Sunday, April 12, 2015

Your 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks Are Bound to Surprise

If your problem with this prediction is that it is coming five games into the season, I’m glad that you didn't scoff too hard at the headline.

So why am I sitting here on my laptop on a beautiful Sunday afternoon writing about last year’s worst team in Major League Baseball? And why am I writing this five games into the season? Cause it’s not like two series are enough to judge a team, right?

Well, I am writing to you because I almost forgot I had a blog, so here I am. I hope you all didn't miss me that much, cause your favorite homer with four different homes is making a comeback during the 2015 season of America’s Past-time. 

This would explain why I give a damn about the D-backs, cause I pretty much grew up in Arizona in case you didn't know/couldn’t tell. I’ll admit, last year was extremely disappointing. And I know that might sound a bit odd coming from a fan of a small market MLB team when there are other teams that have lofty expectations that must be met if people are going to keep their jobs.

Last year, I think that the D-backs organization changed for the better. They developed a tougher skin by season’s end. One would think that with Kirk Gibson at the helm, a team would be rougher and tougher when they have him around. Except Gibby got fired with a week left in the season, a slap to the face of sorts. I think he was a good manager and I thoroughly enjoyed his time with the team, especially during the surprise 2011 season. However, I knew that things weren't going to end well during the height of the D-backs—Dodgers rivalry, c. 2013, because this was a small team baring its fangs at a billion-dollar club, and that’s a lose-lose situation. And the D-backs did lose. They lost their grip on that division to Puig and the Dodgers, who went on a historic tear, going 40-8 in a stretch during that year. Now I have no qualms about losing out on the playoffs when a team is that hot cause there isn't a whole lot that can be done. What I do have qualms about is when a team responds poorly, which the D-backs did.

In 2014, I was pretty excited to see the D-backs get that sorely needed fresh start to the season. They were going to play the Dodgers, who must have called off by now, in Sydney for some odd reason. They lost both of those games, which was no big deal at the time, but the must have been jet-lagged or something at the start of the season, because 30 games into the season, the snakes found themselves at 8-22. The offense was anemic and the pitching staff performed much worse than anyone thought they would. The D-backs could never really recover from that and the season was over before it really even began. Because, as the old saying says, you can’t win a pennant in April, but you sure as hell can lose it.

After shutting down Goldy and shipping out some players, including the weird hick pitcher Wade Miley, the offseason finally arrived. It was crew expendable from then on with the exception of America’s First Baseman. Gibby was gone. Towers was gone. In come Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart. 

The other day, I picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated to check out the MLB preview. I’ll admit, I was pretty pissed to see Max Scherzer and his heterochromia grace the cover, cause I remember when that guy was still a Diamondback. I don't blame him for getting traded or going to DC for the money, but I do blame Sports Illustrated for jinxing him, cause they're not going to win the World Series. And the Diamondbacks aren't going to finish with a 65-97 record.

Let’s take a look at the new-look snakes. I love the addition of Chip Hale. I think that he will be a good manager. Apart from the manager, I think that the most heavily scrutinized and criticized part of the team is the pitching staff, especially the starting rotation. When I heard that Josh Collmentor was going to be the opening day starter, I slowly shook my head and put my palm to my face. He’s a solid pitcher and I’m probably one of the bigger fans of The Tomahawk, so it was good to see he would finally get to shine in a starting pitcher’s role. However, he just isn't the guy that you want as a number one pitcher. He’s had success with an average fastball and good changeup all because of his goofy wind up. I think this is why he enjoyed success in the bullpen, because hitters would be confused in the batters box during the one at bat that they'd have against The Tomahawk. In a starting role, Josh will have to face these batters at least three times a game, and that won’t suit him well. There is already some evidence to his struggles when he allowed four earned runs in 4.2 innings.

This sounds pretty hopeless. A struggling top-of-the-rotation pitcher who is probably best suited as a utility role in the bullpen or as a lumberjack. However, there is hope, because after trading Trevor Cahill, the D-backs finally brought up Archie Bradley.

I love Archie Bradley.

I cannot stress how high I am on this guy. I think he’s everything one would want in a starting pitcher. He's strong, intimidating, and dauntless. Last night, he took to the hill against reigning Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw from those damn Dodgers. And Bradley dazzled. Over six frames, the debutante only allowed one hit. His counterpart struggled, which showed that this D-backs offense might actually be above average. 

