Off Season Analysis: 2010 Diamonbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks:

2009 Record: 70-92

General Manager: Josh Byrnes

Manager: A.J. Hinch

Organizational Philosophy: Since promoting the Director of Player Development to field Manager, GM Josh Byrnes has put even more importance on the necessity of acquiring and developing young players into an established mix of key veterans. During the past few seasons this philosophy was sidetracked with the departure of former Scouting Director (and current GM of the Washington Nationals) Mike Rizzo along with trades involving pitching prospects Brett Anderson and Ross Ohlendorf and outfield prospects like Carlos Quentin and Carlos Gonzalez. In 2009 the Diamondbacks posted as one of the worst defensive teams in major league baseball which along with a few key injuries took this once up and coming team from playoff participants to last place in the NL West in two short years.

Before the 2008 season, Derrick Hall succeeded Jeff Moorad as President and CEO. Both he and GM Josh Byrnes signed a long term deal that is set to expire after the 2015 season. The first two years of this “plan” has been rocky and a lot of regression has occurred in terms of overall team advancement.

2010 Commitments:

Starting Rotation:

Brandon Webb ($8.5M club option; $500K buyout)
Dan Haren ($8.25M)
Doug Davis (free agent)
Max Scherzer ($1.45M)
Billy Buckner ($400K)
Kevin Mulvey ($400K)

GM Byrnes has not publically decided on what to do with Brandon Webb’s option leading many to speculate on the extent on his shoulder injury. According to reports, Webb was relieved by news that his surgery did not reveal any tears in his shoulder labrum. If these reports are to be trusted than Webb should be full go next season. During the season Webb has committed to a rigorous strength and stretching program and this should prove beneficial come this spring. My guess is that the D-Backs will exercise his option and go from there. Since joining the D-Backs, Dan Haren has gotten better each season and Max Scherzer has shown lots of promise in his first full season as a starting pitcher.

Things get muddier for the starting rotation after this. Doug Davis is expected to sign elsewhere and Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey did have their struggles this season. Buckner did show some promise with an effective K/BB of 2.21 in 77 IP despite being hounded by a high BABIP and a fluky HR/FB rate despite allowing an impressive 48% GB’s. Mulvey is another pitcher that posted impressive K/BB ratios in the minors but control and opponent hittability made his ’09 season one to forget. Mulvey was one of the package of prospects the Mets sent to Minnesota in the Johan Santana trade but his ceiling was never considered that high and to expect anything more than 4th or 5th starter material would be an invite for disappointment.

Yusimero Petit ($411K) was once an over-hyped Marlin prospect who has now become a disappointing D-Back project. His numbers in the minors have always been impressive but fly ball pitchers who top off with fastballs in the high 80’s never seem to succeed on average. Bryan Augenstein ($400K) would be interesting if he could ever get his minor league numbers to translate positively in the pros. Augenstein is a GB specialist who will be 23 years old come this spring. He dominated the minors not by striking out batters but through his excellent control. He could be a project worth developing. Prized pitching prospect Jarrod Parker could use a little more seasoning after failing to dominate in AA this season. His numbers were decent and his age (21 at the start of next season) says there’s plenty of time.


Chad Qualls ($2.5M; arb eligible)
Juan Gutierrez ($400K)
Clay Zavada ($400K)
Blaine Boyer ($450K; non-tender free agent)
Daniel Schlereth ($400K)
Esmerling Vasquez ($400K)
Leo Rosales ($403K)
Daniel Cabrera (free agent)

The D-Backs could use a little more depth in the bullpen but Juan Gutierrez was effective in a set-up role. His fastball comes in at the mid-90’s and his HR/9% was an unsustainable 0.25 despite being a neutral pitcher in terms of fly balls to ground balls allowed. Clay Zavada gave good value as a situational lefty and Daniel Schlereth showed incredible K rates despite a hefty BB% that has bugged him since he signed a professional contract. Esmerling Vasquez also has a lively fastball but has a high BB% to counter his effectiveness.

On the field:

C: Miguel Montero ($425K; arb eligible)
C: Chris Snyder ($4.75M)
1B: Brandon Allen ($400K)
1B: Chad Tracy (free agent)
2B: Ryan Roberts ($400K)
2B: Augie Ojeda ($712K; arb eligible)
SS: Stephen Drew ($1.5M; arb eligible)
3B: Mark Reynolds ($422K)
LF: Gerardo Parra ($400K)
LF: Eric Byrnes ($11.6M)
LF: Conor Jackson ($3M; arb eligible)
CF: Chris Young ($3.4M)
RF: Justin Upton ($412K)

The Diamondbacks have been plagued by some bad contracts over the past few seasons. Eric Byrnes is one that sticks out and based on his play the past few seasons and the current logjam developing in the left side of the outfield, Arizona has flirted with the idea of releasing Byrnes this off season and eating the 11 million owed to him. I’m sure at the time of the signing the D-Backs front office was split on whether to sign Byrnes as a free agent following his 2007 season. Most statisticians found this season to be a major outlier but he was such a fan favorite the D-Backs felt forced to financially thank him for his services... sometimes it’s good to go with your head instead of your heart.

Chris Young has been a major disappointment this season. He did improve in increasing his BB% from a low 7% in 2007 to a respectable 12% in ’09. However, despite having trouble staying above the .200 batting average line his K% has been steadily creeping northward from a high 24.8% to 30.7%. Another troubling trend is Young’s declining slugging rate from .467 in ’07 to .400 this last season. Today we can point to some warning signs following his 2007 season; first, we can look at his low LD% of only 15.1 during that season. Young was never considered anything near a .300 hitter but in order to make luck work for you in terms of BABIP, the ability to consistently hit line drives (LD) is essential since it has been argued that both stats are correlated. Another fluky stat following his 2007 breakout season was his unsustainable HR/FB% of 15.6%. Since that time this number has fallen down but his LD% is still too low and has to make one question if Young can ever reach the stats he had two seasons ago. To be fair, Young will be 26 years old at the start of next season so he and D-Backs can take comfort in that but if these trends keep falling this way it’ll be tough for this franchise, especially since they committed $25 million to him until after the 2013 season.

At the corners it’s no surprise that the D-Backs will elect to let Chad Tracy go this winter. Both 1B and 3B seem locked up with Brandon Allen and Mark Reynolds manning those spots, respectively. Although, the D-Backs front office did state that in no way is Brandon Allen safe from losing his job this off season. It should be noted that Allen has promise but is still considered a work in progress. I was a fan of the trade a few months ago that brought him here from the Chicago White Sox. In terms of player development, the front office would like to see him establish a better approach with two strikes but his ability to draw walks is a good sign.

Next Season’s Forecast: It has been speculated that the D-Backs could see a higher payroll next season. I see them in addition to accepting Webb's option to also look to the market in order to find a quality back of the rotation starter like Carl Pavano or Jarrod Washburn (although Washburn's high FB% could get him into trouble in a park known for favoring the long ball). I do expect the D-Backs to be a bit active in the free agency market this winter especially since a lot of defensive minded players will be available in key positions. There has been talk the D-Backs will be open to trades involving SS Stephen Drew. Drew will be 27 years old at the start of next season and I'm sure the D-Backs would be interested in either a quality starting pitcher of corner infielder in return. This would allow the D-Backs to sign an Orlando Cabrera or Adam Everett in order to bolster their defense; however, using Drew as a bargaining chip but after his disappointing '09 season may be difficult if both sides are to be happy. We'll see.

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