Wednesday, March 9, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Arizona Diamondbacks

Kevin Towers was passed over by the D'Backs in 2005 for the GM role. And in 2010 it came around full circle. Just 3 years after Arizona won the NL West, they finished in the division's basement. Now, with Towers on hand, Arizona feels that it will have the same success that Towers had when he was with San Diego. It may take some time though.

What they Have: They do have a good young nucleus from the prior regime. RF Justin Upton may be the best player in that core group. B.J Upton's brother can hit, steal bases, and play defense, just as well as B.J can. Even though he had a down year last year, he can get back to form and become a good lead off man for Arizona.  CF Chris Young (not related to the Mets pitcher) had the most homers of anyone currently on the Diamondbacks roster last season, and he is also one of the focal points of the young core. Also, SS Stephen Drew, 2B Kelly Johnson, and C Miguel Montero form the rest of that young core. The starting rotation has some good pitchers, lead by former LA Angel Joe Saunders, who despite having a bad season can be a good 1st starter for the D'Backs. Also around are Ian Kennedy and Zach Duke, both former Pittsburgh Pirates. They along with the younger talent in Daniel Hudson and Barry Enright form the rest of the rotation. The bullpen was the major focus for Kevin Towers this offseason, and while not the best bullpen ever, it's not as a bad as last year. He rolled the dice on closer J.J Putz, who needs to regain his Seattle form in order to stabilize the back end of the bullpen. Juan Gutierrez is now in his more comfortable 8th inning role as a result. These veterans can help the younger pitchers in the bullpen.

What they Don't Have: Aside from the young core, which by the way set a major league single season record for strikeouts, they have either unproven players like 1B Brandon Allen, or journeymen like 3B Melvin Mora and LF Xavier Nady. These guys aren't bad, but they aren't the answer for this team in the short term. Otherwise, the youth is unproven and needs time for polishing before they can truly assume their major league roles. Guys like former Yankee prospect Juan Miranda will fight Brandon Allen for 1B duties, and he's just as unproven as Allen is. Also, the starting rotation doesn't have a true first starter, as Joe Saunders is naturally a second or third starter. The rest of the rotation isn't quite good enough to compete either. Finally, the bullpen is young and needs time to mature, and with the gamble on J.J Putz, it may not happen this year.

Any Help Coming? Arizona has good prospects coming up. RHP Jarrod Parker is a great prospect with a high 90's fastball and plus slider and changeup, but will need time to recover further from Tommy John Surgery. Tyler Skaggs is a southpaw prospect who is young and raw, but has great stuff. 3B Matt Davidson is the best offensive prospect and can hit as well as play defense very well. He'll team up with 3B Bobby Borchering before long. These guys all need time in the minors for more seasoning though.

Outlook: Not the best of prospects this year for the D'Backs, but the future looks bright with Kevin Towers and new manager Kirk Gibson at the helm. Towers knows how to build an organization, and can do it right, but for Arizona fans it may take a bit more time before successful baseball returns to the desert.

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