Three breakouts that are key to the Arizona Diamondbacks' success in 2024

These three players could be extremely important to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2024.
Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees
Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees / Adam Hunger/GettyImages
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Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Andrew Saalfrank (57) throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers
Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Andrew Saalfrank (57) throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

Andrew Saalfrank

Andrew Saalfrank could come up big as the team’s go-to high-leverage left-handed reliever in 2024. Saalfrank made a good first impression in 2023, pitching 10.1 scoreless innings. He only struck out six and walked four, but his numbers between Triple-A and Double-A are extremely promising.

Saalfrank pitched 64 innings between Amarillo and Reno, working to a 2.53 ERA, 3.00 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP. The Southpaw reliever held opponents to a batting average below the Mendoza line at .195 while striking them out over a third of the time with a 34.6% K-rate. But walks were an issue. He handed out a free pass to 13.4% of the opponents he faced. On the plus side, he also kept an extremely low 0.28 HR/9. With a 62.8% GB%, he had the 7th highest ground ball rate among any minor league arm who tossed at least 60 innings.

It’s not as if this production mostly came at Double-A, either. He pitched 30.2 innings at Triple-A Reno, where he had a sub-2.50 ERA, held opponents to a .195 average, and struck out 37.5% of the batters he faced. That’s not the largest sample size, but it’s not an insignificant amount of innings for a relief pitcher. On top of that, it was in the Pacific Coast League, where the average ERA was 5.70, and the average triple-slash was .272/.369/.453.

In Saalfrank’s brief MLB call-up, he had a ground ball rate of over 70%, as well as an exit velocity of just 86.7 MPH. He allowed a batted ball 31 times, none of which were a barrel, per Statcast. Saalfrank throws two pitches: a sinker and a curveball. He only averages out around 91-94 MPH with his sinker but throws it with above-average vertical drop. His curveball, a low-to-mid-80s offering, induced a whiff rate of 35.7% in the Majors.

Saalfrank may not be your typical overpowering relief arm, but he keeps hard contact to a minimum, induces ground balls, and can get some swings and misses. Saalfrank did outstanding in the PCL, and even though typically, I wouldn’t say I like putting too much weight in minor league statistics in such an extreme setting, he was, far and away, one of the best pitchers in that league. He could be a massive cog in the bullpen in 2024.