First thoughts on a 2014 Opening Day roster

Archie Bradley - will he be with the team for 2014? - USA TODAY Sports

Since it's an off-day today for the D-backs, let's take a look forward, and speculate on what our Opening Day roster for next season may look like.

Starting position players

The infield would appear to be fairly predictable at this point, health permitting (I'll take that caveat as read for the rest of this piece!). We'll have Miguel Montero catching, Paul Goldschmidt at first, Aaron Hill at second and Didi Gregorius playing shortstop. The question of third is to some extent tied to the outfield spots, where we could have Adam Eaton, Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock, probably working a four-man rotation in the same way as we're seeing of late. I am all but certain that Jason Kubel's option will not be exercised, as he seems incapable of hitting anyone over the past three months, with a .563 OPS since the end of April.

However, I would not mind too much if we were to un-jam our outfield further by trading one of the right-handers [frankly, I'd prefer Ross, but it would seem more likely to be Pollock], and moving Martin Prado in to the mix there. That would allow Matt Davidson to become the everyday third-baseman, with Prado occasionally spelling him, or even Hill at second, when necessary. Outside of those games, I'd look to play Prado every day, with Eaton and Parra alongside him against right-handers, while Pollock and Ross get to start vs. lefties.

  • C. Montero
  • 1B Goldschmidt
  • 2B Hill
  • SS Gregorius
  • 3B Davidson
  • LF Prado
  • CF Parra
  • RF Ross

Bench

Assuming a regular five-man bench, spots would seem be assured for Pollock, Eaton and Cliff Pennington. We would still need a back-up catcher and, probably, a left-handed bat off the bench, who can also spell Goldschmidt at first-base. It'd be very nice to get Wil Nieves back, but it would not surprise me if some team opts to give him a shot as a starter next season, even though his offense is almost entirely a product of a Puig-like BABIP. We'll probably be outbid for his services as a result, and I suspect it's a position for which we may end up having to audition candidates in spring training - which worked out pretty well for us this year.

The left-handed corner infielder position is one which has been filled by Eric Chavez, but I suspect we may want someone a little more durable for next season. While the loss of Hill led to Chavez being pressed into more games earlier on than we'd like, his current disabled-list stint seems further evidence that he really needs to be with an American League club, mostly as a DH. Over the past six seasons, he has averaged less than 235 innings per year in the field, about 26 full games, and in the NL, you can't really afford to have someone on the roster with that kind of fragility. Suggestions for alternatives are welcome.

  • IF Pennington
  • OF Pollock
  • OF Eaton
  • C ???
  • 1B/3B ???

Rotation

Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy appear to be locks as Diamondbacks' starters. Trevor Cahill is on thin ice, mostly because he is becoming increasingly expensive: $7.7 million in 2014, and ballooning up to $12 million in 2015. Which would be fine if he was pitching like an ace. However, even expanding beyond his struggles this campaign, over Cahill's two seasons and 49 starts, he has a 98 ERA+, which is not worth ace money [Jarrod Parker, incidentally, has been a little better, with a 105 ERA+, and obviously a lot cheaper]. Might we see him moved, to make way for cheaper talents?

There's certainly no shortage of back of the rotation depth, with the likes of Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Charles Brewer, etc. who can fill in. But it's the higher-ceiling talents whom Diamondback fans will be more excited to see. Will Tyler Skaggs develop? And could our young Mobile jewels, Archie Bradley (2.10 ERA) and David Holmberg (2.76), be ready to compete for a job with the big-league club in the Cactus League? Holmberg is a year older, but Bradley's stats like K-rate suggest he is currently further developed. While we may well see the duo next season, it seems a stretch to suggest both will be ready by Opening Day. If we move Cahill, we could be looking at:

  1. Corbin
  2. McCarthy
  3. Miley
  4. Skaggs
  5. Bradley

Bullpen

I'm not expecting too much in the way of changes here either, at least in terms of personnel, with just about everyone under team control for next season too. However, some will cost more. J.J. Putz will be at $7m, Brad Ziegler probably $5m or so in his third arbitration year, Joe Thatcher is at that stage in the process too, while Matt Reynolds and Josh Collmenter enter their first arb raise, and David Hernandez is already signed for $2 million. Will Harris is probably the only member of the front-line relief corps scheduled to earn league minimum, and there may not be a spot open for him. if Hernandez finds himself. So a legitimate question is: can we afford to keep everyone?

As interesting a topic will be the roles people will have. Who'll be closer? Who'll be the set-up man? Good though Ziegler has been in save situations (one blown save in 19), I'd rather see his ground-ball tendencies freed from the ninth, as there are times when they'd be extremely useful in an earlier frame. But who would then work the ninth? Don't look now, but Putz hasn't been scored on over his last 14 games, and Bell has a 1.72 ERA in his previous 16 appearances. With the former's season ERA down to 2.42 - lower than from 2011-12, when he had 77 saves - I'd not be surprised to see him back in the closer's role for 2014.

  • Closer: Putz
  • Set-up: Bell
  • Set-up: Ziegler
  • Mid-innings: Hernandez
  • LOOGY #1: Reynolds
  • LOOGY #2: Thatcher
  • Long relief: Collmenter

Of course, this is all guesswork, and who knows what madness lurks in the mind of Kevin Towers [and I mean both bad and "crazy like a fox"!], ready to come to fruition between now and Opening Day in Australia next season. I'm sure you all have your thoughts on this matter...

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