With baseball's Opening Day just one week away, this is the part of spring training when teams across the Major Leagues whittle away at their 40-man rosters—managers, GMs and coaches alike coming together to discern the best 25 men for April jobs.
For the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team mired in flux, that standard roster reduction will prove a challenge. Come April 1, the club may look very different than the squad presently on the late March Cactus League roster.
Other cuts are bred out of necessity—phenom Adam Eaton will not appear in the Chase Field outfield during April because of a sprained left elbow .
This leaves the remainder. The club will retain key veterans; the Diamondbacks likely will not designate, say, Jason Kubel for assignment at this juncture, for both financial, contractual and logical reasons. This leaves a bubble group of youngsters, newcomers and some players who simply are a victim of circumstance.
Top Tier: Starters and Platoon Candidates Virtually Guaranteed a 25-Man Roster Spot
The following 18 D-Backs starters, platoons and relief pitchers will almost assuredly start for Arizona come April and accordingly will gain a roster spot:
- Catcher: Miguel Montero
- First Baseman: Paul Goldschmidt
- Second Baseman: Aaron Hill
- Shortstop: Cliff Pennington and Willie Bloomquist
- Third Baseman: Martin Prado and Eric Chavez
- Outfielder: Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra* and A.J. Pollock^
- Pitcher (Starter): Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley
- Pitcher (Relief): J.J. Putz (closer), David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler and Heath Bell
*Due to Eaton's injury, Parra will likely get the nod for his outfield slot, splitting center and right field time with Ross.
^Late-breaking news is that Cody Ross' calf injury will keep him out of commission through at least Opening Day, which places Pollock into the starting outfield (via Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe).
Likely: Backups and Replacements Likely to Crack the Top 25
The following seven players are probable backups and No. 2 or No. 3 seeds the Diamondbacks will place on the initial 25-man roster. Catcher Wil Nieves, for instance, is a virtual backup lock for former All-Star Montero, who will surely need a break at some point during the waxing days of 2013.
- Catcher: Wil Nieves
- Corner Infielder: Eric Hinske (can also play the outfield)
- Middle Infielder: Didi Gregorius
- Outfielder: Tony Campana* and Eric Hinske (can also play first and third base)
- Pitcher (Starter): Patrick Corbin or Randall Delgado**
- Pitcher (Bullpen): Josh Collmenter and Tony Sipp
*Ross and Eaton's injuries will have a trickle-down effect as Campana could very well make the club out of spring training camp. Ordinarily a bubble player who appeared in 89 games for the Chicago Cubs in 2012, Campana will likely be brought on board as a necessary backup and situational pinch hitter or runner. Campana stole 30 bases last season in 43 attempts.
Bubble and Below: Unlikely or Outside Picks for the 25-Man Roster
The following names will likely be left out of the Opening Day clubhouse, with most headed for Triple-A Reno. In fact, several of those listed have already joined the farm and are indicated with an asterisk. Incidentally, these names are also the ones most likely to grace the MLB roster if need be in 2013.
- Catcher: Rod Barajas (a non-roster invitee)
- Infielder: None—Arizona will heavily platoon the infield this year; Josh Parr has already been reassigned.
- Outfielder: None—the Diamondbacks will need all the help they can get at the MLB level
- Pitcher: Patrick Corbin or Randall Delgado (see above) and Matt Reynolds
Reassigned players previously on the 40-man roster include: Chase Anderson (P), Charles Brewer (P), Eury De La Rosa (P), Tyler Skaggs (P), Eric Smith (P), Zeke Spruill (P), Josh Parr (IF), Keon Broxton (OF) and Alfredo Marte (OF).
As the D-Backs move forward into 2013, the club's roster picture begins to materialize in a fashion built out of sound reason. With Opening Day just around the bend, injuries have unfortunately upstaged Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers and made several tough decisions slightly more apparent.