2013 Arizona Diamondbacks Preview
After disappointing 2012 campaign, the Diamondbacks hope their mix of young studs and crafty veterans can bring them back into contention this season.
Oh how the scope of the National League Western Division has changed this offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers look to be the team to beat, though the World Champion San Francisco Giants will certainly have something to say about that, but the real team to watch is going to be the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks have a solid pitching staff, and their offense of young studs and crafty veterans should be an improvement over the one they fielded in 2012 that landed them at an even 81-81 and out of the playoffs. If this club fires on all cylinders this season, they will be in the hunt come October.
The Diamondbacks had a great staff in 2012, they were the reason the club was able to finish .500 and will be the reason that the club is going to contend this season. Anchoring the rotation will be Ian Kennedy, who is coming off a 15-12 season that saw him struggle to earn wins due to the lack of run support from the Diamondbacks’ anemic offense. The front office looks to have corrected that issue this offseason, so don’t be surprised if we see the numbers that Kennedy is capable of producing this season. He is a former 20-game winner and Cy Young candidate, if he gets back to that form this season, the ball club will be where they want to be come October.
Trevor Cahill will likely pitch second and is coming off a rough 2012 which saw him struggle with control, allowing 74 walks in 200 innings of work. The good news for the Diamondbacks is that those numbers are not normal for Cahill and if he can find his sweet spot this season, he should bounce back and give the club 14 to 15 wins. Wade Miley will pitch next and put up an outstanding, rotation leading 16-11 record during his rookie campaign in 2012. Miley finished up the year with the best ERA on the club at 3.33. There are two ways that his sophomore effort can go, but based on his confidence last season, he is likely to repeat or better himself in 2013.
Offseason acquisition Brandon McCarthy is expected to pitch fourth and like Cahill is a good groundball pitcher. Last season McCarthy went 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA for Oakland; a switch in leagues should give him a boost of three or four wins given his propensity to induce double plays now that he will not have to face a designated hitter every night. Rounding out the rotation will be Patrick Corbin who had the worst ERA (4.54) and win/loss percentage .429 was the worst out of Arizona’s starting pitchers last season. Unlike Miley, Corbin definitely struggled in his rookie campaign, and whether or not he will do any better this season remains to be seen.
Daniel Hudson will be available at some point this summer to take a spot in the rotation as well. Hudson is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery which was performed last July, and has just started a throwing program, so any return before late-July is unlikely. Hudson went 3-2 for the club before his injury shut him down, and if he can come back in the second half, he could give the ball club that extra push that will have them playing in the postseason come October.
Most ball clubs are lucky if they have a reliable closer to anchor their bullpen. The Diamondbacks have been blessed with three. J.J. Putz is expected to be the club’s closer when they break camp in April and despite a slow start last year he managed to save 32 games for the ball club. Heath Bell arrived via the Miami Marlins and brings with him 153 career saves and he will undoubtedly get opportunities to close things out throughout the season when Putz needs a rest. The third man is David Hernandez who is the ball club’s closer of the future. So far in 68.1 major league innings, Hernandez has struck out 98 batters. He is still learning his control, but his velocity makes up for the fact that he can’t always place the ball exactly where he wants it. After another season of work, it is likely that he will be handed the reins next season.
The Diamondbacks landed Tony Sipp this offseason to be a middle-reliever and he will team Matt Reynolds to clean up any messes the starting pitchers might get themselves into. Expect Brad Ziegler to be used as a specialist against right handers as he held his opposition to just .211 in his career. Josh Collmenter will round out the bunch as a long-reliever and may be called upon for a spot start now and again if either Miley or Corbin needs an extra day off between starts.
Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill will be the guys that the Diamondbacks are counting on this season to give a jolt to an offense that kept the team from finishing any better than .500 last season. They combined to hit 76 home runs last season, and the Diamondbacks will be happy to have all of those plus 10 more if they plan to keep up with the Dodgers and Giants. The club will also need a solid year from third baseman Martin Prado who came over from the Atlanta Braves this offseason. He put up a .301 batting average last year, but Arizona would like to see more than 10 homers from him this season.
The Diamondbacks’ outfield of Adam Eaton, Kubel and Cody Ross will give the ball club a great combination of youth and experience. For Eaton 2013 will be his first full season as a major leaguer, and if he can build on his .259 batting average in 22 games last season he should have a successful rookie campaign. Ross had a successful campaign last season on a horrible Boston team, batting .267 with 22 homers and 81 RBIs in 130 games. Kubel’s downside to an otherwise great 2012 performance was that he struck out a career-high 151 times. The Diamondbacks will need him to lower that number quite a bit if they want to keep pace in the NL West this year.
Another hold-over from last season who should make an impact again in 2013 is catcher Miguel Montero, who hit .286 with 15 homers and 88 RBIs in 141 games last year. Montero was rewarded for his success this offseason with a six-year, $65.9 million contract so he will be counted upon to repeat those numbers and continue to call quality games behind the plate as well.
The club landed shortstop Cliff Pennington as well this offseason via the Oakland A’s and they expected him to be their everyday shortstop, but they then acquired Gigi Gregorius who was expected to come into camp and compete for the job with Pennington. The club didn’t stop there though, and now have Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald in camp with all four competing for essentially two spots on the roster. Gregorious looks like a lock to win the starting gig, and either Bloomquist or McDonald will likely land a bench role which leaves Pennington now looking like the odd man out. Regardless of who gets the everyday job, expect all four of these guys to see some playing time with the club this season as Gregorious may not be ready for a full season just yet, which would open the door for any of the other three to come in and take the job from him.
The Diamondbacks look strong enough on paper to contend for the National League West with Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whether or not that translates into play on the field will remain to be seen. If their offense improves from last season they will have a fighting chance because their pitching should be able to keep them in ball games as it looks solid from the top down. Los Angeles and San Francisco are going to be tough to beat though, and with San Diego emerging as a potential spoiler, the Diamondbacks are certainly going to have their work cut out for them. They will finish over .500, but 83 wins may be the ceiling, which probably will be good enough for third place behind the Dodgers and Giants, but if things take off they have a shot at a Wild Card berth if they can get enough out of their bats to carry them to 86 to 87 wins.
By Robert Gonzalez