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2010 A to W Preview--Arizona Diamondbacks
by James Deaux (MLB)
Posted on January 29, 2010, 12:58 PM

2010 Predictions from A to W: Arizona Diamondbacks

Welcome to the first of my 30 team-by-team previews for the 2010 season. In each of these, I’ll be taking a close look at how each team did in 2009 and what their prospects (no pun intended) are looking like for 2010. I’ve never undertaken a project of this girth, but hopefully I can get through it in time for the regular season to start. I’m going to take a simple route and go through each team alphabetically, which means that the Arizona Diamondbacks are leading off.

2009 record: 70-92 (5th in NL West)

Key offseason pickups: Edwin Jackson (SP), Adam LaRoche (1B), Kelly Johnson (2B), Ian Kennedy (SP)

Key offseason departures: Eric Byrnes (LF), Max Scherzer (SP/RP), Daniel Schlereth (RP)

Projected starting rotation: Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Billy Buckner

Projected 2010 starting lineup:

C: Miguel Montero
1B: Adam LaRoche
2B: Kelly Johnson
3B: Mark Reynolds
SS: Stephen Drew
LF: Conor Jackson/Gerardo Parra
CF: Gerardo Parra/Chris Young
RF: Justin Upton

The Diamondbacks were a humongous disappointment in 2009, finishing 22 games under .500 and dead last in the NL West. This was mostly due to having a maddeningly inconsistent offense, combined with a brutally bad (and largely injury-riddled) pitching staff. Their offense, which admittedly does have a lot of power, simply strikes out far too much—1,298 times—good for worst in Major League Baseball in ‘09. They also did not get on base enough to balance out the whiffs—27th in BA and 22nd in OBP. Justin Upton was the only regular player to hit .300 for them. The next closest? Stephen Drew with a .261. Chris Young, in particular, was an unmitigated disaster, hitting a putrid .212 with an equally ugly .311 OBP. Things got so bad for him that the club demoted him to AAA late in the season, after which the D-Backs went on their best stretch of the entire year. There are a lot of rumblings that Young is not on the good side of GM Josh Byrnes or the coaching staff, and if he doesn’t prove that he can play up to his contract, he’ll be the next one shipped out. What do I mean by “next one”? Even though it came sooner than I thought, the club has finally severed ties with oft-injured Eric Byrnes, who was signed to a disastrous $30 million, 3-year deal. The D-Backs will have to eat the remaining $11 million he’s owed, but it likely means Conor Jackson and Gerardo Parra will platoon in left, which the club really needs to happen because Jackson had a lost season in 2009. There is no denying that there is talent here—most notably with Upton, Drew, and Mark Reynolds. The problem is that you never know what you will get from the lineup on any given day. They can show up one day and pound out ten runs and sixteen hits and then get shut out the next day and strike out fourteen times. (And frankly, with this team, the fourteen K’s would probably happen regardless.) One would have to think, though, that after all the experience they now have collectively, they will only improve and be more consistent.

The D-Backs made one big move in acquiring Edwin Jackson from Detroit (in the three-team deal with the Yankees), in exchange for Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth. I like this move because the jury is still out on Scherzer and there is really no telling how effective Brandon Webb will be coming back from major shoulder surgery. Jackson provides another proven quality arm in a question-mark-filled pitching staff. He had a downright amazing year in ‘09, posting career bests in virtually every category. Moving to the National League can only improve his statistics. Meanwhile, Dan Haren seemed to finally move past his usual second half struggles to post a stellar all-around season (3.14 ERA /1.00 WHIP/223 K). Assuming Webb does come back at full strength, the Diamondbacks could have one of the best 1-2-3 punches of any rotation in the National League with that three-headed monster. The drop-off in quality in the rotation after Jackson will be enormous, but the top three guys will be good enough to lean on if they stay healthy. And really, getting rid of Yusmeiro Petit was addition by subtraction.

Their bullpen is another story entirely. You could count on Mordecai Brown’s hand the number of Diamondback relievers who had below-4.00 ERA’s last year. Everyone else ranged from “unsatisfactory” to “dreadful”, with a random smattering of other unflattering adjectives thrown in between. With the gruesome injury Chad Qualls suffered at the end of August, it is likely Juan Gutierrez will be the de facto closer going into Spring Training. I highly doubt Qualls will be able to pitch at all when February rolls around, let alone be at 100%, and Gutierrez did a decent job filling in for Qualls in September, racking up nine saves. Nearly everyone else behind him is going to have to earn their spot on the roster, though. This area is almost assuredly going to be a major Achilles heel for this team again.

One more thing Arizona absolutely must address is their awful defense, which ranked 28th in fielding percentage in 2009. Mark Reynolds, for all his power, is a liability at best at third base, and he really isn’t much better across the diamond at first. Even Justin Upton, whom you almost hate to say anything negative about, was mediocre in the field. Kelly Johnson isn’t exactly a defensive whiz, either. However, their latest signing, Adam LaRoche, though he lacks range, is a vacuum cleaner with a glove, so he will certainly improve that side of the infield.

2010 Prediction: 77-85 (4th in NL West) – They are going to be better, but I don’t think it will be enough to win the pennant in a very tough division. Their bullpen and defense will lose them plenty of games they should win. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them rise from the cellar and stay in the race for most of the year. They certainly have the talent to do it. Unfortunately, their farm system is bone dry, so if they suffer any major injuries, they will quickly plummet back into the basement of the NL West.

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