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2006 Review, Part Two: The Outfield

Left Field
Luis Gonzalez: .275/.356/.450, 15 HR, 73 RBI
Nobody else had more than 16 at-bats in left field, Gonzalez occupying the position with the same iceberg-like tenacity he has, virtually since his arrival in Arizona. The results were...well, about league-average for the position. Gonzalez's HR totals continued to plummet, reaching their lowest level since he was with Houston in 1997, but some of these turned into a career-high 52 doubles, =35th on the all-time single-season list and the most ever by a player his age.

Still, the question of his contract loomed large over the season like a dark cloud. Gonzo asked for a decision, and the organization told him, you ain't coming back; this turned the last home series of the season into a love-fest (except for the new president...). Salary seemed less the sticking-point than playing time, which makes it odd that Eric Byrnes, who had exactly the same OPS as Gonzalez this year (.795) - and that after a career year - will be replacing him. I would not be surprised if plans in this area change between now and Opening Day 2007, though Byrnes' defense is probably better, with youth and speed also on his side.

Center Field
Eric Byrnes: .278/.325/.498, 23 HR, 68 RBI
Jeff Davanon: .289/.356/.446, 4 HR, 20 RBI
Chris Young: .235/.303/.368, 2 HR, 10 RBI

Byrnes quickly became a fan favourite for his wild style, both of dress and play, though it was hard to tell how much was showboating (the forward flips on throws to home, for example) and how much his genuine, and undeniable enthusiasm. He also became the first D'back since Devon White in 1998 to make the 20/20 club, stealing 25 bases in addition to 26 homers. However, much of that was built on one monstrous month: in May, he hit .364 with 8 HR, but fell off a cliff thereafter. Post-July, Byrnes batted just .233, with a K:BB ratio of 36:7. This follows a career path: overall, he hits 50 points better, and has an OPS 170 higher before the All-Star break, than after... Even if he starts the year in AZ, expect a trade before the deadline.

Byrnes received valuable backup from Jeff DaVanon, who was a solid fourth outfielder, until his season was ended by an ankle injury in August - a split tendon resulted in surgery. He holds a player option, and odds are that he'll likely exercise it. This did give the opportunity for fans to grow acquainted with Chris Young, our 23-year old prospect who will be the everyday starter in center next year. His debut was perhaps less flashy than those of our other uber-prospects, but there is still undeniably a great deal of optimism for the future, with some thinking Young could end up being even better than Drew and Quentin.

Right Field
Shawn Green: .289/.354/.432, 9 HR, 47 RBI
Carlos Quentin: .245/.335/.490, 7 HR, 23 RBI

The main step forward in 2006 was getting rid of two dubious long-term contracts which hung over Arizona like a pair of sickly albatrosses. Trading for Shawn Green in 2004 made sense. Giving him a contract extension... much less so, and the new management decided enough was enough. So Green was shipped off to the Mets, with a large suitcase of cash, after having cleared waivers in August. Not that he was disastrous in right, just mediocre, particularly with the glove - and Green was a very expensive mediocre, too. Credit to Shawn, however, for being the consumate professional throughout, even waiving his no-trade clause for the deal.

His presence was particularly pointless, because Carlos Quentin had been marked for greatness even before Green arrived here, and had nothing left to prove in the minors. Given the chance, Q quickly demonstrated exactly why he was so highly-regarded, smacking four homers in his first 16 major-league at-bats, on his way to an .872 OPS overall (compared to Green's .778). Pro-rated to 550 at-bats, he'd have had a 30 HR, 106 RBI season, although whether he can sustain that level of performance next year remains to be seen. His defense has also been excellent. That will be a nice change for Diamondbacks' fans, who have "enjoyed" Green, Danny Bautista and Quentin McCracken in the right corner at Chase since the World Series.

[Note: all figures are for the specified position only.]