Saturday, March 16, 2013

2013 MLB Preview #14: Arizona Diamondbacks

Greetings! We miss you, Martin...

Projected Starters - Miguel Montero (C), Paul Goldschmidt (1B), Aaron Hill (2B), Cliff Pennington (SS), Martin Prado (3B), Jason Kubel/Gerardo Parra (LF), Adam Eaton (CF), Cody Ross (RF)

To begin, this is a very nice lineup. There's only one hole (Cliff Pennington!), and while there isn't a single "superstar", they're going to hit. Aaron Hill played at a superstar level last season, hitting 26 homers, stealing 14 bases, and posting an OPS of .882 from second base (!), but there's a little bit of regression concern. He's a wildly inconsistent player from season-to-season, and if he regresses to 2011 levels (.246 BA, 8 homers), that's an issue. Montero is one of the better catchers in baseball, and he's money in the bank for .280/.380/.450 or so with 15-18 homers from that hitting-deprived position. They are also set at the corner infield spots, as Paul Goldschmidt made the mini-leap last year (20 HR, 18 SB, .849 OPS), and Martin Prado arrives from Atlanta where he has now (finally) settled on one position, and he'll go out and hit .300 with 15 homers and plus-defense from 3B. The outfield is where things a bit more unstable. Jason Kubel will likely get the majority of AB's in left field, and while he's got power (30 HR in 2012), he's a bad defensive player who can't lefties at all. Adam Eaton is being handed the starting gig in CF as a rookie, and all reports are that he has 30-40 SB upside, but is he going to hit right away? Cody Ross is already banged up with injury in right field, and I hated that signing from the beginning. That said, he's hit .260+ with 14+ homers in 5 straight seasons, and he'll at least be league-average in right field.

Projected - Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin/Tyler Skaggs

Is it me, or does no one ever talk about Ian Kennedy? All he's done is throw 194 innings or more in 3 straight years, with a solid strikeout profile, a low WHIP (career 1.24), and he's as safe as it gets at this point. His safety is balanced out with the absolute risk of Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy has thrown over 120 innings exactly once in his career (170 in 2011), but he's sported an ERA of 3.32 and 3.24 respectively in the last two seasons, and if they can keep him on the mound, he can pitch. Cahill is a strong bet for 200 innings of a mid-3.00's ERA, and while he's not flashy at all (despite being a top prospect previously), he's solid. Wade Miley came out of nowhere to contend for the rookie of the year last year, and he was actually the team's best pitcher with a 3.33 ERA over 194 innings. I honestly don't think he's capable of repeating that, but a similar workload with a 3.75 ERA seems likely. The 5th spot is likely between Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is the much, much higher upside guy as a top prospect, but Corbin was actually solid last season (over 100 innings with a FIP of only 4.00). I'd like to see them go with Skaggs for the upside, but they can't go wrong with a 5th starter spot.

Projected - JJ Putz (closer), David Hernandez, Heath Bell, Brad Ziegler, Tony Sipp, Josh Collmenter

JJ Putz is another guy who no one ever talks about, and I can't understand why in this case either. He has a sub-3.00 ERA in three straight seasons, a career ERA of 3.04, and a career K/9 of 9.49. There is some small injury history, but it's mostly nagging stuff, and they'd be fine without him for a week or two. The reason for the lack of worry about Putz's health is David Hernandez. He threw 68 innings of 2.50 ERA, and he's absolutely filthy (K/9 of over 12). After that, the Heath Bell/Brad Ziegler combination is very interesting. Bell is the former San Diego closer who has had some issues in recent times (5.09 ERA in 2012), but who also has a long track record of success. Ziegler has seemingly always been good, and I frankly can't figure out why he can't close (except for a low K-rate). The bullpen could be a real strength of Bell can turn it around.


I really like the Diamondbacks. The issue, for me, is just a simple lack of upside. The majority of their best players (Kennedy, Prado, and Montero) are very "safe" but lack the ability to burst into the elite, and we honestly have no idea what Aaron Hill is at this point. If everything goes well (i.e. Hill having a big year, and Goldschmidt/Eaton emerging), they have a chance in the not-so-scary NL West, but I simply see a solid, competitive team and nothing more.


82-80, 3rd in NL West

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