Friday, March 1, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Arizona DiamondBacks

Editors note: Our 30 Teams in 30 Days preview series was a giant success in 2012, and with our expanded audience, it should be an even greater one in 2013. We'll preview all 30 teams in 30 days extensively, and on March 30th, we will end the series with the first episode of the BlueJaysPlus Podcast, previewing our favourite club, the Jays! We're looking forward to writing these, and we hope you guys enjoy them.
2012 Record – 81 Wins – 81 Losses (3rd in NL West)

Off-Season Additions

SS – Cliff Pennington (Trade from Athletics)
RHP – Heath Bell (Trade from Marlins)
SS – Didi Gregorius (Trade from Reds)
LHP – Matt Reynolds (Trade from Rockies)
3B – Martin Prado (Trade from Braves)
RHP – Randall Delgado (Trade from Braves)
SS – Nick Ahmed (Trade from Braves)
RHP – Zeke Spruitt (Trade from Braves)
1B – Brandon Drury (Trade from Braves)
RHP – Brandon McCarthy (Free Agency -2/$15.5M)
OF – Cody Ross (Free Agency – 3/$26M)
CI – Eric Chavez (Free Agency – 1/$3M)
UT – Eric Hinske (Free Agency – 1/$1.35M)

Off-Season Losses
RF – Justin Upton (Trade to Braves)
3B – Chris Johnson (Trade to Braves)
RHP – Trevor Bauer (Trade to Indians)
RHP – Matt Albers (Trade to Indians)
RHP – Bryan Shaw (Trade to Indians)
CF – Chris Young (Trade to Athletics)

Kevin Towers and the Loss of Upside

            I think I’m probably as down on the Diamondbacks off-season as any franchise in baseball.  To steal a quote from Baseball Prospectus alumni, and current Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Sheehan;
The #Diamondbacks are in worse shape today than they'd be if they'd sent Kevin Towers on a six-month around-the-world cruise on November 1.

            There were 3 transactions made by Towers this offseason, and I view all 3 as massive losses for the snakes.  The confusing aspect of this, is that despite these poor moves, they could have little to no impact on the upcoming season, in fact you could make the argument that their baseline talent for 2013 is improved when you factor in free agent signings like Brandon McCarthy & Cody Ross.  However the problem comes when you try to see the upside left on this club, both this season, but especially in years going forward.  In trading away the likes of Bauer, Upton & Young, they have removed three of the highest upside players on the club, but also three of the players with the widest error bars on them. 

            What makes these moves so frustrating is that despite the horrendous offseason, the talent level is still quite high, and if things break right, playoffs are still quite possible.  However it has absolutely nothing to do with the moves Kevin Towers made this winter. 

Projected Roster
CF – Adam Eaton
2B – Aaron Hill
LF – Jason Kubel
3B – Martin Prado
RF – Cody Ross
SS – Cliff Pennington

C – Wil Nieves
CI – Eric Chavez
1B/OF – Eric Hinkse
IF – John MacDonald
OF – Gerardo Parra

RHP – Ian Kennedy
RHP – Trevor Cahill
LHP – Wade Miley
RHP – Brandon McCarthy
LHP – Tyler Skaggs

RHP – JJ Putz
RHP – Heath Bell
LHP –Tony Sipp
RHP – Brad Ziegler
LHP – Matt Reynolds

SS – Didi Gregorius
OF – Tony Campana
OF – A.J. Pollock
LHP – Pat Corbin
RHP – Randall Delgado
LHP – Joe Patterson

Spring Training Battles

Center Field
- With Towers shipping out both Chris Young, and Justin Upton their outfield will have a new look this season, and exactly what that will be is still somewhat up in the air. It looks like young prospect Adam Eaton will open the year as the leadoff man and centerfielder, however should he falter (either in spring, or during the season) we could see the Diamondbacks fall back to either Gerardo Parra, or Cody Ross.  The D-Backs clearly want Eaton to win the job, given Ross’s defensive shortcomings in center, and their view of Parra as an ideal 4th outfielder.  Eaton’s defense and his speed are going to be his calling cards in the majors.  If he does emerge into the player the D-Backs think he’ll be you could expect plus centerfield defense, along with perhaps 10 HRs, and 30+ steals.  

