This Week in AZ Baseball: prospects injury news, winter ball report and a "to-do" list.

We ate at Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe last night - it's the one on Jefferson, almost diagonally opposite the NE corner of Chase Field. First time we've actually ever been, even though I've driven past it on the way to work every day for almost three years now! I believe it was one of Orlando Hudson's favorite places to eat when he was with the Diamondbacks, and do have to say, the Chicken Fried Steak was phenomenal, a deliciously-moist concoction which has supplanted the previous best in Phoenix, that of the Texaz Grill on 16th Street.  The walls are covered with signatures from previous famous diners; a lot of sports people in general, though I'd hardly have called the food part of a nutritious diet. Junior Spivey's signature was just above our table.

Anyway, leading off the news this week is that our 2007 first-round draft-pick, Jarrod Parker, will have Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. We also take a look at the performances of our players in winter ball, and paw over some suggestions for what the Diamondbacks need to do over the winter. Join us after the jump for all that, and more

The Diamondbacks first-round pick in 2007, Jarrod Parker, will be having Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. The team had initially hoped to avoid surgery for the problem, which first cropped up at the end of July, but the issue didn't appear to resolve itself, so an operation has been scheduled. It means he will miss the entire 2010 season, and it's likely that 2011 will largely be spent learning how to pitch. According to Tom Gordon, who had the surgery in 1999, "It takes a good two years to really have a good feel again." Still, Parker is young enough - he doesn't turn 21 until next month - that time is on his side. There'll be more on this next week, as I'm writing one of my medical pieces, detailing what the procedure entails, the rehab and Parker's future chances.

He wasn't the only Arizona prospect to suffer an injury setback this week. While Roque Mercedes may have one of the coolest names in the Diamondbacks organization (just ahead of Tyson van Winkle and Vincent Bongiovanni), the pitcher won't be taking the mound for a bit. Nick Piecoro reports our prospect was hit in the face by a line-drive, down in the Dominican Republic his injuries resulting in surgery which will keep him out for about six weeks. To add insult to injury, it was one of his team-mates that was responsible, as Mercedes was throwing batting-practice at the time. I bet that Roque-d him...

As the above paragraph suggests, Winter League ball is under way, with the Dominican and Mexican leagues now joining the Arizona Fall League. I've  got a useful link for you, which allows you to see all the D-backs' winter ball statistics in one convenient location. The one line which jumps out is Conor Jackson, who has apparently turned into the Incredible Hulk following his encounter with Valley Fever, and is hitting .533/.682/.933. At this rate, major-leaguers will be queuing up to inhale some of our good ol' Arizonan fungal spores - right up until Bud gets around to banning them as an illegal PED. Which,  based on  how long he took with steroids, will probably be around the year 2027...

It certainly increased the chance of him being offered a contract by the Diamondbacks. I believe the rules are, that for arbitration-eligible players such as Jackson, we can't offer less than 80% of his previous salary, which for Conor would be $2.4m. If he was still unable to do anything more than become acquainted with Judge Judy and her daytime TV companions, that might not be worth the risk But going 8-for-15 with seven walks? Yeah, I think we'll see a contract with his name on it being drawn up by the front-office. [As an aside, Mrs. SnakePit wonders how Conor is coping there - after all, he's not the most Hispanic of players. She wonders if the team sent an interpreter with him]

Also enjoying his time in the Dominican is Tony Abreu, who is 9-for-22 with an OPS of 1.026. Daniel Cabrera had a solid first outing, throwing four innings and allowing only one run - perhaps more importantly, he also walked only one batter. As we saw during the regular season for Arizona and Washington [42 walks, four hit batters and 11 wild pitches in 51 innings of work], control is by far Cabrera's biggest issue. Jose Marte and Jordan Norberto have barely got started, but have combined for two scoreless innings out of the bullpen for Estrellas de Oriente

Not so much success for AZ pitchers in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League. Our four hurlers - Bryan Augenstein, Tom Laine, Scott Maine and Cesar Valdez - have combined for 11.2 innings of work and thirteen earned runs, on seventeen hits and ten walks. Maine and Valdez in partiocular seem to have been infected with Cabrera-itis, having handed out a total of eight free passes in 3.2 frames. At the plate, Brandon Allen has struggled, hitting .211 (8-for-38), though has ten walks, resulting in a respectable .375 OBP. Cole Gillespie is impressing, going 8-for-20 with five walks and only one K. Pedro Ciriaco is also doing well: 9-for-21 with an OPS over a thousand.

Finally in this area - though I'm not quite sure if this counts as "winter ball," since it's actually their summer - the Australian season is about to get under way, naturally featuring our own Trent Oeltjen. Here's a piece on baseball down under, and it looks like this could become another off-season destination for players. "The MLB and the Australian Baseball Federation have joined in a unique partnership to unveil a competition that will seek to attract US stars keen to tune up ahead of their home season. The MLB, buoyed by the success of its joint venture Australian academy on the Gold Coast, which has seen 126 players graduate to pro leagues around the world since 2000, will bankroll 75 per cent of the competition."

A potential financial cloud on the horizon for the team. The Phoenix Business Journal says " The next shoe to drop in the legal fight over special tax breaks and subsidies for developers could be over the 100 percent tax exemptions ponied up for high-profile projects. That action could come after the Arizona Supreme Court decides whether a $97 million tax break for the CityNorth mixed-use development in northeast Phoenix is constitutional under state law... A lawsuit [is] expected to be filed over government property lease excise taxes, or GPLETs. These funding mechanisms allow government entities that own land to lease it back to private developers and businesses, which then pay lower-than-normal property taxes." Currently, the Diamondbacks pay no property taxes because they lease Chase from the Maricopa County Stadium District. Insert rant about taxpayer-funded pro sports facilities here.

Billy Buckner was the winner of the 2009 Diamondbacks' award for Minor-League Pitcher of the Year. That may seem a bit of a surprise, given his lackluster performances early in the season with the big club, but when pitching for Reno, he went 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA. Looking at the other numbers, a couple of other candidates include Berling Cruz, who had a 2.23 ERA in fourteen games (thirteen starts) for the Diamondbacks in the Dominican Summer League, and Michael Belfiore's 2.11 ERA over 58 innings with Missoula. But I'm sure Zephon and IHSB will talk more about these guys in their end-of-season reviews.

Nick Piecoro has come up with his to-do list in the off-season for the Diamondbacks. Not too much to argue with there: little doubt we need a starting pitcher, a first-baseman and a couple of arms in the bullpen. However, I would question the amounts allocated by Nick, of the $28m we have to spend, especially given the names he mentions. I don't think $7m will be anywhere near to get someone like Jason Marquis, who earned close to ten million this season, and won 15 games with the Rockies. I doubt a 30% pay-cut is anywhere imminent in his future. The other suggestion, Brad Penny, who made only six starts, is more likely for the cash: $7m will only get you someone whose 2009 was marred either by injury or their performance.

I'd be surprised if we end up spending more, as Nick thinks, on the bullpen - especially as we don;t need a closer, or even probably a set-up man. Eight million dollars therefore seems a bit high. I think in Chad Qualls, Juan Gutierrez, Esmerling Vasquez and Clay Zavada, we have the makings of a fairly-solid bullpen, and you can add Blaine Boyer, who was very impressive in his time with us, or possibly even Daniel Schlereth to the mix. I think we just need a couple of reliable middle-inning guys, nothing spectacular or too expensive. Overpaying for relievers is not something I'd say the team needs to do - we have more significant needs.

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