Coming off back-to-back winning seasons, the Diamondbacks entered 2009 with high expectations.
But their playoff dreams went up in smoke on opening day when 22-game winner Brandon Webb left with a shoulder injury. Webb never would return, and his absence, combined with down years for Stephen Drew and Chris B. Young, would doom the Diamondbacks to a last-place finish.
But the team from the desert has plenty of reason for optimism in 2010. Amid all the disappointment, 22-year-old natural Justin Upton broke through as an elite offensive player, batting .300 with 26 homers and 20 steals, and free swinger Mark Reynolds, for all his strikeouts, became one of the game's top power hitters with 44 home runs. That duo along with emerging catcher Miguel Montero should give the Diamondbacks a stable middle of the order for the next few years, with new arrival Adam LaRoche holding down first base until prospect Brandon Allen proves ready. If Drew and Young bounce back on any level -- and incoming project Kelly Johnson does the same -- the team's weak lineup from a year ago could quickly become one of its greatest assets.
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But no returning player matters more than Webb, who, for all the hand-wringing and doctor's visits, needed nothing more than a cleanup procedure. Assuming he's as healthy as he feels, he'll once again team up with Dan Haren to give the Diamondbacks two Cy Young candidates at the top of the rotation. And they're not alone. The acquisition of Edwin Jackson gives the rotation more depth than in the past, even if he does fall short of last year's numbers.
The Diamondbacks still have to decide on the back end of their rotation, but for a team that finished in last place, they enter 2010 more settled than most.
Breakout: Stephen Drew, SS
Drew was an early-round pick last year based on the assumption he'd break out then. Instead, he took a step backward, hitting about half as many home runs with an OPS (.748) that placed him behind such nobodies as Juan Uribe, Maicer Izturis and Cliff Pennington. But Drew's talent never went away, and in his age-27 season, with the hype gone and the pressure off, the conditions seem right for a breakout. He just missed one in 2008, when he became the first player since Robin Yount to have 20 homers, 40 doubles and 10 triples in the same season. If you find yourself needing a shortstop in the middle rounds, you could try your luck with so-so options like Miguel Tejada and Yunel Escobar, or you could take Drew and perhaps get something special.
Bust: Edwin Jackson, SP
After failing to live up to his potential with the Dodgers and the Rays, Jackson finally put it all together in 2009, even earning a trip to the All-Star game. But it was almost too much too fast, wasn't it? As if sensing it himself, Jackson came back down to earth with a 5.07 ERA in the second half, which, when combined with his jump in innings -- more than 30 from the year before -- suggests he overdid it, perhaps even putting himself at risk of injury. In many ways, he's this year's version of Edinson Volquez -- an erratic young pitcher who finally made the most of his stuff only to hit a wall in the second half and ... well, that remains to be seen. Even as your third starting pitcher, Jackson is a risk.
Sleeper: Kelly Johnson, 2B
Johnson appeared on the fast track to Fantasy greatness when he broke out with 16 homers and a .375 on-base percentage as a 25-year-old in 2005. But then his patience vanished, and his power and confidence soon followed. By 2009, he had become a shell of his former self, rightfully losing his job to Martin Prado thanks to a .224 batting average. He couldn't ask for a better chance at redemption than in Arizona, where he'll play in a good hitter's park for an organization that will encourage his disciplined approach instead of stifling it. Sure, he might slump again and quickly fade into obscurity, but rarely do you get a chance to grab a power-hitting middle infielder in the late rounds, especially one with his OPS potential.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Stephen Drew||SS||1||Dan Haren||RH|
|2||Conor Jackson||LF||2||Brandon Webb||RH|
|3||Justin Upton||RF||3||Edwin Jackson||RH|
|4||Miguel Montero||C||4||Ian Kennedy||RH|
|5||Mark Reynolds||3B||5||Billy Buckner||RH|
|6||Adam LaRoche||1B||Alt||Kevin Mulvey||RH|
|7||Chris B. Young||CF||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Kelly Johnson||2B||CL||Chad Qualls||RH|
|Top bench options||SU||Aaron Heilman||RH|
|R||Gerardo Parra||OF||RP||Bob Howry||RH|
|R||Ryan Roberts||UTL||RP||Juan Gutierrez||RH|
|R||Chris Snyder||C||RP||Clay Zavada||LH|
|Might not pitch this year because of Tommy John surgery, but future ace almost sure to arrive in 2011.|
|Adam LaRoche signing keeps slugger in minors for now. Looked a little overmatched last year anyway.|
|3||A.J. Pollock||22||OF||Class A||Class A|
|Line-drive hitter still has time to improve power. Could rise up through minors quickly.|
|4||Bobby Borchering||19||3B||Rookie league||Class A|
|Switch-hitter rated top prep power hitter in draft last year. Legit, but has ways to go.|
|Didn't impress Twins as part of Santana deal. Not gem he once was, but may be late bloomer.|
|Best of the rest: Pedro Ciriaco, SS; Rusty Ryal, 2B; Barry Enright, SP; Bryan Augenstein, SP; Mike Belfiore, SP; Wes Roemer, SP; John Hester, C; Cesar Valdez, SP; Tony Barnette, SP; Kevin Eichhorn, RP; Kyler Newby, RP; Chris Owings, SS; Marc Krauss, OF; Ryan Wheeler, 1B; Matt Davidson, 3B; Jordan Norberto, RP; Marcus Hallberg, 2B; James Skelton, 2B; Collin Cowgill, OF; Reynaldo Navarro, SS; Ed Easley, C; Leyson Septimo, RP; Daniel Stange, RP; Evan Frey, OF; and Cole Gillespie, OF.|
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