- For the past 2 years the Diamondbacks have been on a desperate search for a starting shortstop, after long time starter Stephen Drew was struck down with injuries.  While on this search they’ve tried to paper over the problem with the likes of John MacDonald & Willie Bloomquist, but this off-season they’ve gotten serious, and yet still filled the position with a collection of players deficient in one way or another. Cliff Pennington, acquired in the Chris Young trade, does have defensive chops, but I wouldn’t feel confident having my new shortstop post a .215/.278/.311 line last season.  However it seems that Pennington is yet another stop gap solution before their new “shortstop of the future” Didi Gregorius, who was acquired for prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer.  Gregorius is likely a mid-season call up at earliest, and similar to almost all the middle infield options the snakes have had over the past few years, there are serious questions about his bat.  Despite now having acquired two new shortstops, and having 4 on their roster now, I’d still say they don’t have a legitimate big league starter. 

#5 Starter
- The Diamondbacks seem to have 4 entrenched starters to begin the season, in Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill & Ian Kennedy, and given that Daniel Hudson likely wont be back until August at the earliest from Tommy John Surgery, there is a spot waiting for one of a number of prospects they have ready.  The options they have are; Tyler Skaggs (who will be covered more in depth later),  Randall Delgado (acquired in the Justin Upton trade), Patrick Corbin (a lesser prospect who would probably need Delgado & Skaggs to falter before he gets a chance), and Josh Collmenter (a replacement level player, who is pretty much the definition of a fallback plan).  I fully expect Skaggs to get the first crack at the job, but they do have a nice bevy of fall back options, including Daniel Hudson (who will return at some point from TJ).

Top Prospect

Tyler Skaggs
            This time last year, the Diamondbacks had three pitching prospects in the high minors getting buzz in the scouting community, who could’ve been projected to have 3 of their rotation spots for years to come.  Now 12 months later, Trevor Bauer is plying his trade in Cleveland, and Patrick Corbin has taken a step back and is new viewed as more of a depth player, or a bullpen pitcher.  That leaves Tyler Skaggs as the last of the trio standing, and he should get his chance to make the big league club out of spring training. 
            Skaggs was acquired in the controversial Dan Haren trade.  At the time the package the snakes got in exchange for a cost controlled top of the rotation pitcher, seemed very lacking, however Skaggs’ emergence as a elite prospect has largely changed that opinion.  While some might say that the Diamondbacks rushed youngster Trevor Bauer, they have taken their time with Skaggs, who despite being just 22, has had two full seasons in the high minors. 
-His fastball sits 91, and touches 94, with nice arm side run to the pitch, and a nice high angle delivery.  His strong command allows him to pitch off his fastball, as well as set up his hammer to put batters away.
-His primary secondary offering is an overhand power curve which he has the confidence to throw in any count.  A solid 60+ pitch, which is a bat-misser and one that should allow his strong minor league strikeout numbers to transfer over into the major league level.
- His weakest pitch is his still developing change up, which he will need to prevent right handed batters from teeing off on his curve ball.  The pitch does offer quality movement, but its consistency needs work. 
While the Diamondbacks did give up on the high upside/high risk talent of Trevor Bauer, with Skaggs left behind they still have a pitcher with a good deal of upside (if less than Bauer’s), but a much safer pitcher more likely to hit his big league ceiling. 

Projected Standings – 82-80 (3rd in NL West)
            While the consensus from our team here at BlueJaysPlus has the Diamondbacks finishing 3rd at almost exactly .500, I do personally have them 4th behind the Padres, and closer to the Rockies at the bottom of the division.  What is so frustrating about the off-season that the D-Backs have had is that for as poor as I view it, they still do have enough talent that they could easily be a playoff squad.  As I discussed earlier, the issue isn’t the Diamondbacks current talent level, but rather the growth potential on the roster.  

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