So it's a horrible attempt at an April Fool's thing, but I wanted to give it a crack anyway. In fact, this is a preview for the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks. I don't know why I like this team so much, but outside of Cincinnati, this may be my favorite National League team.
Before we look ahead, let's take a look a quick look back at a rather disappointing season for the Snakes. After a 12-17 start to the year, Bob Melvin (now a scout with the Mets) was released from his managerial duties in favor of the boy wonder, A.J. Hinch. Hinch at the time was just five seasons removed from active playing time. At a time when most mid-30s catchers who aren't quite good enough to stick are hanging around AAA teams (i.e. Pat Borders and Sal Fasano), Hinch was managing the D-backs to a 58-75 finish, good for 70-92 overall and a last place finish in the NL West.
Now entering his first full season, Hinch looks to channel his inner Brad Stevens and lead his team to glory.
The youthful core of the team's lineup remains intact. The left side of the infield will again feature Stephen Drew at SS and Mark Reynolds at 3B. Reynolds enjoyed a breakout year in 2009, in which he hit 44 HRs and knocked in 102 runs. However, he also failed to make contact on a third strike 223 times, breaking his own Major League record by 19. The inconsistent Chris Young returns in CF and 2009 All-Star Justin Upton will man RF, with a sweet 6-year deal in his pocket as well. Miguel Montero and Chris Snyder will tag team the catching duties. They have alternated No. 1 duties over the last few years due to injury, with Montero the guy at this point. LF Conor Jackson looks to return from valley fever, which sounds cooler than it actually is. His return pushes Gerardo Parra to the 4th OF spot that he seems better suited for anyway. Welcome 1B Adam LaRoche and 2B Kelly Johnson. The Rock moves to his fourth team in two seasons and is developing journeyman status despite rather consistent seasons over his career, averaging over 20 HRs and 90 RBIs with a .274 AVG. I guess the name translation fits. He replaces a who's who of first basemen from last year including Chad Tracy (now with the Cubs), Tony Clark (MLB Network), and Josh Whitesell (Nationals spring invite and apparently very muscular). If anyone knows what happened to Kelly Johnson last year, please let the Braves know. Not that he was an all-star or anything, but his average dropped 60 points. The Sidewinders hope he can return to 2008 form, although he shouldn't be needed at the top of the lineup like he was in Atlanta. The bench includes the aforementioned Parra and Snyder, as well as utility guys like Ryan Roberts, Rusty Ryal, Tony Abreu, and Augie Ojeda.
- SS Drew- not a prototype leadoff guy, but that guy (Young) can't get on base
- LF Jackson- hopefully the fever was the reason for the .182 AVG last year
- RF Upton- the man
- 1B LaRoche- looking to take pressure off Upton and Reynolds
- 3B Reynolds- it's not crazy to foresee a 400 strikeout season from him this year
- C Montero- seems to be coming into his own
- CF Young- turned it on a little last year after a late season demotion
- 2B Johnson- probably happy with a .260-type season out of him
This is where you may notice more of a difference this year with Arizona. The only real "returning" starter is Dan "Boom" Haren. He went to the All-Star Game last year after a solid 14-win season and a 3.14 ERA. He'll start on Opening Day as it looks like Brandon Webb likely won't be ready until May. After that, it's all fresh meat. Doug Davis signed with Milwaukee, Max Scherzer was traded for see next sentence, and Yusmeiro Petit was waived. Enter new guys Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, and Rodrigo Lopez. Jackson was an all-star for the Tigers last year and came over in the Curtis Granderson trade that sent Scherzer and "Stink, Jr." Daniel Schlereth to the Tigers. That trade also got them Kennedy. Lopez was a non-roster invite that just won the No. 4 spot, partially because he pitched pretty well, but mostly because Kevin Mulvey and not that Bill Buckner combined to allow 36 runs in 28 spring innings. They also brought in Kris Benson last week, apparently when word broke that Webb was being pushed back. He failed to impress in his only spring start to date. Due to poor performance and subsequent demotions of Mulvey and Buckner, I would think that Benson should get the fifth spot for now. A wild card for on down the road is RH Bryan Augenstein. He pitched awful this spring, but is only 23 and at 6'6'', 230, the Diamondbacks like his presence on the mound. Ideal rotation once Webb is healthy is parenthesized below.
- RH Haren (Webb)
- RH Jackson (Haren)
- RH Kennedy (Jackson)
- RH Lopez (Kennedy)
- RH Benson (Lopez/Benson)
A few new faces here, with the additions of RH Aaron Heilman and RH Bobby Howry. They will hope to sure up one of this team's trouble spots last year, pitching in the 8th inning. Hinch should also have some young guys with some experience at his disposal with right handers Juan Gutierrez, Esmerling Vasquez, and LH Clay "the 'stache" Zavada. Those three, all turning 26 this year, combined for 167 appearances last season. Veteran RH Blaine Boyer and RH closer Chad Qualls round out the 'pen.
PLAYERS TO AVOID / PLAYERS TO HOPE WE FACE / THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Despite being demonstrably better than Tomo Ohka, Brandon Webb has beat the Reds to the tune of a 6-2 record and 2.52 ERA.
- I will nominate Kelly Johnson for the Bill Hall team thanks in large part to his .313 AVG and .400 OBP vs. the Redlegs.
- Boom Haren owns Bronson Arroyo. 3-4 lifetime with two doubles and his only major league homer, which I witnessed live last year and kind of pissed me off.
- I hope Chris Snyder plays when we play them later this year. His line of .175/.232/.254 against Reds pitching is hideous.
- But it looks good compared to Stephen Drew's: .140/.197/.211. Ouch.
- I know it's a small sample, but in 1.1 innings against the Reds, Clay Zavada has 6.75 ERA and a .556 BAA.
- The only hint of a former Red I can muster is minor leaguer Abraham Woody, who proclaimed his dominance during two spring training shutout innings. Woody was the Reds' 31st round pick in the 2005 Draft out of Baylor University.He pitched some AAA for them last year.
- The D-backs have only one Baseball America top prospect, #36 RHP Jarrod Parker. Most believe he is still a couple years away.
- Their other prospect-y type guys are 1B Brandon Allen and OF Cole Gillespie. Allen was acquired from the White Sox last year for RP Tony Pena and looks to be their 1B of the future...or present if they falter early and dump the Rock. Gillespie came over from Milwaukee for Felipe Lopez last year and will need an injury or another poor start from Young to get a long look.
This is really a crap shoot type prediction. This team could easily contend in a better-than-most-people think NL West. But they could very well finish very similar to where they were last year. Obviously, a lot depends on the recovery and then effectiveness of Brandon Webb and the ability of the offense to be able to score enough runs. The lineup has plenty of potential, but potential has never won a playoff series. To further emphasize the feast or famine-ness of the '10 Arizona Diamondbacks, Tom Verducci has labeled them a potential surprise team. Other si.com folks agree. Lee Jenkins picks them to win the division. Jon Heyman and Ben Reiter say wild card. Heyman even picks Upton for MVP. (Side note: Cliff Corcoran picks the Reds in the Central.) Vegas is calling for 83 wins and a 60-1 odd to win the World Series. Partially because I love to make predictions, but mainly because I am jealous of Clay Zavada's facial hair, I'll call a 92-70 complete reversal season, and a wild card berth for the Snakes.