With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's D-backs squad each day this week. Today's topic: The perfect season
PHOENIX -- Things seldom go exactly to plan for a team over a 162-game schedule, but if things were to break just right for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017, what would that look like?
For one thing, it would look like the complete opposite of 2016, when the D-backs stumbled out of the gate and finished with a 69-93 record that cost manager Chip Hale and GM Dave Stewart their jobs and Tony La Russa his title as chief baseball officer.
Though last year's results would seem to indicate the D-backs are not a contender, if they stay healthy, get some bounce-back seasons from key players and their bullpen improves, they just might surprise some folks.
After a breakout 2015 season, it appeared center fielder A.J. Pollock was coming into his own. Then, in the second-to-last game of the spring, he fractured his right elbow sliding headfirst into home plate.
The injury cost him most of the season, and it was a sign of things to come for the D-backs, who also lost outfielder David Peralta and ace Zack Greinke for significant time.
So if things are going to be different this year, it starts with the those three staying healthy.
It doesn't end there, however, as the team also needs bounce-back seasons from Greinke and Shelby Miller.
Greinke needs to be more like the pitcher he was before last year, when he was inconsistent while compiling a 4.37 ERA in 26 starts.
Miller is coming off what was a dreadful season. The D-backs paid a high price to acquire him from the Braves, with the expectation that he would be their No. 2 starter. Instead, he struggled mightily and at one point was sent to the Minors to work out his issues.
"I know it's all well-documented what Shelby went through last year," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said in December. "But in my conversations with him, he's worked extremely hard, and he's healthy and looking to turn the page on 2016 as soon as possible."
That's something the bullpen would certainly like to do after its struggles in 2016.
The D-backs signed veteran Fernando Rodney to be the closer and provide some veteran leadership in the 'pen. The key is for some of the other bullpen candidates to step forward.
And there are no shortage of candidates in the race for bullpen spots, which should be a free-for-all among some of the organization's younger pitchers as well as some veteran non-roster invitees.
Add it all up, and a perfect season has the D-backs on the cusp of the postseason spot they thought they would get in 2016.
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.