2011 Arizona Diamondbacks Team Preview: 5 Big Questions

Bryan CurleyCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2011

PHOENIX - AUGUST 18:  Adam LaRoche #25 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated by teammate Justin Upton #10 after LaRoche hit a 2 run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the seventh inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on August 18, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We here at Baseball Professor think about our readers first and ourselves second—albeit a close second. That’s why we decided to reach out to other bloggers (who follow their respective teams more closely than we do) to give you a deeper look into the important issues every fantasy owner has to come to grips with this season. Our sixth installment is with the Arizona Diamondbacks and comes courtesy of Jim McLennan from AZ Snakepit.

For a complete trip around the Majors, check out the other 2011 team previews in this series.

1) With the departure of Mark Reynolds, a lot of the offensive pressure is going to fall upon Justin Upton’s shoulders. Do you think he’s ready to handle it? Also, which Upton (2009 or 2010) do you think we’ll see this year?

The important thing to remember about Upton is he was only 22 years old for the great bulk of last season. At an age when most of his contemporaries were in A-ball, he was hitting major-league pitching at a .273 clip. So, I think he’ll bounce back with a very solid 2011, closer to the 2009 numbers. The best is definitely yet to come for J-Up, and he’s probably the Diamondback most likely to represent the team on home territory in the All-Star game.

2) In 2008, Stephen Drew hit .291 with 21 home runs and 91 runs scored. Since then he has averaged 13.5 home runs and 77 runs, while posting just a .270 batting average. Is it time to temper expectations for Drew and just accept him for who he is?

“Solid” is pretty much the term I’d use for Drew, and I think he’s probably underrated. Stephen is not quite part of the fantasy elite as far as shortstops go, he’s top of the second-tier. Only three other guys at the position hit .275 with 15 HR last year (Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Alexei Ramirez), so you’d have to be happy with that kind of output. My main concern, fantasy-wise, would be if he hits at the top of the order, which could limit his RBI chances.

3) Last year in Triple-A, Brandon Allen hit 25 home runs and stole 14 bases in 469 plate appearances . With those numbers you have to assume he is going to find playing time with the big club, either at first base or in the outfield. Where do you see him playing and will he get enough at-bats to matter?

Allen is going to have to fight for playing time; he doesn’t seem likely to be the regular starter at first (Juan Miranda) or in left (Xavier Nady). Those Triple-A numbers are nice, but they were posted in Reno, which is almost as high up as Denver. He had great stats in 2009 too, but that just didn’t translate to major-league success. Allen will have to earn his at-bats, and it’ll take a problem with Miranda or Nady, either in performance or health, for him to see much playing time.

4) Daniel Hudson put up monster numbers (1.69 ERA, 70 K, 16 BB in 79 2/3 innings) after being traded to Arizona. In Hudson’s 11 starts with the Diamondbacks, his strand-rate (LOB%) was 91.5 percent, while the league-average is usually around 72 percent. What is your projection for Hudson in 2011?

At the risk of stating the obvious, there will be regression for Hudson; I don’t expect a 1.69 ERA and 20+ wins! But that said, his peripheral numbers were great, and I can see him posting an ERA in the mid-threes. He could well be the best pitcher on the Diamondbacks staff.  Even pitching in a severe hitter’s park like Chase Field, Hudson will be a valuable commodity come draft-time. He didn’t go in the first 250 of ESPN’s mock draft, which is insanity, especially when pitchers like teammate Zach Duke were taken. Hudson will be more valuable than that, take it to the bank.

5) It’s safe to say Hudson, Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders will be at the top of the rotation, but the back end is nothing short of a mess. How would you sort it out and are there any names worth knowing that could make an impact in 2011?

At the moment, Armando Galarraga and Duke would seem the most likely to be in the rotation, simply because they are costing the team the most money. They’d both have to be dreadful in spring not to start off in the rotation. Despite what I just said about Duke, he wasn’t as bad as his 5.72 ERA suggests; his xFIP (expected Fielding Independent ERA) was far lower, at 4.48. You could do much worse as roster filler and spot-starter, especially if you keep him out of Chase Field and Denver.

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