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Season Preview: A year of change for the Arizona Diamondbacks

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We're starting our season preview for the Diamondacks today: over the next two weeks, we'll be looking at the team from a number of angles. Today, we compare the 2014 Opening Day roster to the potential one this year.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a season makes. This time last year, we were all looking forward excitedly to the trip down under which would open the 2015 campaign. But as long as we didn't have another .500 season, eh? Now, I think a .500 season in 2015 would be regarded by most fans as a significant and positive achievement, after a 2014 which saw the team implode into a gurgling vortex of injury and ineffectiveness, which saw Arizona end up with the worst record in the major-leagues. Exit Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson; enter Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart and Chip Hale, among many others.

But it's on the field that games are won and lost. The table below compares the 25-man roster for Opening Day against San Francisco, with a potential one for the team in 2015. [I discarded the Australia trip, because roster construction was different, due to the need for only two starting pitchers] Obviously, there will likely be changes between now and the beginning of this year, especially on a team with as few "sure things" as the 2015 Diamondbacks. Some of those listed may not be healthy, e.g. Matt Reynolds But it does still serve to show how much has changed since the beginning of last season.

2014 2015
Position players
Catcher Miguel Montero
Peter O'Brien
First base Paul Goldschmidt
Paul Goldschmidt
Second base Aaron Hill
Aaron Hill
Shortstop Chris Owings
Chris Owings
Third base Martin Prado
Yasmany Tomas
Outfield #1
Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo
Outfield #2 A.J. Pollock
A.J. Pollock
Outfield #3 Gerardo Parra
Ender Inciarte
Bench #1 Tuffy Gosewisch
Tuffy Gosewisch
Bench #2 Cliff Pennington
Cliff Pennington
Bench #3 Eric Chavez
Jordan Pacheco
Bench #4 Tony Campana
David Peralta
Bench #5 Cody Ross
Starting pitchers
Starter #1 Wade Miley
Josh Collmenter
Starter #2 Trevor Cahll
Trevor Cahill
Starter #3 Brandon McCarthy
Jeremy Hellickson
Starter #4 Bronson Arroyo
Rubby de la Rosa
Starter #5 Randall Delgado
Chase Anderson
Bullpen
Closer Addison Reed
Addison Reed
Set-up #1 J.J. Putz
Evan Marshall
Set-up #2 Brad Ziegler
Brad Ziegler
Middle relief Ryan Rowland-Smith
Daniel Hudson
LOOGY #1
Joe Thatcher
Matt Reynolds
LOOGY #2
Oliver Perez Oliver Perez
Long relief Josh Collmenter
Randall Delgado
8th man
Will Harris

Any roster will undergo a certain amount of churn over the course of twelve months. But in this case, basically half have moved on, in one way or another, and been replaced. Some will still be seen at Chase Field this summer, just wearing other jerseys. Notable among them are three starters from that Opening Day: Montero will be catching for the Chicago Cubs, Prado is with the Miami Marlins, and Parra is now a Milwaukee Brewer. Among pitchers, Miley is in Boston, McCarthy joined the dark side with LA, Thatcher and Harris are both Astros, while Rowland-Smith makes the longest journey for 2015, having recently signed with the EDA Rhinos of the Taiwanese League.

There were also sadder reasons for absence, such as Arroyo's Tommy John surgery means he'll miss his first Opening Day roster since 2003. Injury also hit Tony Campana, who had been signed to a spring training spot for the White Sox, with the speedster having a shot at a roster spot. However, he tore his ACL and will likely miss the entire season. Two players have retired entirely. Chavez took the walk last July - an honorable move, considering he could have sat on the DL the rest of the year and pocketed another million dollars or so. And after being released by the D-backs in June, Putz joined the team's front office as a special assistant to Derrick Hall.

In their place have come an interesting selection of players. Generally, the roster has got younger: Perez and Reynolds are the only pitchers in their thirties, with Gosewisch, Hill,. Pennington and Ross the same on the position player side. Owings will be the baby, not turning 24 until August, but there are a number of other "nineties kids", including Enciarte, Tomas, Marshall and Delgado [I was prepared to swear the latter was older than 25, but apparently not] Does younger mean better? That's the question. I see a lot of untapped potential here, though writing that, I feel like Pinocchio in a Geigo advert. A lot of the upside is highly untested, or uncertain in other ways.

Conclusion

Hooray for the soft bigotry of low expectations. After posting the worst record in the major leagues, the D-backs can't go any lower, so I'm looking forward to this season - even if it's the way a prisoner might anticipate the day of the week where he gets bread and water. Still, I find myself more happily on board with the new organization philosophy, oriented (mostly) towards youth. It certainly beats the previous regime's tactics. apparently based on staggering from "just one more" veteran to the next like a drunken bar-girl. We probably won't make the playoffs, but to quote Lao Tzu, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." 2015 will hopefully be that step.