2014 NL West Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Have the Diamondbacks done enough to compete in the National League West this season?

Relevant Facts

  • 2013 Record: 81-81 (3rd in NL West)
  • 2013 Pythag Record: 80-82
  • Manager: Kirk Gibson
  • General Manager: Kevin Towers
  • Notable Offseason Acquisitions: Bronson Arroyo (R), Oliver Perez (L), Addison Reed (R), Mark Trumbo (OF).

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/14/3995369/los-angeles-dodgers-2014-preview.html#storylink=cpy
  • Notable Offseason Losses: Heath Bell (R), Willie Bloomquist (IF), Matt Davidson (3B), Adam Eaton (OF), Wil Nieves (C), Tony Sipp (L), Tyler Skaggs (L)

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/14/3995369/los-angeles-dodgers-2014-preview.html#storylink=cpy
  • Former Diamondbacks On Some Roster In Organization: None. Or all of them. Guess it depends...
Probable Lineup
  1. A.J. Pollock, CF
  2. Aaron Hill, 2B
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Martin Prado, 3B
  5. Mark Trumbo, LF
  6. Miguel Montero, C
  7. Gerardo Parra, RF
  8. Chris Owings or Didi Gregorius, SS

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/14/3995369/los-angeles-dodgers-2014-preview.html#storylink=cpy
Probable Rotation
  1. Wade Miley (L)
  2. Trevor Cahill (R)
  3. Brandon McCarthy (R)
  4. Bronson Arroyo (R)
  5. Randall Delgado (R)
Bullpen Pieces
Bench
Notable Injured Players
  • Cody Ross OF: hip (mid-April)
  • Patrick Corbin P: elbow (maybe Tommy John)
  • Daniel Hudson P: Tommy John surgery (July)
  • Matt Reynolds P: Tommy John surgery (maybe September)
  • Bronson Arroyo P: back (day-to-day)

Overview

The Diamondbacks finished their second consecutive season with a record exactly at .500, but it doesn't feel to me that a lot of the moves this winter moved the needle very much. They replaced Eaton with Trumbo, who will certainly give the Diamondbacks power they were missing in 2013, but as we saw in the first game of the season, this will come at the cost of a reduction in outfield defense. With Prado the long-term incumbent at third, the team traded blocked prospect Davidson for reliever Reed, who'll be the team's closer, replacing Putz. They also signed free-agent pitchers Arroyo and Perez.

However, it seems that any charge is mostly going to be powered by improvement from existing personnel. The team will be looking for a bounceback season from Montero, whose first year of a long-term contract was extremely disappointing. A fully-healthy one from Hill would also be an improvement, and Prado will be looking to avoid the slow start which plagued him during his first season with the Diamondbacks. But there are question-marks here as well. Can Goldschmidt repeat the 2013 form which made him runner-up for league MVP? How productive can Ross be after returning from hip surgery? Who will win the shortstop battle, and how will they fare?

Probably the biggest hope for improvement is the starting rotation, which managed only 8.9 fWAR last season, 12th of 15 in the National League. However, the potentially season-ending injury to Corbin has dampened hopes there: if he does indeed require Tommy John surgery, it probably means Delgado gets those starts instead, at least until ace prospect Archie Bradley is deemed ready for the major-leagues. That's not likely to help, so the team will need veterans Arroyo, McCarthy and Cahill to step up and shoulder their share of the burden - and, in McCarthy's case, try and avoid the injuries which mean he has passed 135 innings only once, since his major-league debut in 2005.

The bullpen has room for improvement, after posting a record number of blown saves in 2013, and certainly appears stronger on paper, with the additions of Reed and Perez. On the other hand, last season, the team had a better record overall in contests with a blown save, than when they didn't have one, so the blown saves' toll may have been more in additional innings of work, rather than direct losses. Arizona also had the best record in the NL in one-run games (34-21), while winning five more extra-inning games than anyone else in the league; history tells us it's hard to repeat that kind of performance.

I don't want to write our team's chances off, and if things bounce favorably, it's certainly more than a remote possibility we can contend in the NL West. However, there's also a non-zero chance we're poking the carcass of this season with a stick by the All-Star break, and the two games in Australia likely provided a harsh reality check in this department. The personnel assembled can produce: give us 2012 Montero and Hill, 2010 Cahill and, oh, 2006 Arroyo, and how's that for a nice slice of fried gold? But will they? The loss of Corbin was a significant blow - the team can ill-afford to lose any more key pieces over the next six months.

This winter isn't the way I'd have gone, but that's all water under the bridge. Now we can only wait and see if Towers knows what he's doing. Consecutive seasons of declining run differential don't give me enormous confidence, and if things continue to go South for a third season, I suspect someone will end up paying the price of failure, before this year's post-season.

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