Arizona Diamondbacks: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Arizona Diamondbacks: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Last Year: 65-97, 5th in NL West 

Manager: Kirk Gibson

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

C- Miguel Montero (L)

1B- Juan Miranda (L)

2B- Kelly Johnson (L) 

3B- Melvin Mora (R)

SS- Stephen Drew (L)

LF- Xavier Nady (R)

CF- Chris Young (R)

RF- Justin Upton (R)

 

Preview

The D'backs lineup has a good amount of power, but the lineup struck out more than any other in 2010. Both numbers should decrease with the trade of Mark Reynolds, but there are other questions in this group.

Justin Upton has the most talent of anyone in the lineup, but he took a step back last season. He struck out 30 percent of the time in 2010, but his isolated power dropped.

I'm not alarmed by 2010, and he should bounce back to hit 25 home runs, steal 15-20 bases, and produce a line of .280/.365/.500.

Chris Young should put up similar power numbers as Upton. He doesn't strikeout as much, but he doesn't hit for as high an average. Look out for 25 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a line of .250/.330/.450.

Xavier Nady should bat sixth in the lineup, but he might get some playing time taken away by Brandon Allen. Nady struggled last season with the Cubs, and if he puts up similar numbers, Allen will start to take away at bats. 

Miguel Montero is a good bat at the catcher position. He has some power (expect 12-15 home runs), and should hit for a .270 average and produce a .340 OBP.

Juan Miranda will surprise some Arizona fans, and I detail his season later in the preview.

Kelly Johnson had one of the most surprising seasons in the majors after hitting 26 home runs and batting .284. He won't match that season, but I believe he nets 20 home runs, 9-13 stolen bases, and a line of .275/.350/.455.

Stephen Drew is still one of the league's better offensive shortstops. He produces 15-20 home runs and a line around .275/.340/.450.

Melvin Mora is the weak link in the lineup with his diminished bat speed. He is just a stop gap for the young third basemen they have coming up through the system. 

The Diamondbacks were the top ranked defense in UZR last season.

The defense made some errors, but they had the best range of any team in baseball. The infield defense is stellar.

Drew has become one of the better fielding shortstops in basbeball, and his double play partner, Johnson, had a phenomenal season at 2B with a 7.7 UZR rating.

Miranda is solid at first base, but the team will miss Reynolds at third base.

Mora had a negative 10.4 UZR rating last season.

Montero is below average behind the plate because of his poor blocking ability. Montero has a decent arm, but he allows too many passed balls.

Both Justin Upton and Chris Young are very good defenders at their positions, but  Nady is a below average outfielder in left field.

 

BENCH

IF/OF- Ryan Roberts (R) or IF- Tony Abreu (S) 

1B- Russell Branyan (L)

OF- Gerardo Parra (L) 

C- Henry Blanco (R)

IF/OF- Willie Bloomquist (R)

IF- Geoff Blum (S) (Will start season on DL)

 

STARTING ROTATION 

RHP- Ian Kennedy 

RHP- Daniel Hudson

LHP- Joe Saunders

RHP- Barry Enright

RHP- Aaron Heilman or RHP-Armando Galarraga

LHP- Zach Duke (Out until May)

Ian Kennedy will take the ball on Opening Day after being the D'Backs' most consistent starter last season.

Kennedy uses an array of curveballs and changeups to compliment his 88-91 MPH he uses on the corners. He will show a below average slider, but his changeup and curveball are very good. He will strikeout close to eight per nine innings, while walking three per nine that should produce an ERA similar to his 2010 3.80.

Daniel Hudson's performance after coming over from the White Sox was one of the more surprising stories during the second half of the season. Hudson averages 92.5 MPH on his fastball and he generates a lot of swing and misses on his slider and filthy changeup.

Don't expect Hudson to replicate his 2.40 ERA, but his flyball rate is worry some in Arizona. He should maintain a 7.5 K/9 rate but his ERA should finish in the 3.90 range.

Joe Saunders is a solid number four starter on a contending team, and he seems out of place on a rebuilding club. Saunders does have below average strikeout numbers (4.89 K/9 in 2010), and his home rate is sure to increase in a full season in Arizona. He is a safe bet to walk 2.80 per nine innings, and pitch close to a 4.60 ERA.

