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D'backs preview: third base

2004 performance (3B only)
Chad Tracy:     .283/.339/.402, 7 HR, 52 RBI

2005 predictions
Troy Glaus      .256/.355/.492, 30 HR, 92 RBI
In 2003, Arizona's youth movement - named the 'Baby Backs' locally - endeared themselves to fans with a slew of exciting performances. Alex Cintron, Brandon Webb, Matt Kata, Oscar Villarreal and Jose Valverde all came out of nowhere and showed enormous promise. In contrast, 2004 was hardly a banner year for D'backs rookies, except for the bright light of Chad Tracy, who came up to take third base when Hillenbrand switched corners to replace Sexson, and made the position his own. Tracy's .285 was the best average last season by anyone in the 2005 Diamondback starting line-up, and he showed more plate discipline than certain veterans (Danny Bautista and Shea Hillenbrand, this means you!), drawing more walks than anyone bar Luis Gonzalez. The bad news was, his defense sucked - there's no other word for it - with Tracy setting a new franchise record for errors.

That should be slightly less of a problem in 2005, with Tracy moving across to first, and Troy Glaus signed to a four-year, $45m deal at third. However, Glaus is no gold glover: in 2003, his last season as a regular third baseman (in 2004, he mostly DH'd for the Angels), he made 16 errors in only 87 games. But it's true to say that he was signed by Arizona for his heavy lumber, not fielding abilities which seem to have passed their peak for the 28-year old.

The key issue, as with Arizona's other big position signings, is how Glaus comes back from the injuries which have kept him out for most of 2003 and 2004 [only 149 games in total over the two years]. After he came back for Anaheim at the end of August, he hit only .202 (20-for-99), but did have seven homers in September, and another couple in the Division Series against Boston. Even 100% healthy, the glory days of 40+ homers may not return for Glaus, but he should still form a potent power threat in the cleanup spot. His batting average will be nothing to write home about - he hasn't hit above .251 since 2000 - but he could well see more walks than anyone else. As pitchers treat him with caution and avoid the red zone, 80+ free passes is not inconceivable.