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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Arizona Diamondbacks

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Continuing their up-and-down history that has included five first-place finishes to go along with four last-place finishes in 14 years, the Diamondbacks went from worst to first last year, capitalizing on several breakthrough performances on their way to 94 wins.

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The biggest development for them was the emergence of a pitching staff in the void left by Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson stepped up as legitimate frontliners, with Kennedy finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting. The duo got help in the form of Joe Saunders, whose pitch-to-contact approach fared better in the NL than the AL, and Josh Collmenter, whose deceptive delivery allowed his numbers to exceed his stuff. The offseason acquisition of Trevor Cahill only adds to the mix.

But while Kennedy, Hudson and Cahill all profile as top-of-the-rotation arms, they're not necessarily the best the organization has to offer. Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, figures to take the majors by storm at some point this season, and with high-upside hurlers Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley right behind him, pitching figures to be the Diamondbacks' strength for years to come.

Fortunately, they already have a solid nucleus in place offensively -- one led by Justin Upton, who finally appears to have turned the corner and emerged as a perennial five-category player. Chris Young is a power-speed threat in his own right, and Miguel Montero is one of the 10 best offensive catchers in the game. If Stephen Drew can return from the fractured ankle that sidelined him for the second half last year, then the current iteration of the Diamondbacks lineup will look even deeper than the one that played in the NLDS last year -- and that's assuming slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt doesn't quite live up to his crazy minor-league numbers.

Yes, for all that went right for the Diamondbacks last year, they still have nowhere to go but up, giving Fantasy owners the promise of high-end talent for both the short- and long-term.

Bust ... Ryan Roberts, 3B

Roberts' rise to Fantasy prominence last year was about as unlikely as they come, which is reason enough to question whether or not he can do it again. After all, if a near 20-20 season was really a likely scenario for him, he wouldn't have been a minor-league journeyman. But going beyond just common sense, you can't overlook the fact that his breakout season hinged on an unsustainably hot April in which he hit .313 with a 1.007 OPS. He hit .239 the rest of the way. Power and speed numbers aside, if his batting average is lagging right out of the gate, the Diamondbacks have little reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's already 31. It's not like he's any sort of building block. With higher-upside third basemen like Ryan Wheeler and Matt Davidson quickly rising through the minor-league system, Roberts is on a shorter leash than his ranking would have you believe. He's a player to draft only if he falls to you late.

Sleeper ... Jason Kubel, OF

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Think back to 2009, when Kubel hit .300 with 28 homers and a .907 OPS. Hasn't been the same since then, has he? You know what else hasn't been the same since then? The Twins' home ballpark. Back then, it was the Metrodome, a hitter's haven where Kubel put together an OPS about 100 points higher than on the road in both 2008 and 2009. In the two years since, it's been Target Field, a park geared more toward pitching. The connection is easy to see, which is why the Diamondbacks were willing to give Kubel a two-year deal this offseason. They play in a hitter's park, much like the Metrodome, and recognize that a 29-year-old like Kubel is still young enough to salvage whatever he lost to expansive Target Field. Given his improvement against left-handed pitchers last year, a full season of at-bats could feasibly return Kubel to the 25-homer range. It's a reasonable enough possibility that he's worth a late-round flier in mixed leagues.

Impact prospect ... Trevor Bauer, SP

True, Bauer was drafted only a year ago, and yeah, he has just seven minor-league starts to his name, but he comes from UCLA with so much poise and polish that the Diamondbacks were planning to let him audition for the final rotation spot before bringing back Joe Saunders late in the offseason. Bauer gives the "student of the game" moniker a whole new meaning, studying concepts like biomechanics, effective velocity and pitch tunneling in an effort to maximize his delivery, and considering he's often compared to Tim Lincecum, he has apparently done just that. Though his quick promotion to Double-A last year didn't go so well, he was coming off a heavy workload in college and still demonstrated incredible strikeout ability. Given his history and pedigree, Bauer won't need long to maximize his potential. If Collmenter doesn't pan out or some other pitcher suffers an injury, Bauer will get the call midseason, and when he does, he'll be an immediate contributor in Fantasy.

2012 Arizona Diamondbacks Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Stephen Drew SS 1 Ian Kennedy RH
2 Aaron Hill 2B 2 Daniel Hudson RH
3 Justin Upton RF 3 Trevor Cahill RH
4 Miguel Montero C 4 Joe Saunders LH
5 Chris Young CF 5 Josh Collmenter RH
6 Jason Kubel LF Alt Wade Miley LH
7 Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ryan Roberts 3B CL J.J. Putz RH
Top bench options SU David Hernandez RH
R Gerardo Parra OF RP Brad Ziegler RH
R Willie Bloomquist UTL RP Takashi Saito RH
R Lyle Overbay 1B RP Craig Breslow LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Trevor Bauer 21 SP Double-A Double-A
The third overall pick in the 2011 draft has knockout stuff and a workhorse mentality. He could be to the Diamondbacks this year what Tim Lincecum was to the Giants in 2007.
2 Tyler Skaggs 20 SP Double-A Triple-A
The prize of the Dan Haren deal would be the ace of most systems, but he has to play second fiddle to Bauer with the Diamondbacks. He's a year further away, too.
3 Adam Eaton 23 OF Double-A Triple-A
Eaton is a player in the Shane Victorino mold: small stature, but big numbers, both in the minors and the AFL. He's an injured outfielder away from being a surprise contributor.
4 Matt Davidson 20 3B Class A Double-A
Davidson profiles as a middle-of-the-order hitter, but with perhaps the same shortcomings that Mark Reynolds had. Still, you could do worse in long-term keeper leagues.
5 Archie Bradley 19 SP Rookie Class A
Bradley went off the board four picks after Bauer in the 2011 draft and has nearly as much upside. But obviously, at age 19, he's a few years from contributing.
Best of the rest: Wade Miley, SP; Chris Owings, SS; A.J. Pollock, OF; Patrick Corbin, SP; Bryan Shaw, RP; David Holmberg, SP; Bobby Borchering, 1B; Ryan Wheeler, 3B; Marc Krauss, OF; Charles Brewer, SP; David Nick, 2B; Yonata Ortega, RP; and Keon Broxton, OF.

