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When does the future begin for the young Diamondbacks? Maybe it will be 2007.

The offence

What a fine young collection of talent the Snakes have. In the outfield, Eric Byrnes, Chris Young and Carlos Quentin should give them good offence and good defence. The defensive improvement of Byrnes over Luis Gonzalez in left, Young over Byrnes in center and Quentin over Shawn Green in right should be considerable. Scott Hairston makes an excellent 4th outfielder, with Byrnes sliding back into center if required. Toiling away in the minors will be hot prospect Carlos Gonzalez and Alex Romero.

Arizona is set for a long time in the outfield.

The infield is similarly set. Chad Tracy at third, Stephen Drew at short, Orlando Hudson at second and Conor Jackson at first, with Miguel Montero catching should also provide good offence and good defence. Albert Callaspo backs up the middle infielders and Chris Snyder is the second catcher.

Here are the Marcel projections and 2006 Dial ratings, where available for the Arizona hitters, with modifications as follows. I have projected Carlos Quentin and Chris Young as the everyday right-fielder and centerfielder, and reduced Jerry DaVanon's playing time accordingly. I have projected Stephen Drew as the everyday shortstop and , but discounted playing time somewhat because of durability issues. I projected Conor Jackson as the everyday first baseman. I increased Montero's playing time to reflect his likely role as a starter against right-handed pitching most of the time; I decreased Snyder's playing time.

Player PA AVG. OBP. SLUG. Dial
Quentin 575 .273 .350 .492 (none)
Young 575 .274 .345 .439 (none)
Byrnes 549 .262 .320 .446 +11
Hairston 210 .266 .321 .432 (none)
Davanon 250 .266 .354 .403 (none)
Tracy 586 .293 .352 .474 0
Drew 500 .304 .360 .491 (none)
Hudson 575 .279 .340 .439 -4
Callaspo 224 .276 .345 .437 (none)
Jackson 575 .286 .363 .443 0
Montero 400 .280 .348 .446 (none)
Snyder 250 .253 .336 .440 +11

I have the Diamondbacks scoring about 800 runs next year. There is more variability than usual here, because of the youth of the club. The club lacks, as of this moment, what Bill James described as a "locus of danger". Quentin and Young could leap into the role of bangers, but that is more likely to happen in 2008 than in 2007.

The rotation

What a difference 8 months makes. As of the All-Star break last year, Arizona had Brandon Webb and not much else in the rotation. Since then, they have added Livan Hernandez, Doug Davis and Randy Johnson in trades. Behind those front four, they have Edgar Gonzalez, Dustin Nippert, Dana Eveland and Micah Owings. Webb is one of the three best starters in the National League, along with Roy Oswalt and Chris Carpenter. Johnson is 43 years old, and coming off an off-season for him. He will probably start the season on the DL after off-season back surgery. He pitched better than his 5.00 ERA would indicate, but there was a red flag or two, between the declining K rate (though it was a still healthy 7.7) and the abysmal performance with runners on. Hernandez seems to take abuse better than just about anybody, and deliver league average pitching year after year. His K rate is however falling slightly each year; it was 5.1 last year at age 31, and that is getting close to the danger zone for a right-handed pitcher without exceptional control. Old friend Davis continued his 3 year streak of .500 pitching in 2006, but was noticeably less effective than previously in all departments, although he did pitch better than his 4.91 ERA would suggest. Gonzalez seems to have a leg-up on the 5th starter role at this point, and has a reasonable chance to perform decently. Eveland is probably the better choice long-term; he is an extreme ground-ball pitcher, who also struck out more than a batter per inning in triple A at age 22. He may start the season in the pen, as the second lefty there.

The bullpen

What do you make of Jose Valverde? He will probably be Arizona's closer to start the season. I will tell you what I think. In a fantasy league, he is the one player I would want to get. He posted an ERA of 5.82 in 49 innings last year, so he may come cheap. Here is what I like about him. He pitched much better than his ERA would suggest, with his FIP of 3.28 better capturing his ability to punch out hitters at an almost-Wagnerian pace, while not walking too many. What afflicted him last year was two things: the inability of his defence to turn balls in play into outs and his own uncharacteristic failures with runners on base. Valverde is a fly-ball pitcher, and the Arizona outfield defence should be much, much better this year. I expect a return to 2005 form from him.