I think that as this season progresses, Bradley will assume the role as the top pitcher in the rotation. I think by the time he settles into a groove, Patrick Corbin will be fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery. That’ll put the young lefty in the second spot of the rotation, bumping Collmenltor down to three, which is where he belongs. I think that Chase Anderson, another young pitcher, will do well enough to stay in the rotation. I think that if he ends up being in the number five spot, the D-backs will actually have a better fifth man than most other rotations. That being said, either Hellickson or De La Rosa would have to be bumped out. Then they both might be bumped out for the flexible freak Bronson Arroyo. I think it’ll be Rubby first. Sorry Rubby.

So Bradley, Corbin, Collmentor, Hellickson, and Anderson is the potential rotation this team could have by summer. Basically a young right-handed David Price, an aspiring Andy Pettite, a poor-man’s Lance Lynn, a young pitcher who might return to top form or lose his grasp on his career, and a young strikeout machine. Or you could easily replace Hellickson for a veteran like Arroyo. I am totally fine with this rotation then. Maybe they won’t be that good this year, but I think that this group, especially with Bradley and Corbin at the top is a cornerstone to this franchise.

The other cornerstone to this franchise is Paul Goldschmidt. I think he is one of the most complete hitters from a power position because he has shown great strength to all parts of the field, which is rare from a first baseman. He’s also a great defender who has some wheels—he can swipe a bag every now and then. The one question that people had about him was whether or not he’d be as strong after breaking his hand. This is why I needed a few games to answer this question for myself, even though I didn't have much doubt that Goldy would regain his form. So far, he has hit two home runs. So what. The significance of the two was that he was able to hit a homer to the swimming pool in Chase Field, showing us that he does have that opposite field power. If he can hit homers to right field, he can hit homers to anywhere in Chase Field.

Now for the rest of the team, I like Pollock in the leadoff spot, he has great speed and he is more than just a contact hitter. The rest of the outfield contains some combination of Inciarte, Trumbo, or Peralta. That’s a crowded outfield, but I think that having an extra bat out there is always a good problem as long as the manager can use the combination of the group to the best of their abilities. Inciarte is pretty intriguing and he has shown good contact and speed so far. Trumbo is going to have a productive season on offense because simply put, he’s one of the better power hitters out there and he’s bound to get a hold of a few pitches in the hitter-friendly Chase Field. Now that brings us to Peralta. I think he is one of the better young hitters out there. He has a certain swagger in the batters box that I like to see, plus he’s a strong left-handed hitter, so that’s always nice to have.

The infield looks pretty interchangeable. I think Chris Owings is a very solid defender who can work on either side of the middle infield. Aaron Hill is your typical aging veteran, but he does offer considerable power from the second base position. I haven’t seen enough of Nick Ahmed to judge him, but I’m sure the organization knows what they're doing by putting him out there. As for Jake Lamb, I think he is a solid young hitter. Maybe he’ll relish in the third-base position with Yasmany Tomas breathing down his neck. Regardless, the winner of that competition will provide the D-backs with decent power. I don’t care who wins out, but it’d be nice to see Tomas eventually contribute, or else the D-backs would look pretty stupid for throwing $68.5 million at a glorified bench warmer. And then there’s Tuffy at catcher. I think he’s a hard worker who definitely won't bitch as much as Miggy did.

Now of course, everyone can say “what about injuries?” Of course, I never wish to see a player get injured, but I think that for every group, except for starting pitching, this team has depth. The relief pitchers of Chafin, Perez, Ziegler, and Reed looks like it will be decent. I think Daniel Hudson is the new Josh Collmentor as the workhorse in extra-inning affairs. 

Ultimately, I know that the division is loaded with talent. My money would be on the Dodgers to win the division and the Padres (yes, I think the Padres will be a good team) to win a wild-card spot. But after that, I truly believe that this Diamondbacks team could manage to finish third in the NL West. I think that will be around 75-81 wins, which would be great for a team that is technically in a rebuilding phase. I think that through the process, they'll overcome an incomplete San Fransisco Giants squad that can always get hot at the right time. And then I think the Rockies are bound to give up either Tulo or CarGo at some point. I just can't stand it when young talent is not put in a winning position. Regardless, I don't think the D-backs are going to waste their young talent anytime soon. These young guns will win games for Arizona. But as always, this is just my opinion.

Thanks for reading.