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Player News
Kennys Vargas goes deep Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:59 pm ET) Twins designated hitter Kennys Vargas went yard Thursday against the Indians. 

Vargas struck in the bottom of the fourth inning. He took a 93 mph sinker from Corey Kluber out to left for a solo shot. Vargas would also double and single during the outing. He finished 3 for 4, with two runs scored and one RBI. 


Wirfin Obispo outrighted Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:38 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Wirfin Obispo has been outrighted to Triple-A.

Obispo was recently designated for assignment, and accepted an option to the minors. He's posted a 3.80 ERA over two minor-league levels.


Zach Walters on the verge of mattering
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:36 pm ET) For the fourth time with the Indians and the seventh time in 72 big-league at-bats this year, Zach Walters homered Thursday. And judging by his 29 homers in 487 at-bats at Triple-A last year and his 17 homers in 268 at-bats at Triple-A this year, it's something he'll continue to do.

Though he's been playing DH for the Indians, Walters' most important attribute is that he's eligible at shortstop. Offensive production as a whole is scarce at the position, and power hitting especially.

So it's a match made in Fantasy heaven, at least in theory -- the same one that had Fantasy owners flocking to Javier Baez upon his arrival.

But while Baez has long been touted as a face-of-the-franchise type, Walters was just a spare part for the Nationals -- one easily expended at the trade deadline. While the disparity no doubt says something about Walters' upside, it may say even more about his downside. Quite simply, his shortcomings may prove to be more than he can overcome.

He's a swing-at-anything type, striking out more than 100 times more than he walked at Triple-A last year. He hit only .253 as a result, which doesn't bode well for his chances in the majors. If you need cheap homers, he's a sneaky way to get them out of a middle infield spot. Just don't expect much more than a .200 batting average from him.


Zach Walters officially on home run binge
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:35 pm ET) Indians infielder Zach Walters continued his home run binge Thursday against the Twins. 

Walters struck in the fifth inning. He took an 89 mph cutter from Phil Hughes out to right for the solo shot. He finished 1 for 3, with one run scored and one RBI. Walters struck out in his other two at-bats. Walters has now homered in four of his last eight games.


Stolmy Pimentel to start rehab assignment Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Pirates reliever Stolmy Pimentel will begin a rehab assignment Thursday, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pimentel will throw one inning with the Double-A club in Altoona. He'll start Thursday's game and toss an inning. Pimentel has been out since August 13 with an ankle injury. He's posted a 5.40 ERA over 31 2/3 innings. 


Brandon Belt says he'll be back this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said he expects to be back before the end of the season, according to 95.7 The Game.

Belt will be re-evaluated in three weeks. He's been out since August 6 due to concussion-related issues. Belt has hit .237/.296/.446 over 186 at-bats. 


Brandon McCarthy hitting his stride
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:11 pm ET) Brandon McCarthy has had a wild career, hasn't he? Between the minor-league accolades, the early struggles with the White Sox and Rangers, the eventual breakthrough with the Athletics, the career-threatening head injury and the disastrous stay in Arizona, nailing down just who he is has been an exercise in futility.

Which is why I don't mind just riding the wave with him.

The signs for what he's doing now where there even before joining the Yankees. He may have had a 3-10 record and 5.01 ERA in 18 starts with the Diamondbacks, but he also had a 3.82 FIP, which estimates what a pitcher's ERA really should be. And that FIP would have been even lower if not for a suspiciously high home run rate for a pitcher who induces as many ground balls as he does.

I'll admit I didn't put much stock in that argument at the time of the trade, believing McCarthy's FIP was inflated by a couple of high-strikeout games earlier in the season and that the home runs would only increase in Yankee Stadium. Instead, the strikeouts have become more frequent and the home runs less frequent.

It culminated with a complete-game shutout Thursday afternoon against the Astros, his fifth start in eight as a Yankee with seven or more strikeouts. Looks like the Athletics version of McCarthy is back.


Angels acquire Gordon Beckham from White Sox
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) The Angels have acquired second baseman Gordon Beckham from the White Sox Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times

Beckham has hit .221/.263/.336 over 390 at-bats. In return, the White Sox will receive a player to be named later or cash. 


Joey Votto calls out his critics
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:36 pm ET) Reds first baseman Joey Votto responded to comments that he's not tough enough to play, according to MLB.com.

Votto stressed that he's dealing with a serious injury, and tried to play through the pain earlier in the season. He reiterated that he didn't ask to be injured, and would return as soon as he's healthy.

"The second I’m capable of playing and I’m no longer injured, I’ll be back on the field," Votto said. "In the meantime, you can assume I’m injured. I shouldn’t get some sort of different treatment, as if this is — I’ve noticed little comments here and there and just a general perception that this is something I elected to do. I didn’t elect to be injured. I am injured. People get injured. I am injured. What can I do? At some point I’ll be back playing like I was playing before."

Votto has been sidelined since July 5 with a quad injury. He's hit .255/.390/.409 over 220 at-bats. 


Yan Gomes left after being hit with deflected ball
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) Indians catcher Yan Gomes left Thursday's game after being hit in the head with a deflected ball, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Gomes was initially taken out with an illness, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The team doctor did not say whether Gomes was dealing with a concussion. He'll continue to be monitored for now. 


 
 
 
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