I started a website, Bullpen Banter, with a few buddies from Minorleagueball.com, an SBN affiliate. We had a round table chat about the Diamondbacks and thought we should share it with you and get your feed back. We think there is some good content here. Enjoy.
Al Skorupa: I'm picking the Diamondbacks to finish 2nd. I think this is a quality team that has enough of everything to beat out some of the other flawed teams in the NL West. Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson is a great 1-2 punch. Imagine if Brandon Webb can give them something...
There are quality players up and down the lineup. Many of them have had some luck in the past few years. I see upside all over the place. I would not be the least bit surprised to see Drew, Jackson, Upton, LaRoche, Montero, Chris Young or Kelly Johnson to improve upon their 2009 numbers.
If they catch a few breaks this team could be super dangerous in the playoffs. Arizona really is a good team that should easily stay within striking distance. Even if they get unlucky in the first half they're still probably just a deadline move or two from being really good.
JD Sussman: This team is a wild card within the division because they have such uncertainty in their rotation. Arizona has the potential to have three legitimate number front end starters, but its more likely they have just one, Dan Haren. Brandon Webb appears to be hurt again, but how badly is unclear. Edwin Jackson has number 2 starter upside, but really he is a three/four who masqueraded as a one/two for a few months. You see, his 2009 xFIP stayed rather stable over the course of the season (4.39) as was his K/9 (6.77) but his "outstanding" performance in the months of April, May, June, and July were really a product of a few moving targets. In April, his BABIP was .233, in May and June his HR Rate was .21 and .51 respectively, and in July his strand rate was, get this, 94.2%! Over those "outstanding months" his ERA was 2.65 and almost two full runs below his season's xFIP. Yikes! The Diamondbacks are going to see a ton of innings from Kevin Mulvey, Ian Kennedy, Billy Buckner, and Bryan Augenstein in 2010, which will be a disaster. I've got them coming in fourth.
Michael Herrick: I'm certainly not as down on the Diamondbacks as JD is. I love the offensive core they've put together here with Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, Gerardo Parra, and Miguel Montero. The addition of Kelly Johnson was a smart one, it wasn't a big risk and the fact they have two more years of control is big should he rebound. While Adam LaRoche will never be confused with a star level player, what he will provide is a huge upgrade over the sub .700 OPS production they received at first base last year. They got absolutely nothing out of a premier offensive position last year. The only real question mark on offense here is Chris Young, but I think we'll see a rebound out of him this year.
The key to whether the Diamondbacks are contending for the division and/or the Wild Card in the NL will be the health of Brandon Webb. If he can give them even 160 innings of good work they could be in the thick of the playoff race. Dan Haren is a personal favorite of mine from his Oakland days. He has improved his K rate every single year in the majors and somewhat reinvented himself as a pitcher last year scrapping his slider for a curveball and heavily incorporating his cutter into his repertoire. Edwin Jackson should settle in as a nice #3 starter here. His HR/9 rate has always been a little high, it should jump a bit more in the move from Detroit but there are other factors that could help mitigate that damage. Jackson has cut his walk rate dramatically over the last three years, from just under 5 walks per 9 in 2007 to just under 3 walks per 9 in 2009. I think we'll see another reduction in that rate with the move to the NL, maybe into the 2.50 walks per 9 range. He should also see a rise in his K/9 rate as well, I'm willing guess it could be in the 7.5 K/9 range this year. The backend of the rotation will be made up of former top 100 prospects who haven't tasted success at the MLB level yet-Kevin Mulvey and Ian Kennedy. They more than likely won't be very good, but if they can avoid being horrible and eat some innings they won't kill the D-Backs season.
The bullpen has veterans Chad Qualls, Bob Howry, and Aaron Heilman for experienced arms to lean on and some young arms led by Juan Gutierrez, who pitched well last season after Qualls was lost due to injury. This is a team that could make some noise when it comes to playoff contention, but they're largely going to have to do it with the roster they have now as there isn't much help in the farm system or even much quality depth available as trade bait.
We've also got a review of the team's top moves, worst moves, and prospects to watch. Stop by and let us know what you think.