If you take one look at results of the Arizona Diamondbacks' spring training, you will see a lot that you probably will not like. The Diamondbacks' pitching was erratic at best. The defense was awful and the offense was OK, but only on days when the pitching failed to show up and they ended up getting into a scoring duel and still losing.
However, everyone starts 0-0 on Monday and just for that reason alone, there is still hope. Here is a breakdown of the Diamondbacks position by position.
Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Doug Davis, Jon Garland
From 1-4, this starting lineup should be among the best in baseball, just based on past statistics. If you add in this past spring, then there is some doubt whether this group can be considered amongst the elite of the NL.
Webb and Haren are good for 15-20 wins each, but after that, you really don’t know what you are going to get with Davis and Garland. Davis has shining moments and then can instantly look like crap, to put it bluntly.
Garland’s best days may be back in Chicago. He has said mostly all the right things since moving to Arizona, but part of me thinks he still wishes he were in the Windy City.
Webb is a fast starter and the D-Backs will need those fast starts from Webb and Haren if they want to keep pace with the Dodgers.
As for starter No. 5, that still remains a question mark. That race is between Yusmeiro Petit and Max Scherzer. Scherzer should be the guy; however, he is currently injured, so we’ll see what happens. Petit is another guy who looks brilliant one second and gets lit up like a Christmas tree the next.
Tony Pena, Chad Qualls, Tom Gordon, Jon Rauch, Scott Schoeneweis, Juan Gutierrez, Doug Slaten, Billy Buckner
Qualls is slated to be the Diamondbacks closer—for now. I look for this to end up being more a closing by committee once again.
The question is will Qualls—who started the 2008 season hot, was as rotten as a dirty diaper for the middle of the season, then regained some of his form towards the end of the season—be able to handle the daily pressure of closing for this team. He has as good a shot as anyone else.
Pena really doesn’t fit the closer mold; he performs better in seventh and eighth inning situations. Gordon is injured right now, so his status for at least April is uncertain.Slaten is inconsistent as a left handed specialist. Schoeneweis is a wild card. He comes over from the AL and will provide middle and long relief. I’m guessing we may see a lot of him, especially on days with Davis on the mound.
Chad Tracy, Tony Clark, Stephen Drew, Felipe Lopez, Mark Reynolds, Augie Ojeda, Josh Whitesell
Tracy will be your first base starter, for now. Look for Mark Reynolds to get some looks there, and of course Tony Clark will also be backing up. Felipe Lopez comes over to replace the popular Orlando Hudson, who left to become a Dodger.
Don’t get me wrong, the D-Backs could have done a lot worse with the position; however, this was a move equated with losing Jennifer Lopez (no relation to Felipe) and replacing her with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Hewitt, like Felipe Lopez, is nice to look at and has some good moments, but Hudson has more personality and brings more overall to the table.
Drew and Reynolds both struggled in spring, but the D-Backs are definitely going to continue to look for major improvements from 2008 season, especially from Reynolds, who struck out more often in 2008 than George Bush did in the White House in his eight years. He must improve.
The final spot has Whitesell in there as a utility guy; however, he is fighting it out this weekend with Ryan Roberts and Josh Wilson.
Eric Byrnes, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Conor Jackson
Young will be the general of the outfield again in 2009. Upton will be in right field and Conor Jackson starting in left. Eric Byrnes, returning from season ending hamstring injuries in 2008, will be the fourth outfielder to start the season.
Young and Upton, both still growing, also need to improve from a hitting standpoint. Young has proven he can hit for power. Upton can, too; however, that must not be their main focus.
Their main focus must be to get on base, and often. They are the speed of this team on the bases. Jackson was solid in 2008 and I look for him to have an even better 2009 season. He may be the best hitter on this team. I would not be surprised to see him lead the D-Backs in batting average in 2009.
Chris Snyder, Miguel Montero
Snyder will be the everyday catcher. Montero’s personal starter, Randy Johnson, has bolted for the San Francisco Giants. However, look for Montero, who will get a full season this year after not starting last season until mid-May, to see quite a bit of action.
Manager Bob Melvin’s handling of the pitching staff and continued growth of the young stars will eventually tell the story of the 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks. There needs to be less inconsistency from each area—pitching, offense, and defense.
The D-Backs should consider themselves lucky to be in the NL West, at least they should stay in the race for most of the year. But don’t be surprised if they again fail to reach the 85 win mark. With the improved Dodgers, it may take at least 90 to win the west this year.
*AZScot is a Sports Jabber contributing author. You can view more of his work at Venom Strikes.
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