Even though they had a roster brimming with potential, even though players like Chris Young, Kelly Johnson and Stephen Drew made considerable, measurable progress, the Diamondbacks were one of the worst teams in baseball last year.
Part of the problem was the unexpected regression of two players: Mark Reynolds, who went from being one of the premier power hitters in baseball to a flailing, wailing mess, and Justin Upton, who wasn't as close to meeting his superstar potential as everyone thought. Part of the problem was the injury to longtime ace Brandon Webb, who has since moved on to Texas. The biggest part of the problem was a dismal bullpen, which the Diamondbacks have already taken steps to correct by signing J.J. Putz and acquiring David Hernandez.
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And really, the rest should correct itself in time. The Diamondbacks' demise, disappointing as it was, at least gave the team the green light to experiment with emerging young talent, and some of that experimentation paid off. Ian Kennedy and Barry Enright look like future mainstays in the starting rotation, and the Diamondbacks acquired two more, Daniel Hudson and Tyler Skaggs, in the Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren deals. Throw in Jarrod Parker, an elite prospect coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the team's greatest weakness could become its greatest strength in the next year or two.
For now, the Diamondbacks will get by with stopgaps and retreads. They gave up on Reynolds, replacing him with aging utility player Melvin Mora, and have seemingly given up on Gerardo Parra, replacing him with a declining Xavier Nady. They again appear unwilling to give minor-league slugger Brandon Allen a chance, harboring a perplexing fascination with former Yankees farmhand Juan Miranda.
But overall, the Diamondbacks have more players on the rise than on the decline. As long as you don't reach for them, you should come away satisfied in Fantasy.
Breakout ... Daniel Hudson, SP
Hudson pitched out of his mind after coming over to the Diamondbacks in the Edwin Jackson trade last season, showing none of the weaknesses you'd expect for a player his age. He pitched deep into games, lasting seven innings or more nine times. He had outstanding command, never issuing more than two walks. He even struck out six batters or more seven times. Were his 7-1 record and 1.69 ERA in 11 starts too good to be true? Of course, but numbers like that don't happen by accident either. Hudson's immediate dominance should earn him the same attention Tommy Hanson got last year, but it hasn't. He's lasting into the middle and late rounds when he's just a track record away from being a Fantasy ace. You shouldn't expect a sub-2.00 or even sub-3.00 ERA from the 23-year-old, but he's practically a slam dunk to outperform his draft position.
Bust ... Chris Young, OF
Young's 2010 numbers fit his profile, but as with Mark Reynolds last year, a lot would have to go right for him to repeat them. People remember his batting average hovering around the .270 mark in August and assume he's that kind of hitter, but he hit only .185 over his final 23 games, regressing to the mean after months of playing over his head. No doubt, his near 30-30 season was closer to the scouts' expectations than any of his previous seasons, but he didn't improve his strikeout rate enough to suggest he was any better than the player who entered the season with a career .235 batting average. Stronger, maybe -- which would make sense as he enters his prime -- but not better. If his batting average drops back to the .240-.250 range, his homers and steals figure to drop back to the 20-20 range, making him a middle-of-the-road Fantasy option again. For the price of an early-round pick, he's more likely to disappoint than impress.
Sleeper ... J.J. Putz, RP
Perhaps Putz is too far removed from the Fantasy spotlight for his return to the closer role to generate much hype on Draft Day, but after the top five or six relievers go off the board, he has as much potential as anyone at the position. Back in 2006 and 2007, he was one of the top closers in baseball, compiling a 1.86 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings. But then he got the Rafael Soriano treatment, becoming a setup man for a team with more money than it knew how to use. An elbow injury followed, and that was it: Putz's Fantasy value was shot. He didn't give up, though, regaining his previous strikeout and walk rates in a low-pressure role for the White Sox last season, and the Diamondbacks took notice. If you want this year's Billy Wagner -- a forgotten closer who can deliver high-end numbers with a late-round pick -- Putz is your guy.
|Projected Lineup||Pos.||Projected Rotation|
|1||Stephen Drew||SS||1||Joe Saunders||LH|
|2||Kelly Johnson||2B||2||Ian Kennedy||RH|
|3||Justin Upton||RF||3||Daniel Hudson||RH|
|4||Chris Young||CF||4||Zach Duke||LH|
|5||Miguel Montero||C||5||Barry Enright||RH|
|6||Xavier Nady||LF||Alt||Aaron Heilman||RH|
|7||Juan Miranda||1B|| |
|8||Melvin Mora||3B||CL||J.J. Putz||RH|
|Top bench options||SU||Juan Gutierrez||RH|
|R||Brandon Allen||1B/OF||RP||David Hernandez||RH|
|R||Gerardo Parra||OF||RP||Sam Demel||RH|
|R||Geoff Blum||INF||RP||Kam Mickolio||RH|
|1||Jarrod Parker||22||SP||DNP -- injured||Double-A|
|Tommy John survivor showed usual ace stuff in instructional league. Could debut as soon as he finds form.|
|2||Bobby Borchering||20||3B||Class A||Class A|
|So-so numbers but considered best high school hitter when drafted. Has drawn Chipper Jones comparisons.|
|3||Matt Davidson||20||3B||Class A||Class A|
|Preferred by some to Borchering, but lesser pedigree ranks him a tick behind. Has good power, though.|
|4||Paul Goldschmidt||23||1B||Class A||Double-A|
|Homers made him MVP of heavy-hitting California League, but free-swinger might not survive next level.|
|5||Chris Owings||19||SS||Class A||Class A|
|Lacks plate discipline, but has similar power to Stephen Drew. Could replace him in a couple years.|
|Best of the rest: Tyler Skaggs, SP; Wade Miley, SP; A.J. Pollock, OF; Marc Krauss, OF; Pat Corbin, SP; Keon Broxton, OF; Kam Mickolio, RP; Zach Kroenke, RP; Joe Paterson, RP; Kevin Mulvey, RP; David Holmberg, SP; Collin Cowgill, OF; Josh Collmenter, SP; and Ryan Wheeler, 1B.|
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