I feel as if I've just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson - the young Mike, not the new, on parole, past it, Mike - but the back yard has not adequately been reduced in height, though it is now about eight inches deep in weed-whacked mulch. The stuff was flying everywhere: I soon learned to keep my mouth shut, but I still managed to get chlorophyll wedged in places chlorophyll was never intended to go. It was unpleasantly like bathing in wheat-grass for an hour; at least I no longer feel like there is a lost tribe of pygmies potentially inhabiting the yard. I am now showered, and so no longer wearing a coat of finely-mulched vegetation.
Just posted the final tallies for the Infield Community Projections. Thanks to DiamondbacksWIn, shoewizard, Ben, AZSEAfan, Azreous, johngordonma, manphibian [welcome!] and Muu for their input into those. Seems like most people are high on Conor to do well, with the overall prediction .301 and 21 HR. Mark Reynolds got some love too, with one bold prediction that he'll be the first D-back to drive in a hundred runs since Luis Gonzalez back in 2003. Fingers crossed that proves to be the case. In the popular vote, Jackson proved the runaway victor of our poll for highest batting-average, taking 48% of the vote; Hudson was second at 13% and Byrnes third with 11%, though everyone got at least one vote.
We now move on to the outfield, where things look pretty well set: Byrnes in left, Young in center and Upton in right. Salazar will be the primary back-up at all three positions, while Chris Burke (and Trot Nixon, if he makes the roster), could also see some time in the outfield too. However, I'm thinking we'll probably see 600 or more plate-appearances for each of our main trio, so that's where we'll concentrate our crystal-ball gazing activity.
LF. Eric Byrnes
2007: .286/.353/.460 [OPS .813], 21 HR, 83 RBI, 50 SB
Bill James: .267/.331/.431 [.772], 18 HR, 66 RBI, 28 SB
Chone: .277/.344/.458 [.802], 21 HR, 70 RBI, 27 SB
Marcel: .266/.327/.443 [.770], 19 HR, 71 RBI, 29 SB
ZIPS: .278/.338/.455 [.793], 17 HR, 74 RBI, 28 SB
Eric Byrnes is now 32 years old, and this seems to be reflected in predictions which expect a drop of between 11 and 43 points in his OPS. The one thing we can almost be certain of, is that Byrnes will be better in the first half of the year than the second. In the past three years, his OPS has dropped after the All-Star Break by at least a hundred points [though the margin has closed considerably since 2005, when the gap was a startling 273 points]. Byrnes had his best year in quite some time in 2007, and got his first MVP votes: his .286 average was the highest since the ten at-bats of his rookie year in 2000. He also managed a career mark in walks, and doubled his previous best figure for stolen bases.
Despite that, the line anticipated for Byrnes seems to be closer to his overall career figures: .267/.329/.451. I was particularly surprised by the figures expected for stolen bases, with no-one expecting even as many as thirty. That seems low, given that he had 33 in the second-half alone, playing just seventy games. He will be a year older and perhaps a step slower, yet should still be a formidable threat on the base-paths. A slight fall-off in most departments seems likely, though shouldn't be anything to be concerned about. At least, not until we get towards the second half of July.
AZ SnakePit: .280/.345/.445 [.790], 18 HR, 73 RBI, 37 SB
CF. Chris Young
2007: .237/.295/.467 [OPS .762], 32 HR, 68 RBI
Bill James: .253/.320/.508 [.828], 33 HR, 79 RBI
Chone: .260/.335/.488 [.823], 26 HR, 68 RBI
Marcel: .253/.316/.462 [.778], 23 HR, 60 RBI
ZIPS: .245/.309/.467 [.776], 29 HR, 96 RBI
As with Drew, the question appears to be less, will Young improve, as how much? There appears to be two distinct camps of thought here: James and Chone are both very impressed by his potential, expecting 60+ points of OPS higher, but Marcel and ZIPS only predict a small improvement. I think it'll be the OBP component of his statistics that will prove most crucial. He ended up 5th equal in the league for strikeouts, with a K:BB ratio worse than 3:1. On the other hand, 32 homers from a player his age is always welcome; the only others in the majors to reach thirty were Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, neither of whom play a tough defensive position.
Especially if Young is going to be in the leadoff spot, we do need a much better OBP than .295 from him. The median for the spot in the NL last year was .341, and while that might be a little out of Young's reach, he should be working to improve both his batting average and plate discipline. Fifteen points added to each would be a good start to setting the table for those behind him, and I think the additional experience under his belt will help CY significantly. His power should be just as impressive as last year, and his speed [the consensus prediction is for 24 stolen-bases, not far short of what they expect from Byrnes] adds an extra dimension.
AZ SnakePit: .252/.325/.470 [OPs .795], 30 HR, 66 RBI
RF. Justin Upton
2007: .221/.283/.364 [OPS .627], 2 HR, 11 RBI
Bill James: .278/.353/.496 [.849], 19 HR, 74 RBI
Chone: .260/.330/.432 [.762], 16 HR, 66 RBI
Marcel: .266/.335/.423 [.758], 6 HR, 29 RBI
ZIPS: .248/.313/.404 [.717], 16 HR, 74 RBI
With just 152 plate-appearances in the majors to go on, there is a huge degree of variation to be found among the systems: more than 130 points of OPS. ZIPS is particularly harsh, expecting Upton to be exposed ruthlessly in his sophomore year. However, even they predict 74 RBI, which would be the second-best mark for a right-fielder in franchise history [Reggie Sanders had 90 in 2001]. Marcel, for some odd reason, only gives him 248 at-bats; he's going to get those before the All-Star break, unless he snaps multiple limbs off entirely.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bill James absolutely Upton. To put his prediction of an .849 OPS into context, even an .800 figure by a 20-year old over a full season has only been seen twice in my lifetime [from some guys called Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr...] Much as I would love to see Upton become the third such phenom, I think we'll have to wait until 2009 to see the full flowering of his unquestionable talents [which does make me wonder why he arrived so soon - by doing so, we gain his age 20 season, but might lose his, likely better, age 26 season to free-agency]. This year should be quite solid, but we should temper expectations somewhat.
AZ SnakePit: .265/.342/.430 [.772], 17 HR, 65 RBI
OF. Jeff Salazar
2007: .277/.340/.394 [OPS .734], 1 HR, 10 RBI
Bill James: .269/.346/.421 [.767], 3 HR, 16 RBI
Chone: .258/.337/.408 [.745], 11 HR, 57 RBI
Marcel: .276/.350/.412 [.762], 5 HR, 30 RBI
ZIPS: .265/.345/.425 [.770], 11 HR, 58 RBI
Chone and ZIPS have Salazar's counting stats as if he's playing a full season: you can at least cut their HR and RBI figures in half for a more realistic figure, based on his likely actual appearances. Salazar only had one homer last year, but it was that memorable ninth-inning one in SF and he also flashed some great defense. These figures look not too bad for a fourth-outfielder, especially one plucked off the waiver-wire [he certainly did better than our other waiver picks!] and I think he'll be respectable in a utility role once again.
AZ SnakePit: .265/.340/.410 [.750], 3 HR, 17 RBI
Who'll hit the most home runs?
This poll is closed