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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Season Preview: Arizona Diambondbacks

2008 Record: 82-80  .506

Run differential: +14 (7th)

2008 payroll: $66,202,712

On May 1st Arizona was 20-8 and had outscored its opponents by 56 runs.  Justin Upton looked like the next Ken Griffey Jr. and the trade for Dan Haren solidified a rotation that appeared to be the best in the league.  Shortly thereafter the offense went to sleep.  Chris Young only managed to hit .248, Eric Byrnes severely injured both hamstrings to the point where his future may be in question, and Chad Tracy had another disappointing season.  The bullpen wasn’t without blame either.  A year after having a fantastic season that caused many to include him among the league’s best relievers, Tony Pena put up numbers more along his career line (4.33 ERA, 80 hits in 72 IP).  Adam Dunn was acquired in a trade late in the season to try and resurrect a struggling lineup and Conor Jackson was shifted to left field in an effort to replace Byrnes.  These moves were made much too late, because in the end, Arizona missed out on the playoffs by just two games.

Now, Arizona did not make many moves this past offseason but there are still several reasons to like this club.  First is that the improvements of Stephen Drew and Justin Upton are for real. Upton is just 21 meaning the sky is the limit and Drew will probably make the All-Star team.  Although Chris Young’s batting average tanked last year his walk rate improved.  Replacing the departed Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez should at least be able to play 150 games giving the lineup additional stability.  If Eric Byrnes is able to play most of the season I think there will be a real offensive explosion in the desert.  Also, Max Scherzer and Jon Garland join a rotation, which is arguably already the league’s best with Webb, Haren, and innings eater Doug Davis.  Arizona is the rare case where just sitting back and letting the kids grow older represents a  greater gain than any free agent move.  Since the Dodger’s did little to improve this offseason, expect a dogfight for the division crown.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Chris Snyder $3 M Drafted 2nd rd 2002
C Miguel Montero $.401M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2001
1b Conor Jackson $3.05 M Drafted #19 overall 2003
2b Felipe Lopez $3.5 M Signed as FA 12/12/08
3b Mark Reynolds $.397M Drafted 16th rd 2004
SS Stephen Drew $1.5 M Drafted #15 overall 2004
LF Eric Byrnes $11 M Signed as FA 12/27/05
CF Chris Young $1.75 M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 12/05
RF Justin Upton $.393M Drafted #1 overall 2005
Inf Chad Tracy $4.75 M Drafted 7th rd 2001
Inf Tony Clark $.8M Acquired in trade w/ SD 7/08. Resigned 2/09
Inf Augie Ojeda $.712M Signed as FA 12/07
Of Alex Romero $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2002
SP Brandon Webb $6.5 M Drafted 8th rd 2000. Signed extension 1/06
SP Dan Haren $5.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 12/07. Signed extension 8/5/08
SP Doug Davis $8.75 M Acquired in trade w/ Mil 11/25/06
SP Jon Garland $6.25 M Signed as FA 1/29/09
SP Max Scherzer $1 M Drafted #11 overall 2006
Cl Chad Qualls $2.53M Acquired in trade w/ Hou 12/07
SU Jon Rauch $2 M Acquired in trade w/ Was 7/22/08
RP Tom Gordon $.5 M Signed as FA 2/6/09
RP Scott Schoenweis $3.6 M Acquired in trade w/ NYM 12/12/08
RP Tony Pena $.43 M Signed as amateur FA from D.R. 2002
RP Yusmiero Petit $.412M Acquired in trade w/ Fla 3/07
RP Travis Blackley $.405M Signed as FA 12/19/08

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Say hello to: Scott Schoenweis, Felipe Lopez, Jon Garland, Tom Gordon

Wave goodbye: Connor Robertson, Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Brandon Lyon, Adam Dunn, David Eckstein, Juan Cruz

Rookies: none

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Gerardo Parra

Potential breakout: Justin Upton, Stephen Drew

Welcome to Earth: I see no one on this team that is likely to decline.  Maybe a bullpen guy?

Likely to rebound: Chris Young

Strengths: The best 1-2 punch of any rotation in the NL.

Weaknesses: Strikeouts. Reynolds whiffed 200 times last year and Young, Byrnes, Upton, and the combined at-bat total for the catchers are all a threat to swing and miss 150+ times.

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

CF Young R  .248/.315/.443  22, 14  .258

SS Drew L  .291/.333/.502  21, 3  .277

1B Jackson R  .300/.376/.446  12, 10  .285

RF Upton R  .250/.353/.463  15, 1  .272

3B Reynolds R  .239/.320/.458  28, 11  .266

LF Byrnes R  .209/.272/.369  6, 4  .219

C Snyder R/Montero L  .272/.260

2B Lopez R  .283/.343/.387  6, 8

Prediction: 1st place NL West. Lose in NLCS.


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