MLB 9s: Arizona Diamondbacks—Luis Gonzalez On Top For Young Franchise

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst INovember 9, 2009

One question, hundreds of answers. Which Diamondback had the greatest offensive season at his position?

Major League baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best ever collection of stars. They are calling it MLB 9s.

Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream D'backs lineup. Have your say by commenting below or by voting on the MLB site here.

My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:

Diamondbacks , Braves , Orioles , Red Sox , Cubs , White Sox , Reds , Indians , Rockies , Tigers , Marlins , Royals , Angels , Dodgers , Twins , Mets , and Yankees.

Catcher: Miguel Montero (2009)

I guess there's no time like the present, right? The D'backs have primarily used seven different backstops in their brief 12-year history, but none have combined the power and batting average of Montero.

While 16 dingers isn't that impressive, his .294 batting average gives him the best offensive year of any Arizona catcher. Montero drove in 59 runs and crossed the plate 61 times himself, while drawing 38 walks.

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Highlight Game: September 29, 2009 @ San Francisco. Montero hit a pair of home runs in a 2-for-4 game in the penultimate series of the season, giving him his 57th, 58th and 59th runs batted in on the year.

Competition: Johnny Estrada’s 2006 campaign provides the closest competition, and although Estrada had the edge in batting average and RBI, Montero had more home runs and runs.

First base: Tony Clark (2005)

33-year-old Clark rediscover his power stroke from the late 90s in 2005, hammering 30 home runs out of newly-renamed Chase Field in a flashback to his time in Detroit. Clark had 106 hits in 130 games, batting .304 with 87 batted in.

The first baseman hit a home run every 11.6 at bats, which was good enough for a spot in the NL top 10, ranking him alongside sluggers such as Andruw Jones and Derrek Lee.

Highlight Game: September 16, 2005 vs Colorado. Clark went 3-for-3 with two home runs, a double, and a walk. He drove home four runs in his side's 6-5 loss, one of four multi-homer games of his 2005 campaign.

Competition: Power is the trump card in this battle. You could argue Chad Tracy was more valuable, but Clark put up similar figures in 150 fewer at bats.

Second Base: Jay Bell (1999)

Jay Bell had a career year with Arizona during his second season at the club. He exploded for 38 home runs—17 more than his previous career best—112 RBI, and a .289 batting average.

Bell, who was rewarded with his second trip to the All Star Game, scored the second-most runs in the National League with 132 (still a franchise record), had 76 extra base hits (ranked seventh) and nine sacrifice flies (third).

Highlight Game : April 25, 1999 @ San Diego. Bell hit a two-out 11th inning home run off Dan Miceli to give Buck Showalter's D'Backs a dramatic come-from-behind victory. It was Bell's second home run of the game, as he finished 3-for-6 with three RBI and four runs.

Competition: There is no competition at all here. Bell beats out the likes of Orlando Hudson and Junior Spivey easily. Even if you add the number of home runs from the other two players in their best season (Hudson’s 15 in 2006 and Spivey’s 16 in 2002), Bell would still come out in tops in the power stakes.

Third Base: Matt Williams (1999)

If it wasn't for Chipper Jones, Matt Williams might have won the MVP in 1999. He drove in 142 runs and batted .303 while still hitting 35 jacks into the warm desert air. In what was just the D'backs' second year as a franchise, Williams helped Arizona to 100 wins and their first trip to the playoffs.

His 336 total bases was also a career high, although he did have a franchise-record 627 at bats. Sadly for Williams fans, he was never quite the same in his final four years at the club.

Highlight Game: April 23, 1999. Batting in his usual clean-up role, Williams doubled and homered as part of a 3-for-4, five-RBI night.

Competition: Third base was a tougher decision. Troy Glaus had pop in his bat and Mark Reynolds has power and speed but no plate discipline and a below-par average. Williams edges this battle over Reynolds.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew (2008)

In 2008, Drew did it all. He hit for power, hit for average and hit for extra bases. He was fourth in the National League with 44 doubles, and his 11 triples were second only to Jose Reyes.

