Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Know Thy Enemy Part Three - The Arizona Diamondbacks

Earlier in the Spring I did a quick post on the Padres and Rockies, in an attempt to cover the National League West rivals.  
Now that I’m back from my Spring Training vacation, I continue that series with a look at the remaining teams.  Next up are the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Diamondback Manager Kirk Gibson
An Arizona Republic Sports Poll from today asks fans to pick the winner of the National League West.  The results as of this writing are:
San Francisco 39.91%
Colorado 26.29%
Arizona 19.72%
Los Angeles 7.51%
San Diego 6.57%
Diamondback fans are certainly optimistic considering all the holes this club has.  I find it a little bit refreshing to see that fans of other teams are taking the Dodgers lightly.

The D-backs won't be throwing any Division Championship pool parties this season

Coming off a 65-97 record in 2010 and a second consecutive last place finish in the N.L. West, nearly all prognosticators have the D-Backs again finishing at the bottom of the division in 2011.  I must say, I really can’t argue with those predictions.  The Snakes have some talented young players in Chris Young Justin Upton, and Stephen Drew.  But where I see them having problems is the 4 and 5 spots of their rotation and primarily in their bullpen.
Starting Pitching:
Led by an impressive Daniel Hudson (7-1, 1.69 ERA, 11 starts, 79 IP) who came over from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson deal.  Arizona also has a solid Ian Kennedy (9-10, 3.80 ERA, 32 starts, 194 IP) and newcomer Barry Enright (6-7, 2.91 ERA, 99 IP) rounding out their first three starting spots.   Manager Kirk Gibson as late as two days ago has not announced that former Angel lefthander Joe Saunders (3-7, 4.25 ERA after trade) is in the Diamondbacks starting rotation.  Saunders has had an awful spring, sporting a 14.50 ERA.  The other starting positions were to be fought out by new arrivals Zake Duke and Armando Galarraga, but Duke’s pitching hand was broken when hit by a line drive and he’s out until at least May.   Galarraga has shown promise in his young career but has been unimpressive this Spring.  The Diamondbacks had hoped that a change of scenery will help him improve.  A surprise entry into the battle for the final starting pitching role is veteran Aaron Heilman, who has pitched well in the Cactus League this year.
Lefty Joe Saunders is having his troubles this spring training
Where the Diamondbacks may run into problems with their starting five is that they lack a true innings eater.  Several young arms fill out the staff, with only Saunders having once reached over 200 innings pitched in a season, (203 IP in 2010).  That leads to a need for a decent bullpen, something that the Snakes do not have.
The Bullpen:
After having a fine comeback season in 2010 with the Chicago White Sox, J.J. Putz comes to Arizona after signing a free agent contract.  Putz is being slated for the closer spot, a role he hasn’t filled since 2008 with Seattle.  As a set up man with the Pale Hose, Putz sported a 7-5 record with a respectable 2.83 ERA. 
J.J. Putz, new closer has been hampered by back problems this spring
Last year it was the bullpen that killed this team.  It will probably be the undoing of the 2011 club as well.  I really don’t see much improvement here for the Diamondbacks. For 2011, aside from the addition of Putz, G.M. Kevin Towers has added right handers David Hernandez (8-8, 4.31 ERA, 79 IP) and Kameron Mickolio (a 26 year old with unimpressive major and minor league numbers) from Baltimore in the Mark Reynolds deal.  Juan Gutierrez (0-6, 5.08 ERA, 56 IP) returns, he led the team with 15 saves last year when veteran Chad Qualls faltered. The remaining bullpen spots are being contested among the loser for the 5th spot (Heilman, Galarraga or Saunders) and minor leaguers.
Update: to make matters worse, Putz has been suffering back problems this spring and it is uncertain if he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
The outfield:
Chris Young rebounded respectfully in 2010 and will start in center.  The beast in the lineup is Justin Upton in right and Xavier Nady comes over from the Cubs to start in left field.  It should be noted that Nady has not performed well this spring and scouts are saying that he has lost bat speed.  In the event that Nady continues to falter, youngster Brandon Allen has performed well in spring training, but he may be a victim of the numbers since he has options left.
It was unbelievable that the D-Backs were considering trading 5 tool man Upton this off-season who is far and away their best player.  
The infield and catching: 
Stephen Drew starts at shortstop (.278, 15 HRs, 61 RBI, 151 games) and steady Kelly Johnson starts at second (.284, 166 hits, 154 games).  Melvin Mora is slated for third base, but he is starting to slow down at 39 years old (.285, 7 HRs, 45 RBI, 113 games).  The Snakes will miss the bat and glove of Adam LaRoche who left for Washington.  New acquisition Juan Miranda (from the Yankees) may get the nod here since he is out of options, but he has hardly impressed this Spring.  Both Allen and Nady can play first and veteran Russell Branyan can fill in this position as well. 
Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco will share the catching duties, with Montero handling 60% of the starts most likely.
The bench:  
There really are no real household names here.  Russell Branyan hit .238 between Seattle and Cleveland last season.  Blanco, Blum, and Bloomquist don’t bring back memories of Houston’s Killer B’s.  Gerardo Parra also attempts to land a bench spot.  A recent injury to Geoff Blum has opened a spot for Ryan Roberts to make the team.  Yesterday the D-Backs picked up Kevin Frandsen from the scrap heap, though it looks like he is slated to start the season at Triple A Reno.
Newly acquired Russell Branyan should play a prominent role on the Snakes bench this season
The Outlook
I love Kirk Gibson as a manager.  I wish he was in the Dodger organization.  If there is anyone that can light a fire under a club it is him, as we well know.  But he’ll have to be a true miracle worker to get the Snakes out of the N.L. West cellar this season, and that's too bad, because it could cost him his job.  Arizona lacks a bullpen.  Their starting staff is too inexperienced and has too few that can eat up innings.  There are question marks at first base, third base, left field and catcher and now the closer in the bullpen.  I see the Diamondbacks winning 68 games this season and finishing last.  There are too many holes with this club.

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