Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Countdown Begins In The West

The first pitch in the 2007 MLB season will be thrown in 31 days. There are 30 Major League Teams and there is an analysis for each team. The only question is where to begin? How about the National League West Division. After careful consideration of scheduling, roster updates and roster development here are my predictions for the division, starting with fifth position.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Major Roster Changes

LHP Doug Davis
LHP Dana Eveland
OF David Krynzel
LHP Randy Johnson

2B Damion Easley
C Johnny Estrada
RHP Claudio Vargas
RHP Greg Aquino
2B Craig Counsell
OF Luis Gonzalez
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP Luis Vizcaino

The team was not the greatest in 2006 after finishing 76-86; the Diamondbacks are well removed from their 2002 playoff season. The team is also cleaning up the mess of back loaded contracts from their early years that has restricted their future. The Diamondbacks have rebounded since their 2004 51-win season and has built a decent foundation for staying competitive in the coming years. Their rotation is not a threat but there is good potential for a win whenever they step out on the diamond. The Rotation is expected to be anchored by 2006 Cy Young winning Sinkerball pitcher Brandon Webb. Randy Johnson returns to the desert after two un-Johnson like years with the New York Yankee’s. Although he is 43, Johnson should rebound and get his ERA back down while pitching out of Chase field. Livan Hernandez is a workhorse who will put up 200+ innings and trot out to the mound at least 30 times in the cause. Doug Davis is expected in the fourth hole and will also give 200+ innings but is only a .500 pitcher at best, as last year gave him his 3 consecutive .500 seasons. The fifth spot is up for grabs and it will be used for teaching their youngsters the game.

The Bullpen is nothing to think about. Jose Valverde is dominant in the closer role providing he is on. When he is off there is no telling what you will receive. The only other footnote in the bullpen is former Toronto Blue Jay Brandon Lyon. Lyon is best suited for a setup role as he has 4 pitches to keep them guessing until Jose Valverde can shut down the 9th.

The infield has changed a bit losing Counsell, Easley, and Estrada. Chris Snyder who turns 26 will be entrusted with calling the game to this veteran rotation. Snyder also can contribute offensively as he drove in 32 in his 61 games he played. The corners will be manned by Chad Tracy and Conor Jackson who have risen through the D-Backs ranks and will improve their offensive numbers en route to being a threatening duo for years to come. The middle has one change as steady Orlando Hudson will still man second base and suck in every ball right of 2B and left of 1B. Hudson’s offensive production was his best last year scoring career highs in hits, runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBI’s, stolen bases and walks. It seems that O-Dawg is offensively meant for the NL. Stephen Drew will be his running mate at SS and has a terrific range and an arm to make the tough Derek Jeter throws.

The outfield is decent considering they were able to move Luis Gonzalez who although put fans in the stands didn’t do much else to support his club in LF. Eric Byrnes has been moved from CF to left field to fill in the hole. Youngsters Chris Young and Carlos Quentin will be the CF and RF respectively. In Young’s stint in Arizona land, he had 10 RBI’s in 30 games while batting a .243. Quentin did a little better with 9 HR and 32 RBI’s in 57 games. Both are better defensively but their bats should develop with their age.

Overall the team looks to be improved but in respect to the other NL West teams, their acquisitions are minor league at best and considering the upped pitching in their division, and some better bats coming over, the Diamondbacks will have a tough haul in the division this year. Johnson will have to prove that he still has what it takes to win despite putting up 17 wins with a loaded offence in New York. Hernandez although 32, is not primed to breakout anymore. The young team will get a great look at what the competition is like in the NL West and look for Young to catch up to his defence with some improved power numbers this year. Orlando Hudson will chase down every ball but it may not be enough as they will still sit in the basement this year. Good thing the ownership group is in year 3 of a 4-year growth plan that should see them return to some glory like they had in 2001.

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