He ranked in the top 10 for both hits (178) and extra base hits (76) and it is even more impressive when you consider he hit 21 home runs and batted .291. 67 RBI out of your leadoff guy isn't bad either.

Highlight Game: September 1, 2008 vs St Louis. Stephen drew joined an elite group of batters to hit for the cycle, going a perfect 5-for-5 with a single, two doubles, triple and home run. Drew scored three runs and the Diamondbacks won 8-6. The only other D’backs to achieve this feat are Luis Gonzalez and Greg Colbrunn.

Competition: Jay Bell started off as a shortstop before moving to second base, but his 1998 season was merely a precursor to his explosion the following year. That said, Bell’s 1998 season was almost as good as Drew’s campaign a decade later. The biggest difference is a 40-point batting average and a few extra runs, but that’s good enough for me.

Outfield: Luis Gonzalez (2001)

Gonzalez will forever be remembered by Arizona fans for the bases-loaded walk-off hit to shallow center field off of Mariano Rivera to win Game Seven of the 2001 World Series. And rightly so.

But people may forget that Gonzalez—an All Star and Silver Slugger recipient—also hit 57 home runs, batted .325, drove in 142 men, and drew 100 walks (both franchise records) in the regular season, playing each and all of the team's 162 games. A career year if ever there was one.

Highlight Game: June 8, 2001 @ Kansas City. The regular season highlight for Gonzalez was a three home run performance against the Royals. He went deep in the first and fifth innings and was intentionally walked in the sixth. Having not apparently learned their lesson, Gonzalez went yard again in the ninth inning - a two-run shot off of Doug Henry.

Steve Finley (2000)

I'm going to give Finley the nod as my second outfielder based on his 2000 campaign in which he hit 35 taters, drove in 96 runs and scored a further 100 himself.

His .280 clip wasn't trail-blazing, but he did also swipe 12 bases and walk 65 times. Even though this is solely a look at offensive prowess, I'm still going to mention that he was a gold glove center fielder too.

Highlight Game: May 2, 2000 @ Milwaukee. Finley launched a pair of home runs in a 2-for-3, three-RBI-with-a-walk night for his second multi-homer game of the season.

Eric Brynes (2007)

I was close to choosing Byrnes' 2007 season over the campaign Finley had a decade ago, but either way he is a lock for the top three in terms of single-season production.

His 50 stolen bases and 21 homers was a lethal combination for someone who can play all three outfield spots. Byrnes batted .286 with 83 RBI and 103 runs.

Highlight Game: July 7, 2007 @ Cincinnati. Drew showed a little bit of everything against the Reds, hitting a three-run bomb, walking and stealing two bases in a 5-4 loss.

Competition: I don’t think any D’back will come close to reproducing Gonzalez’s numbers from 2001 any time soon. Reggie Sanders almost equaled Finley’s 2000 statistics the following year with 33 home runs and 90 RBI, but other than that this category is pretty clear cut. Chris Young flashed some power a few years back, but 32 bombs and 27 steals can’t mask a .232 batting average and just 68 RBI.

Pitcher: Micah Owings (2007)

A third-round draft pick from 2005, Owings swung a mean bat in 2007. He was 20-for-60 over the season, with four home runs, seven doubles and a triple. He drove in 15 batters in 34 games in his first full season in the big leagues.

Highlight game: August 18, 2007 @ Atlanta. Oh dear. Braves' fans. Owings dominated Atlanta in Turner Field, going 4-for-5 with not one but two home runs and six RBI. To add insult to injury, Owings also picked up the win, allowing three hits—all solo bombs—in seven innings of work, fanning seven and walking none.

Competition: Asking about offensive production from a pitcher is like pitting a Lamborghini against a 1968 Ford Mustang. Owings is one of the better hitting hurlers in the National League. The others barely get the ball out of the infield.

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