MLB: 2014 AZ DIAMONDBACKS PREVIEW PART 1
As we all know the Arizona Diamondbacks ended the season 81-81 last year and finished second in what turned out to be a weak NL West division. They spent most of June and July of last year in first place, but were eventually passed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who ran away with the division and won the West by 11 games. This season, the Diamondbacks return pretty much the same roster, but did make a few interesting trades to help this team get past being an average team. Left fielder Mark Trumbo should provide more power in this year’s lineup. Pitcher Addison Reed, who will eventually (if not when the season begins) be the for sure closer, should provide much needed help in what was an over-used bullpen in 2013.
Let’s take a look at what needs to happen in order for the Diamondbacks to get past the average season of 2013 and make a run at a playoff spot in 2014. This is a 3-part series, so check back for the other 2 parts of the series.
The Diamondbacks were fifth in the league in runs scored and batting average and fourth in on-base percentage last year. Those numbers need to stay the same or improve in order for this team to be competitive all season. Two much needed improvements will be hitting homeruns and getting timely hits with runners in scoring position. The offense will now become the major factor in 2014 season if the Diamondbacks want to contend for a playoff spot.
When you look past Paul Goldschmidt’s league-leading 36 home runs and .551 slugging percentage, their lack of power was surprising in 2013. Goldschmidt might not put up the same numbers as last year but can be counted on to hit at least 30 homeruns and have over 100 RBI. Although Goldschmidt was good enough to carry the offense most of last season, Martin Prado was the only other player who had more than 50 RBI. Prado was an early disappointment after arriving from Atlanta, but came alive in the second half of the season with an .864 on-base plus slugging (OPS) and racking up 48 of his 82 RBI. A consistent full season from Martin Prado would be welcoming for this team and its fans.
Di Di Gregorius got off to an exceptional start last year, hitting .297 in the first two months of the season, but slowly dropped off and finished at .250. If he is not traded for a starting pitcher, as it appears Chris Owings has won the shortstop job, he will be used as a backup and as pinch hitter/runner. Owings, who hit .291 in a late season call-up last year, has been moving around the diamond so far this spring and could see time at 2nd base. This versatility would be invaluable, especially if second baseman Aaron Hill spends more time on the disabled list. Owings, who was named the 2013 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player last year, will not see the numbers he had at AAA Reno but still should provide some power in this lineup.
A healthy Aaron Hill for a full season in 2014 can only help. Having him healthy and starting gives manger Kirk Gibson options for different batting orders, something fans will have to get accustomed to as that is Gibson’s managing style. Hill can hit 2nd, 3rd 4th or even 5th in the everyday lineup. Hill has a blistering .862 on-base plus slugging (OPS) in two-plus years with the Diamondbacks.
As we know Miguel Montero was not his usual self in 2013. After suffering an infection in his left thumb during Spring Training he got off to a slow start and never really recovered. He should be healthy in 2014 and will be counted on to produce like he did back in 2012.
In the outfield the Diamondbacks will be relying on a core quartet of Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock, Gerardo Parra, and Cody Ross. Ross is currently recovering from offseason hip surgery, and will not be ready until a couple of weeks into the regular season. With Trumbo and Goldschmidt the Diamondbacks have solid back to back hitters in the lineup. Look for Trumbo to have a solid season in hitter friendly Chase Field. The ball carries well in the thin desert air making him a legitimate 40-homer threat. AJ Pollack will be counted on to get on base and provide much needed speed on the bases. Gerardo Parra had a decent season last year, but did slump and will need to get his average up around .280 or better. One thing that hurt him last year and he will need improvement on, is hitting against left handed pitching. He will also need to get better on the base path.
Let’s hope the Diamondbacks have an explosive offensive year. See you at Chase Field.
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