MLB: Spring Training AZ Diamondbacks
Now that football has ended and the days are getting a little longer; it can only mean one thing . . . it is time for Spring Training baseball in Arizona.
No team had a more attention-grabbing off-season than our own Arizona Diamondbacks who went 81-81 during the regular season last year. The team parted ways with two of their starting outfielders, Chris Young and Justin Upton They also traded for two shortstops, Didi Gregorius, Cliff Pennington; added a veteran outfielder via free agency, Cody Ross; signed a free agent third baseman, Eric Chavez; acquired a third baseman, Martin Prado and a backup first baseman and pinch hitter, Eric Hinske. The Diamondbacks also traded away pitcher Trevor Bauer, their third pick of the 2011 draft; then went out and signed Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy was the pitcher who had emergency surgery on a fractured skull last September, after being hit in the head by a line drive. And, finally the Diamondbacks traded for relief pitcher, Heath Bell from the Miami Marlins. On paper, it looks like the Diamondbacks had a well-built off-season.
Let’s take a look at how the Diamondbacks Spring Training may shape-up.
Third baseman, Ryan Roberts, had a lack luster first half of the 2012 season and he was traded to Tampa Bay. The Diamondbacks traded for third basemen Chris Johnson; and that provided only a slight relief. Enter Martin Prado who promises to be a major upgrade. Last year Prado batted .301 with 10 home runs, 70 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 156 games. Prado has hit over .300 in four of the last five seasons. He can play several positions, but will see third base as his primary position. Eric Chavez will provide a quality back-up for Prado. Chavez is a veteran who is well liked in the locker room and has shown his willingness to help out younger players and is a six time Gold Glove winner.
Shortstop should improve defensively with the additions of Cliff Pennington and rookie, Didi Gregorious; although neither are projected to produce much at the plate. Gregorious may actually start the 2013 season at AAA Reno. Remember the Diamondbacks will also still have both Willie Bloomquist and John MacDonald available to play shortstop.
Outfielder Cody Ross will feel the pressure as he takes over in right field for Justin Upton. Whether you are happy with the Upton the trade or not, Ross will be called upon to put up similar or better numbers than Upton did as a member of the Diamondbacks.
If Adam Eaton is given the lead-off spot, it will give the Diamondbacks a legitimate lead-off hitter for the long run. Eaton will provide a major lift for this team. He might not have the power of Chris Young but he will bring a speed factor to the lineup. The Diamondbacks have needed that in a lead-off hitter for the last few years. Eaton has a good arm and hustles all the time. He will be fun to watch during the 2013 season.
Jason Kubel will be the starting left fielder. Kubel had an excellent 2012 season going until August then he dropped off in both hitting for average and power. That could be attributed to Upton moving to 5th in the lineup. Kubel will see time at DH during visits to American league parks. He has lost some weight and is determined to put up better numbers both with the bat and fielding.
Gerardo Parra will be the 4th outfielder and will see plenty of at bats and he will play in all three outfield positions during the season.
There is potential for improvement in both the starting staff and relief pitching during the 2013 season. You have to like the starting pitching depth, especially if Daniel Hudson can come back at mid-season. Ian Kennedy looks to rebound from a so-so 2012 season. Kennedy’s success centers on his ability to limit the long ball. He is expected to lower his WHIP from last year (1.30) and that will help him keep his ERA down. Even with his homer troubles, Kennedy will be a durable starter who will top 200+ innings (barring injury), and should get 190-200 strikeouts and is projected to win 15-18 games. Trevor Cahill will be expected to get back to his 2010 year when he won 18 games and his ERA was under 3. The other pitcher to look at is Brandon McCarthy. In 43 starts over two seasons with the Oakland A’s, McCarthy was 17-15 with a 3.29 ERA. McCarthy comes with a veteran sensibility and brings depth. He comes to the Diamondbacks’ emerging rotation, which, for all its promise, still finished 9th last year in ERA.
The bullpen certainly will have more depth with Heath Bell on the roster. However it depends on which Bell shows up. In 2012 he was an absolute disappointment for the Marlins. He went 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA and converted just 19 of 27 save opportunities. Bell will not close for the Diamondbacks, but will get plenty of opportunities to pitch. Resigning J.J. Putz was definitely a smart move for the Diamondbacks. Putz has been outstanding as the team’s closer. In two seasons with Arizona he has a 2.48 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He has saved 77 games and has a strikeout rate of 10.1 batters per nine innings in that span. Keep an eye on all of the Diamondbacks both returning and new to the team during this 2013
Spring Training season. Let’s get back to baseball!!