive Arizona Diamondbacks fans if they're not as excited as usual for the upcoming season.
After falling short of their quest for a second straight playoff bid in 2018 -- the result of a miserable final month of the season -- the D-backs (unofficially) went into rebuilding mode by dealing perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis and allowing former All-Stars A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin to depart via free agency. As a result, fans and experts alike don't expect the D-backs to be terribly competitive in 2019.
Could we all be wrong? Could the D-backs be a surprise playoff contender this season? Well, probably not. But the Snakes also might not be as bad as you think. Here are three reasons for hope as the team begins Cactus League play.
1. A strong pitching rotation
Yes, the D-backs lost Corbin to free agency, but their starting rotation should still be formidable. No. 1 pitcher Zack Greinke is back, along with former All-Star Robbie Ray, and Zack Godley, who will look to improve from a sub-par 2018.
The D-backs also acquired starting pitcher Luke Weaver in the Goldschmidt trade. Weaver is only 25 years old and will likely improve given time. He should be a strong back-of-the-rotation guy. And starter Taijuan Walker, who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, could be back by the middle of the season. This unit should be at least middle-of-the-road in the National League.
2. Beefed-up bullpen
The D-backs' bullpen imploded toward the end of last season, but their collection of relievers might be better in 2019. A strong core of Archie Bradley, Yoshi Hirano, T.J. McFarland and Andrew Chafin are all back this year, and the D-backs added three-time All-Star Greg Holland in January. Holland, Bradley and Hirano could all compete for the closing job left open by the departure of Brad Boxberger, who wasn't very good at that position last year.
3. Plenty of hitting talent
There is no easy (or realistic) way to replace Goldschmidt's production, but the D-backs' hitting might not drop off as much as you think. They made a smart move by signing extra-base-hit machine Eduardo Escobar to a three-year contract after trading for Escobar at last year's deadline. Escobar will play third base, and slugger Jake Lamb will replace Goldy at first.
Also, while the D-backs will certainly miss Pollock, let's not forget that he missed 250 games in his last three seasons. The D-backs' outfield should remain strong thanks in part to the return of David Peralta, who is coming off a career season. 25-year-old Ketel Marte, who seems due for a breakout year of his own, will replace Pollock by moving from second base to center field, and clutch hitter Wilmer Flores, whom the D-backs signed in the offseason, will move to second. The sky is hardly falling in the Diamondbacks' batting order.