7. Arizona Diamondbacks (12–8, plus-22, LT: 11)
After years of lagging the rest of the league analytically under the old-school duo of Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa, the Mike Hazen-led Diamondbacks are now trying new things just a about every day. One of the most impactful moves has been to hire recently retired pitchers Dan Haren and Burke Badenhop to augment the work of defensive whiz Mike Fitzgerald and improve the team’s run prevention. So far, so great: The D-backs rank among the 10 best teams in baseball in both park-adjusted ERA and park-adjusted fielding-independent pitching...after ranking second-to-last and third-to-last by those measures last year.
Arizona’s offense has been unusually lucky in the way it’s clustered hits together at the plate this season, and those types of random hot streaks tend to regress over time. But an attack led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and Jake Lamb, complemented by a pitching augmented through better health, the arrival of young right-hander Taijuan Walker, and a group of baseball minds that actually know what they’re doing, could make the Snakes one of the biggest surprises in baseball in 2017.