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MLB Fan Previews – Arizona Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks will begin 2007 knowing that their plan to rebuild the team is continuing as scheduled. Following the team’s World Series victory in 2001, the team has been gradually transitioning from one that relied on free agent signings to one that has one of the best farm systems in the major leagues. The AAA Tucson Sidewinders dominated the Pacific Coast League last season, despite many players being called up to the Diamondbacks. Many of those players, including Carlos Quentin, Chris Young, and Stephen Drew, will be with the Diamondbacks full-time this season. The deferred contracts of the early 2000s are finally being paid off, hopefully allowing the Diamondbacks to keep their young nucleus for years to come.

Reason for Optimism
The influx of young players has left Valley fans excited about the future. While fan favorites like Luis Gonzalez and Craig Counsell will certainly be missed, their departures will allow prized prospects to get the playing time they deserve. Outfielder Eric Byrnes, the most hard-nosed player in baseball, moves to left field to give Chris Young the center field job. Young was obtained from the White Sox in the Javier Vasquez deal and many project him to be a 30-30 guy.

The pitching staff is both a reason for optimism and a cause for concern. Starting with the reason for optimism…

No team has more Cy Young Awards in its starting rotation to begin the season. Brandon Webb cemented the #1 job last season on his way to his first Cy Young Award. The Diamondbacks reobtained fan favorite Randy Johnson. The team is optimistic that offseason back surgery will give the Big Unit a fresh start back in the desert. With Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis in the #3 and #4 spots in the rotation, the pitching staff could be dominant if they live up to their full potential.

Cause for Concern

That same pitching staff is also a cause for concern. Beyond Brandon Webb, the rotation could fall apart just as easily as it could do well. Randy Johnson certainly isn’t getting any younger. Although the pressure of New York is behind him, it’s entirely possible that he has nothing left in the tank. The team will bring him back slowly following his surgery, and he will be out for the first couple of weeks. Livan Hernandez pitched well for the Diamondbacks last season, but when he was with the Nationals, he had a 5.34 ERA. We all know about his diarrhea. That’s certainly a cause for concern for anybody who has to sit next to him on the bench. Doug Davis could also go either way. Did the Diamondbacks get the Doug Davis who posted ERAs of 3.39 & 3.84 in 2004 & 2005, or did they get the guy who had an ERA of almost 5 last year. At this point, given that the 2-4 spots in the rotation will be filled with guys who were not with the team last season, save for Livan’s couple of months with the team, there is a lot of uncertainty there. If the pitching gets hot, the Diamondbacks could take the NL West in what should be a wide-open race. If they are inconsistent, it could be a long season.

Closer Jose Valverde, AKA The Big Potato, is another cause for concern. His inconsistent pitching has put Diamondbacks fans on a rollercoaster ride in the 9th inning for the last 2 seasons. For the first month and a half of 2006, he was fantastic. After that, he gave up runs in 5 straight appearances, and 8 out of 10 appearances. He was demoted to AAA after a couple of more bad outings after losing the closing job. However, the trip to Tucson served him well, and he gave up just 4 earned runs in 18.2 IP after being called back up to the team in August. If early and late season Jose is back for good, then the Diamondbacks starters just need to get him the ball. If midseason Jose returns, the Diamondbacks had better hope that every starter goes the distance.

Projected Lineup (2006 stats)
1. CF Chris Young – .243, 2 HR, 10 RBI (30 games)
2. 2B Orlando Hudson – .287, 15 HR, 67 RBI
3. 3B Chad Tracy – .281, 20 HR, 80 RBI
4. LF Eric Byrnes – .267, 27 HR. 79 RBI
5. 1B Conor Jackson – .291, 15 HR, 79 RBI
6. RF Carlos Quentin – .253, 9 HR, 32 RBI (57 games)
7. SS Stephen Drew – .316, 5 HR, 23 RBI (59 games)
8. C Chris Snyder – .277, 6 HR, 32 RBI (61 games)

Projected Rotation/Bullpen (2006 stats)
1. Brandon Webb – Cy Young Award, 16-8, 3.10 ERA
2. Randy Johnson – 17-11, 5.00 ERA
3. Livan Hernandez – 13-13, 4.83 ERA
4. Doug Davis – 11-11, 4.91 ERA
5. Could be any one of 6 guys at this point – Edgar and Enrique Gonzalez, Dana Eveland, Micah Owings, Dustin Nippert and Evan MacLane

Closer: Jose Valverde, 2-3, 18 saves, 5.84 ERA
RH setup man: Brandon Lyon, 2-4, 3.89 ERA
LH setup man: Doug Slaten, 5.2 innings

5 Bold Predictions for 2007

  • Diamondbacks will win the NL West (88-74) 
  • Brandon Webb will win 18 games and his 2nd consecutive Cy Young
  • Chris Young will win NL Rookie of the Year
  • Carlos Quentin will hit 30 home runs
  • Bob Melvin will cause me to yell at my television at least 100 times this season

Utility Men (Team specific blogs I recommend)
AZ Snakepit
Baby Backs
Diary of a Diehard

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