Follow Us on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter: Eric @OAKDezey

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MLB Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Finally on to my home turf -- the NL West.

At first thought, the Arizona Diamondbacks may be the most desolate franchise in Major League Baseball. For one, they play in Arizona -- the Florida of the West Coast. They've only been in existence in 1998. And while they won a World Series during that time, their colors and logos were so radically different, it's hard to remember it was the same franchise. Seriously, the D-backs have had more costume changes than a 30 minutes episode of Glee. My roommates are currently watching that show.

The same team?

To add insult to injury, their name sounds remarkably like "D-bags."

Upon closer inspection, however, things might not be completely lost in the Land of the Sun.

Fan support in Phoenix is actually higher than you might think. They ranked 21st in attendance last year. Not great, but above Tampa, a playoff team and only a few hundred tickets behind Cincinnati, another Division winner. They also beat out the 29th ranked Oakland Athletics, who ranked behind both the Florida Marlins, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates (just in case you were wondering...).

As for the 2011 outfit, the Diamondbacks will likely fail to challenge for the NL West. They'll battle the San Diego Padres for 4th place assuming the Giants, Dodgers and Rockies don't significantly underachieve.

In spite of a relatively grim outlook heading the into the season, the Diamondbacks have some budding young stars. Assuming they're able to hold on to their current talent, adding a good corner infielder and two good starting pitchers may be all this team needs to contend.

Justin Upton, Chris Young and Stephen Drew are the cornerstones of the offense. All show potential to be good to great Major Leaguers and all are under 27 years old. Upton and Young both had down year last year, but they also combined to hit 44 HRs and drive in 160 runs. Maybe it's just because he murders the Giants, but Stephen Drew seems like he has .300 potential. Catcher Miguel Montero, 28 himself, disappointed many baseball folks with a sub-par 2010, but there are many who still think he can be in the top half of NL Catchers. Kelly Johnson, also 28, had one of the best offensive seasons for a second baseman in the entire league in 2010. There's no telling whether or not he'll replicate that performance in 2011, but should he come close, that's Center, Right, Catcher, Shortstop and Second Base where the Diamondbacks can be above average.

First and Third Base, however, will likely be the downfall of the Diamondbacks offense in 2011. They lost their two best power hitters in Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche this off-season and replacements Melvin Mora and Juan Miranda will pale in comparison. Reynolds and LaRoche combined from 57 home runs in 2010. I'm betting Miranda and Mora don't reach half that total.

Like most bad teams, the Diamondbacks biggest problem in 2010 was their pitching. Their rotation is thin and their bullpen just plain bad. Jayson Stark of ESPN provided the mind-blowing stat that the Diamondbacks lost 30 games last season when they led or were tied after the 6th inning. That might not mean a whole lot to non-baseball folks, but that's bad. Like what Quinn did to Finn bad. Sue Sylvester bad. Glee still on...

Luckily, the Diamondbacks new GM Kevin Towers made building a new bullpen his biggest priority. J.J. Putz has the potential to fill the closer's role nicely and David Hernandez and Juan Gutierrez should add some nice depth.

In the Starter's world, I'm calling Ian Kennedy to be the breakout starter in the NL West this season. His 9-10 record and 3.80 ERA might not look like much, but his 1.55 ERA in September and 65 innings in his last 11 starts revealed his potential. Behind him, Daniel Hudson (23) is looking for his own breakout season. In August and September last year, he was 7-1 with an ERA under 2.00. The league will likely adjust to him, but those numbers over two full months are no fluke.

Rounding out the back end of their rotation are Joe Saunders, Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga. Saunders looks to be a solid #3 or #4 starter at best. Galarraga we all know from his near perfect game last season. Zach Duke meanwhile comes to Arizona from Pittsburgh where he has spent the last several years as the Pirates' Ace. Let's dwell on that for a second. The Pirates Ace of the last half decade signs with the Diamondbacks and is their #4 starter.

I'll be in a dark corner somewhere crying -- with Rachel Berry...singing this song...which she just sang on my roommate's laptop.

"A .500 season" played by Lionel Richie.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates" played by the blind student.

The 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks
C: Miguel Montero
1B: Juan Miranda
2B: Kelly Johnson
SS: Stephen Drew
3B: Melvin Mora
LF: Xavier Nady
CF: Chris Young
RF: Justin Upton
SP: Ian Kennedy
SP: Joe Saunders
SP: Daniel Hudson
SP: Zach Duke
SP: Armando Galarraga
CL: J.J. Putz

Best Case Scenario:
The Diamondbacks become last year's Padres. They race off to a fast start behind strong solid pitching and hang with the Giants, Rockies and Dodgers all the up until the All-Star Break. Kennedy and Hudson explode just as Latos and Richard last season, both earning 15+ wins and an ERA under 3.00. Behind a 30 save season from J.J. Putz, the restructured bullpen blows less than half as many games as in 2010. Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga both enjoy a rebirth in the desert, with Duke finally finding comfort in a #4 spot. Serious about making a run for the West, the Diamonbacks trade to get Michael Young from Texas to play Third Base and acquire Lef Fielder David DeJesus from a disbanding A's team off-loading all talent in anticipation for sale and move to San Jose. After remaining in the hunt through mid-September, both Chris Young and Ian Kennedy go down with minor injuries, effectively eliminating the Diamondbacks from contention. Nonetheless, with Young and DeJesus and an invigorated rotation, the Diamondbacks go into the 2011 offseason as legitimate contenders in 2012.

Worst Case Scenario
The Diamondbacks become last year's Diamondbacks. Kennedy fails to take the next step in his progression, while the league figures out Hudson and tattoos him with a 7.50 ERA in his first month. Justin Upton again under performs and after voicing his displeasure with the Diamondbacks and Arizona in general, demands a trade. Kelly Johnson comes back to Earth and falls of significantly from his 2010 totals. Armando Galaraga leaves the team to begin work on "Imperfection," a highly anticipated major motion picture on the Jim Joyce episode. Zach Duke is Zach Duke. Already 15 games out of the Division by the All-Star Break, first year GM Kevin Towers decides to unload and rebuild his own team from scratch. They trade away Young, Upton and Drew to build up a pool of young prospects. Requesting patience from fans, Towers admits it will likely be 2 or 3 years until the Diamondbacks can feasibly compete for the post-season. They change their logo and colors to Green, Brown and Orange.

No comments:

Post a Comment