MLB: AZ Diamondbacks Spring Training Preview
When it comes to spring training, it is not all fun in the sun in Arizona or Florida; especially if you are battling for a spot on a MLB 25 man roster. Then it can be just plain stressful!
That can certainly be said of the 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks. Although their starting lineup is pretty much set heading into the season, there are a few positions that the coaching staff still needs to make decisions on. The back end of the starting rotation, the bullpen and a few bench spots are open. These could be very difficult decisions to make when this team breaks camp.
Let’s take a look at “locks” for the Diamondbacks 2013 team. C Miguel Montero, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 2B Aaron Hill, 3B Martin Prado, SS Willie Bloomquist all look to be solid locks for starting positions when the Diamondbacks start the 2013 season. Look for Cliff Pennington to make the team as a utility infielder, and 35 year old, Eric Hinske, as the key pinch hitter and the backup at first base for Goldschmidt.
In the outfield Adam Eaton, Gerardo Parra, Cody Ross and barring a trade, Jason Kubel will start the season.
As for the pitching staff, Ian Kennedy (who was named the opening day starter), Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and Wade Miley will be in the starting rotation. In the bullpen, JJ Putz, Heath Bell, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler will also be assured spots.
If the Diamondbacks decide to carry 12 pitchers; that will leave one starter, three reliever spots along with three bench spots up for spring training competition.
One starting spot battle could be between new-comer Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs. Delgado was obtained in the Justin Upton trade along with Martin Prado. Even though Delgado is slated to be a number 4 or 5 starter during his career; he has had a few solid stretches. His career ERA is 3.95 with 127 innings pitched in the majors. However, Delgado did struggle in his 1st spring training game start for the Diamondbacks on Monday. Skaggs has been a top-tier pitching prospect for two years and appears to be ready to pitch a full season in the big leagues. Skaggs has a career 2.98 minor-league ERA. He did struggle a little in his brief appearances with the Diamondbacks last season with a 5.83 ERA over 29 innings. But look for Skaggs to win this spot if he has a solid camp (barring an injury). If Skaggs, who is only 21, struggles in spring training the coaches might feel that more experience in AAA Reno might be helpful.
Three bullpen spots are up for grabs among four pitchers, Patrick Corbin, Tony Sipp, Josh Collmenter, and Matt Reynolds
Sipp and Reynolds have each spent valuable time in the majors with encouraging results. Sipp has thrown 220 innings over the past four seasons and has a 3.68 ERA. Reynolds has thrown 126 innings over the past three seasons with a 3.93 ERA. Reynolds and Sipp, both lefties, look like solid bets to make the team as set up guys.
That leaves the final spot for Collmenter and Corbin to battle it out. Corbin is also a left hander and was useful over several stretches in the beginning of the 2012 season. He did struggle down the stretch last year. Collmenter, on the other hand, struggled early in the season and then picked it up as the season progressed. Look for Collmenter to make the team. Corbin will be sent to AAA and will be the first pitcher called up if a starter or reliever is injured or struggles. Remember Corbin who is 23 can start or relieve so if both Skaggs and Delgado struggle in spring training he could be the 5th starter.
There is going to be a battle for backup catcher, Wil Nieves vs. Rod Barajas. Nieves was productive in limited time with both the Diamondbacks and Rockies last season, hitting .301 with 89 plate appearances. On the other hand, Barajas was dreadful in 321 plate appearances for the Pirates in 2012. He hit .206 for the season. Give the edge to Nieves, but whoever makes the team will be counted on to give Montero more days off than he had last year.
Bloomquist’s ability to play all infield and outfield positions on the team; gives the Diamondbacks the option to keep 12 pitchers and gives the coaches some flexibility with the final bench spot. The bench spot battle will be between Eric Chavez and John McDonald. Both players are capable backups and are great clubhouse guys, but look for Chavez to make the final roster spot.
Remember that Opening Day is Monday April 1st against the St Louis Cardinals and I hope to see you at the ballpark.