2010 in Arizona: The Bench

Having recovered from the sheer exhaustion brought about by the film festival [we're now in the post-event "Thank God that's over" stage, though from past experience, this will be replaced in about two weeks by the "When's the next one?" phase], it's back to baseball. This time, we're looking at the Arizona bench: this wasn't originally scheduled to be a piece on its own, since we've covered most of the contenders when looking at the individual positions. However, the departure of Eric Byrnes leaves us with a spot on the roster up for grabs.

After the jump we'll take a look at the four men whose butts - good health permitting - are likely to be most acquainted with the planks for the Diamondbacks in 2010, and the options open as far as the 25th man goes.

2009 Performance
Gerardo Parra: 120 games, .290/.324/.404
Ryan Roberts: 110 games, .279/.367/.416
Augie Ojeda: 103 games, .246/.340/.345
Alex Romero: 66 games, .248/.306/.338
Chris Snyder: 61 games, .200/.333/.352

The Diamondbacks' bench spots were hard to designate in 2009, with Parra and Roberts basically everyday players by season's end, while original starter Snyder had been benched in favor of Miguel Montero. Chris's year to forget  was thanks to a combination of injury and (possibly related) ineffectiveness, so we'll let him off the hook for further analysis as a result of that. Of the others above, Roberts and Ojeda certainly justified their roster spots and salaries, contributing 2.0 and 1.5 WAR respectively - Parra (0.3 WAR) and Romero (0.0), not so much.

One area where we definitely failed to produce was in the pinch-hitting department. Our men off the bench posted a collective feeble line of .190/.283/.345: even without adjusting for park factors, the resulting OPS of .628 was raned 13th in the National League. This may explain why we used twenty-five different pinch-hitters in the 267 PAs, including three-fifth of our starting rotation. Chad Tracy led the way with 33, and was the most effective semi-regular in the role, hitting .276/.364/.621. Roberts was the only other person with more than 25 PAs as a pinch-hitter; least-effective in the role was probably Romero, who went 5-for-24 with one walk and no extra-base hits. [Though in ten pinch PAs, Parra made ten outs, one a sac. fly]

2010 Prospects
There isn't really the concept of a "depth chart" here, since it's not as if Gerardo Parra and Chris Snyder are going to be competing for playing-time. So, in lieu of what I've done with the other positions, we'll just list the players in alphabetical order, discuss where they'll play on the field, and how they might be used.

Augie Ojeda.
Likely positions: SS, 2B, 3B. Projection: .250/.332/.336
There was some discussion earlier this winter as to whether Ojeda might be traded, speculation which reached a peak after the signing of Kelly Johnson, which appeared to push Augie out of a role. However, the team has no need to trade Ojeda, and it seems the offers that have come Arizona's way to date, have fallen short of acceptable, so it looks likely he will be part of  the team, at least through spring-training. Since coming to Arizona, has spent more time at second than anywhere else. At the moment, however, he is close to the sole back-up of proven major-league quality to Stephen Drew, Tony Abreu being largely untested at the position. His defense will be his main strength again, and Augie may see more work as a late-inning replacement, than as a pinch-hitter.

Gerardo Parra
Likely positions: CF, LF, RF. Projection: .272/.321/.381
The return of Jackson and departure of Byrnes means that, all being well, Parra should return to a role as the Diamondbacks' fourth outfielder in 2010. That may not mean too much of a reduction in his playing time, since he has the capacity to play all three spots, and is the only left-handed bat in the bunch. So he should still see his share of starts - just not against left-handed pitching, until he shows he can handle it. This is something he certainly failed to do last season, though age is certainly still on Parra's side at this point. Another factor in how much we see of Parra will be Chris Young's performance: if good Chris (or, at least, semi-decent Chris) doesn't turn up, Young may find himself placed in a platoon role with Parra, and only seeing southpaws.

Ryan Roberts
Likely positions: 2B, 3B, LF. Projection:.250/.333/.379
Going into the off-season, Roberts looked to have a good chance of being Arizona's starting second-baseman in 2010, having done sterling work (a second-half line, in 52 starts, of .290/.374/.465) after taking over from Felipe Lopez at the position. The arrival of Johnson has changed that, returning Roberts to an anticipated role of a utility guy. He'll back up Johnson, and also can cover for Mark Reynolds at third. Roberts killed left-handed pitching last season  (.325/.406/.547, albeit in a small sample-size), and this will likely govern when he replaces the left-handed Johnson. It's also possible that the team may try to get his bat in the line-up in the outfield, moving Conor Jackson to first and playing Roberts in left, where he performed credibly enough in 2009.

Chris Snyder
Likely position: C, 1B? Projection: .233/.333/.410
Nick Piecoro recently floated the idea of trading Snyder to the Mets, giving both the cases in favor and against that move. At this point, I'm inclined to hold onto Snyder: the pitching that's available for the money we'd save from Snyder, doesn't feel like it's an automatic upgrade over Billy Buckner v2.cutfastball, and Snyder's defensive skills and rather more proven ability than Montero to hit lefties, are worth keeping. Earlier this winter Zephon floated the idea of trying Snyder out at first: this was, of course, before the arrival of Adam LaRoche to replace Brandon Allen, which has certainly lessened the need for such a move. It still might prove marginally worth considering - we did see Snyder at first for four innings last year, also one of the four games where Dan Haren PH'd - but seems unlikely.

The 25th spot
As noted above, the departure of Byrnes gives the team a little more flexibility with regard to the last spot on the roster. They could even abandon position players entirely, and go with an eighth arm in the bulpen. They did this last season, for quite some time - and given how little playing time the 13th position player is likely to get i.e. not very much, there is certainly something to be said for going the other way. This is, of course, providing that we have an additional bullpen pitcher that's good enough, but with the arrival of Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman, we do seem to have more depth than in 2009.

If we decide to stop with seven relievers, then there's still flexibility to be had. With the Parra the only full-time outfielder, one may want to lean towards backing him up with Cole Gillespie. However, Roberts' ability to play LF may be deemed sufficient to start with. We don't have anyone immediately obvious to spell LaRoche at first - not without causing a hole elsewhere e.g. moving Reynolds from third, or Jackson from left, so the highly-touted (by CHONE, anyway), Jeff Bailey may be used as a right-handed alternate. Or, we could even add Tony Abreu to the roster as another option on the middle-infield. It's likely nothing will be decided until well into spring training.

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