Contenders for the other spots in the pen are Brandons Medders and Lyon, Juan Cruz, Jorge Julio, Tony Pena and Doug Slaten. Medders would be my bet for the set-up role, and is at this point not a likely candidate for the Duane Ward comp award. The pen is right now the obvious weakness on the club.

The pitching projections

I have monkeyed with Marcel's projections a little. The D'Back fly-ball defence should be much improved, and so the flyball pitchers get a boost. Randy Johnson gets a boost in all performance categories from leaving the AL, but I have reduced his innings projected from 185 to 155 in light of his age and the injury that will keep him from starting the season in the rotation. Jose Valverde's strikeouts have been increased from 9.5 to 11.3, consistent with his 3 year record.

Pitcher IP ERA K/9 W/9 HR/9
Webb 200 3.64 6.9 2.7 0.8
Johnson 155 3.83 8.3 2.4 1.1
Hernandez 193 4.44 5.7 3.2 1.1
Davis 184 4.35 7.4 4.0 0.9
Gonzalez 95 4.84 6.5 3.0 1.4

I have the Diamondbacks allowing about 750 runs this year.

What does it all add up to?

Looking purely at runs scored and allowed, one would say 84 wins. The team undershot their Pythagorean in 2006 by 4 games, and the bullpen does remain a weakness. The bench, however, is upgraded, and I expect Valverde to be much, much better, so let's say this year that they make it close, and end up with 83 wins. A couple of seemingly minor bullpen acquisitions though might very well push them into serious contention in a fairly weak division. I imagine that they will wait to the All-Star break to see how the young players are developing, and to watch Johnson's health.

83 wins would make a very nice start for the Snakes to a long run of greatness. That seems to me to be where this club is at. Think 1983-84, Jay fans. Do you remember Randy Moffitt, Joey McLaughlin, Roy Lee Jackson and Dave Geisel in the bullpen and young Barfield and Moseby in the outfield? That's where the Snakes are.

2007 Arizona Diamondbacks Season Preview | 5 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Sister - Wednesday, March 14 2007 @ 08:42 AM EDT (#164323) #
I have nothing too constructive to add, other than I think this is going to be one fun team to watch grow over the next few years. I think they have the hitting -- long term -- to be major players. The key question is whether the young pitching can catch up to put them over the top after Randy Johnson and Livan Hernandez ride off into the desert sunset.

Of course, with so much young cheap talent they are likely going to have some money to spend on free agent pitching when the time is right (think A.J. Burnett).

Note: Mike, did you mean for Drew to be at SS (rather than 2B)?

Mike Green - Wednesday, March 14 2007 @ 08:56 AM EDT (#164324) #
Thanks, Sister, for pointing this out.  It's fixed.
3RunHomer - Wednesday, March 14 2007 @ 09:38 AM EDT (#164327) #
I'm surprised that you consider the bullpen a weakness. Valverde. Juan Cruz can be very very good out of the pen. Julio did fine last season when not asked to close. And Lyon is useful too.
topherkris - Wednesday, March 14 2007 @ 06:23 PM EDT (#164336) #
The question remains, Which one of Arizona's can't miss prospects is the next scott hairston?  There's gotta be at least one in there -- If Drew, Young, Quentin, and Jackson all live up to expectations, Arizona is going to be deadly.

I'm also surprised that the bullpen is considered a weakness.  The only problems with this team, and they're big problems, are Health and Inexperience.  As someone said, this team is going to be great to watch.  

They're kinda the reverse tigers.  The tigers loaded up on pitching prospects and got some solid free agent hitters (pudge, ordonez, etc) and the Dbacks have loaded up on hitting prospects and managed to sign some solid free agent pitchers.

Mike Green - Friday, March 30 2007 @ 10:42 AM EDT (#164942) #
Josh Byrnes continued his run of brilliant cheap acquisitions the other day with the waiver wire pick-up of J.D. Durbin.  Looks to me like he might succeed quite nicely in the pen. 

Alberto Callaspo, Alex Romero, Durbin.  There's a pattern here.  Byrnes is probably my favourite GM right now.

2007 Arizona Diamondbacks Season Preview | 5 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.