Barry Enright, who will slot behind Saunders, pitched to a solid 3.91 ERA last season. He averages 89.3 MPH on his two and four seam fastballs and the rest of his repertoire includes a good slider, average curveball, and changeup. 

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Enright had a very fortunate season by having an extremely high left on base percentage at 84, and a low BABIP at .248. The 20 home runs he allowed in 99 innings is a troubling number, so a 4.60 ERA, 6.00 K/9, and 2.50 BB/9 rates are what to expect from the number four starter.

Aaron Heilman will probably get the nod over Galarraga for the last spot in the rotation. 

Zach Duke broke his pitching hand, which should keep him on the DL until May. 

Heilman hasn't started since 2005 and it will be interesting to see whether or not he can maintain his fastball for 100 pitches early in the season. His fastball will be probably average 90 MPH in the rotation, and he needs to throw his slider more to keep hitters off his changeup. 

 

BULLPEN

RHP- JJ Putz (Closer) 

RHP- Juan Gutierrez

RHP- David Hernandez

LHP- Joe Patterson 

RHP- Esmerling Vazquez

RHP- Aaron Heilman or RHP- Armando Galarraga 

RHP- Sam Demel or LHP- Mike Hampton 

The Diamondbacks had one of the worst bullpens in history last season and new GM, Kevin Towers, added two pieces this offseason to upgrade the staff. 

JJ Putz hasn't closed since 2008, but Putz had a great 2010 season for the White Sox as a setup man. 

Putz throws averages 94 MPH on his fastball and mixes in a good slider and dominant splitter. He should strike out more than a hitter per inning, walking more than three per nine, and a 2.90 ERA.

David Hernandez, acquired from the Orioles in the Mark Reynolds deal, pitched showed better stuff after moving from the rotation to the bullpen.

He should strikeout close to 8.5 per nine, but his four walks per nine and poor home run rate should leave him with an era in the mid 4.00's. 

The rest of the bullpen looks like it will face some of the same troubles this season.

Juan Gutierrez struggled giving up the long ball last season (13 Home Runs in 55 innings). He still has a lively fastball and good enough slider to cut that number in half, and pitch to a low 4.00 ERA.

Joe Patterson was taken in the Rule V draft, and will be the primary left-handed specialist. He posted great numbers against lefties in the Giants' farm system, including striking out more than eight per nine in AAA last season.

Esmeriling Vazquez has good strikeout numbers, but his terrible command will keep him out of high leverage situations. 

Armando Gallagraga looks to be the long man after struggling in the competition for the last spot in the rotation. I think Gibson and Towers would like a second southpaw in the pen, and Mike Hampton seems like the best bet. 

 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES 

LHP- Mike Hampton 

RHP- Micah Owings 

RHP- Brian Sweeney 

LHP- Clay Zavada 

1B- Russell Branyan (L)

IF- Cody Ransom (R)

OF- Willy Mo Pena (R)

 

BREAKOUT PLAYER- Juan Miranda 

I've always liked Miranda's power, but he never was given an opportunity to showcase it with the Yankees.

GM Kevin Towers, who was a special assistant in the Yankees organization last season, liked what he saw in Miranda. He will strikeout more than 20 percent of the time, but he does get on base and he provides solid defense at first base.

I see Miranda hitting 20-25 home runs with a .275/.350/.490 line. 

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH- RHP Jarrod Parker 

Parker, a former D'Backs number first round pick in 2007, missed the entire 2010 season with Tommy John surgery.

Parker is considered a prospect who can become a number one type starter. He throws a mid 90's fastball with a sharp slider, changeup, and curveball.

I think Parker might get a shot at down the line for the D'Backs in September. 

 

PROJECTED FINISH- Fifth in NL West

The D'Backs lineup isn't as strong as last year's, and the bullpen looks like it will continue to struggle.

The rotation has talent, but it is hard to imagine Hudson and Enright as well as they did in 2010.

I think the offense will produce just as much power, but they should cut down on the strikeouts without Reynolds. I expect the club to improve a bit on its record, but a last place finish seems the most likely result for the club.

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